If you want to stay connected with friends and family while travelling abroad, get some work done on the road, or research the best place to eat in a new city, but aren’t so keen on paying astronomical roaming data costs or forking out for expensive internet, then don’t fear! Here are some simple tips on how to easily access free WiFi on your travels.
1. Choose your hotel wisely
It might seem a bit obvious, but if you plan to use WiFi while abroad, make sure you choose a hotel that offers free WiFi. Plenty of hotels offer it for a premium or don’t have it at all, so when you’re researching accommodation for your trip, double check that they offer WiFi free of charge. Many booking sites will state whether a hotel has free WiFi or not, and if you’re not sure, just contact the hotel and ask before you make your booking.
2. Tether your phone
If you’re travelling domestically and need to use the internet on your laptop, accessing WiFi or an available network can sometimes be a pain, especially if it’s urgent. But did you know that you can simply tether your phone and use it as an internet hotspot? If your mobile plan has generous data and you need to get online, simply turn on the hotspot feature of your smartphone, type in the password supplied by your phone and voilá, you’re connected!
If you’re travelling overseas, we don’t recommend this without an international sim (unless you want to rack up an enormous bill!) or if your current plan has some limited data. If you’re visiting family or friends overseas, another option is asking if you can use their mobile phone as a hotspot.
3. Venture into big chain restaurants
Yes, you probably didn’t go on holiday just to end up in a Starbucks or McDonalds, but these big global chain restaurants often have free (and usually reliable) WiFi, especially in the US. It might mean you need to purchase an item off the menu (even if it’s just to be polite), but there’s usually something fairly cheap that will suffice so you can use their network. Smaller, local chain stores sometimes offer free WiFi too, so do a bit of research before you go to see which chain stores – especially big coffee chains – are in the city you’re visiting.
4. Perch yourself near big chain restaurants
If you really, really don’t want to step foot inside a McDonalds, then you can try finding a park bench or the like outside and try to connect to their WiFi from there. It’s a bit sneaky, but hey, we’re not opposed to beating the system!
5. Download a WiFi finder app before you leave
WeFi is your new best friend if you’re seeking free WiFi abroad. It’s an app that lets you find just that – free WiFi; simply type in your location and the map populates with free WiFi locations.
OpenSignal and WiFi Finder are two other global smartphone apps that let you seek out free internet connection, but it’s also worth trying to find an app that caters specifically to where you’re travelling to. Have a search on your app store before you leave and download one onto your phone so you have an easy way to find free WiFi on your travels.
6. Use review sites to find places with free WiFi
There are a number of easy ways to find local restaurants that have free WiFi. Sure, there’s a simple Google search, but websites like Foursquare and Yelp are also clever places to find which eateries offer free internet connection, thanks to the user reviews on the site. Even better, Foursquare will sometimes have all the relevant WiFi details available too, such as the name of the WiFi connection and the password you need. Users can add to the resource and as a result there’s a plethora of information for bars, restaurants, cafés and even train stations. Neat-o!
7. Visit the local library
The local library has more than just books! Public spaces like libraries often have free WiFi, and are a great place to get some work done, too.
Some libraries may require you to have a membership, but often you can just ask at the desk if there’s a guest connection; our advice is to simply say that you’re from out of town and thus don’t have membership, so could you pretty please use the guest network?
Plenty of other public places have free WiFi too; some cities have blanket coverage that you can connect to for free; public parks sometimes offer free internet; and art galleries and other institutions can also be great places to discover free WiFi.
Handy hints: When using free WiFi, it’s important to be connected to a secure network to ensure you keep your personal details safe. Look for websites that begin with https:\\ rather than http:\\ – the ‘s’ denotes a secure network. If there’s no ‘s’, the connection isn’t secure, so think twice before you pay for those concert tickets with your credit card, or log into your email.
It’s also important to read the terms and conditions of whatever WiFi you’re connecting to, and avoid connections that require a lot of personal data in order to access the WiFi. If in doubt, don’t connect.
How do you keep connected while travelling? Let us know in the comments below.