One of the most frustrating things about travelling abroad is the lack of freedom you have without the internet. Let’s be honest, we all rely on it a bit too much. But we never quite notice how much until it’s suddenly not available. If you’re lucky enough to come from the EU and travel throughout it, luckily EU law changed to drop their data charges (yay!). I got a bit too used to this new-found internet freedom though and am now suffering in Asia.
Without buying a Simcard, what are the best and cheapest ways to get hold of some WiFi on the move?
Depending on where you are, most Cafés will now offer free WiFi for every customer. Usually, the more touristy and western the cafe, the better the chances are that the WiFi will be free and available. Starbucks is almost always guaranteed to have good working WiFi. However, you should be prepared that in some countries (e.g. Hong Kong) this is limited to 30 minutes or 1 hour per customer, and you have to buy something each time where you’ll receive a code. Usually however, once you’ve been there once and got the password, there’s nothing stopping you from standing outside for a minute to check your emails next time you’re walking past!
If I need WiFi when traveling, I’ll often choose my restaurants based on whether or not they have free WiFi available. Of course, it’s never cheap to eat in restaurants all the time just for some free internet usage, but that also depends on the restaurant. Everyone’s favorite western restaurant, McDonald’s, nearly always has good free WiFi available. However, there have been some places (e.g. Austria) where I have experienced a strict one hour per customer policy.
A friend’s hotspot
If you’re traveling with a friend with data on their Simcard, you may want to ask them very nicely if they could set up a Hotspot for you very briefly. This is very easily done on any modern Smartphone. Go to settings, and click on the WiFi & tethering options. It’s best to password protect it so only you can enjoy the privilege! Watch out, they can see if you’re connected or not – so don’t push your luck and stay on it for hours. And no streaming videos…!
Airports/Bus Stations/Train Stations
If you’re lucky, you will find free WiFi from wherever you’re traveling. Most airports will have WiFi free and easy to use, although you may have to sign up via email. WiFi is much rarer in train stations, and even more so in bus stations – but it’s always worth a search. You may even find some restaurants or cafes near the station have an open WiFi you can connect to.
If you’re in a really sticky situation and desperately in need of WiFi, and just happen to walk past a hostel, you may want to work your charm and ask them if you can use it briefly. I once did this in Belgium when I ended up at the wrong hostel. Thankfully, the hostel owners were very nice and let me connect to their WiFi whilst I planned my route on Google Maps.
Bizarrely, a relatively high number of shops will have free WiFi available for its customers. Personally, I’ve never found the need for WiFi whilst doing my groceries, so I’m not entirely sure why. But, I’m not complaining. Again, the more western or touristy the shop, the more likely it is to have WiFi. Some will be password protected but don’t be afraid to ask. The worse they can do is refuse! 7 Eleven is usually a good bet for free WiFi. Indeed, in Japan, many corner shops such as 7 Eleven offer free Wifi!
Wherever you’re politely stealing WiFi from, it’s always a good idea to screenshot the password or save it onto your device. You never know when you’ll be walking past next and needing WiFi!