When we are at home the idea of a permanent connection to the internet is almost a given. We have broadband internet in the house. There is 3G or 4G access via our mobile phone. Combined with Free Wifi in some of our regular or favourite spots.
On the other hand when we travel the connection is not quite as permanent and at times all but non-existent. I have experienced the challenge of trying to find reliable internet or any internet at all in many cities I have visited.
My Travelling Internet Challenges
Throughout all but one of my trips getting access to the internet has been possibly one of my greatest challenges. Of course, the fact that I did not travel with a smartphone likely did not help. But in some countries, this still would have made little difference.
On my first ever overseas trip, I spent a little to much time trying to get myself connected. I found out at the time, back in 2010, it was nearly impossible to purchase a pre-paid sim card in Canada. I tried at least ten different stores, and no one quite seemed to understand what I wanted. Internet access in the hotel cost around $30 CAD per night. But thankfully Starbucks had free internet access, and they were on every second corner.
My fourth trip overseas did not fair much better than the first. My time was split between multiple different European countries and America, so the idea of sim card went out the window. Additionally, the ease of finding free wifi in much of Europe in 2012 seemed somewhat challenging. I thankfully had managed to book most hotels with wifi included, but this does not help when you are out and about for the day.
My last trip to New Zealand in 2015 was a much better experience. I now own a smartphone, and at least in New Zealand, a sim card is rather easy to purchase on a one-off basis. For $50 NZD from Vodafone, I got a sim card with 3G data some included local calls and text, as well as 200 minutes and text to Australia.
South Pacific Island
Finally, my most recent trip in February 2017 was a cruise to the South Pacific Island of New Caledonia & Vanuatu. I was a little surprised how much I missed the ease of access to the internet, especially for a favourite hobby of Geocaching. I had taken steps to prepare some things for off line access, which helped a little. However, some better research on where and how to access free services could have helped.
My primary source of access to the internet was onboard the cruise ship. However, this did come at a premium price for a rather limited amount of time. I spent $99.00 (AUD) to purchase 240 minutes of access to the internet. My choice to pay the price was the result of wanting to continue giving my updates view social media. Keeping Instagram, Facebook and Twitter up to date.
Preparing Before Leaving Home
Today things are significantly different to six or seven years ago on some of my early overseas trips. I do not doubt that there are still many countries where internet access is a challenge. However, there are some ways that you can get around this challenge and make life a whole lot easier.
Research In Advance
There is not much use waiting until you arrive in a country to try and find out about potential free wifi. If you do just want to rely on free wifi take a little time and do some research before you leave home.
Some countries or cities have apps available that you can use to search for free wifi hot spots. While other areas you may be able to download a list of places.
The other thing to research in advance is the options for mobile phone services. Check with your provider at home they may offer some good international roaming options. You can likely also do a little research on the phone providers where you are travelling to as well.
You need to keep in mind if your handset works with overseas providers, though. Especially if you got your phone from the provider as part of your contract, it might be locked to their service. Which in some cases may restrict your use to other providers overseas.
If you are looking for internet access mainly to find your way around or discover places to visit or eat. A relatively new feature of Google maps might be useful. It is the ability to download the local maps for offline use to your mobile phone or tablet.
When you have downloaded the area, the Google Maps will operate almost identical to when connected to the internet. The only exception is that it will only provide driving directions. Transit, bicycle and walking directions are not available.
If you are not sure how to download the maps, you can follow the directions provided by Google. Directions for Android, iPhone and iPad can be found at the Google Maps Help Page.
Enjoy The Holiday
In the end, though there is always one other option, and that is just to enjoy your holiday without the internet. Even though I found myself looking for access, I always managed to get by without if I had to. There is little point wasting time hunting down wifi when you could be hunting down some more exciting attractions.