Our Tips for Dealing with Unreliable WiFi

As digital nomad travellers, if there is one thing that is on the top of our list when it comes to accommodation, it’s WiFi.

We need to be online to get our work done, keep in touch with clients and keep Global Goose running. Having a room without a connection puts a huge cramp in our style. Unfortunately, as we expressed in a recent rant, you can’t always guarantee that you will find a place to stay with WiFi.

It might be advertised on the hostel website, but when you arrive you find that the signal doesn’t reach your room, it frequently disconnects or it is slower than molasses in January. Someday, I dream of a world where every square corner of the globe will be covered by a fast and reliable internet connection. Until that day comes, we will have to adapt to cope. Luckily, we have learned a few tricks along the way for dealing with unreliable WiFi so that we can continue to get our work done as we travel.

Picking Up a Local SIM Card

Whenever we arrive in a new country, Lee finds a local SIM card for his cheap smart phone and loads it with some credit. We don’t use the phone to make calls; we use it for its ability to create a wireless hotspot that we can connect to. This means that anywhere there is phone coverage, we can get WiFi. You don’t have to have a fancy iPhone for this; most basic smart phones will have this function.

Lee with the mobile phone that we use for a tethered WiFi connection
Lee with the mobile phone that we use for a tethered WiFi connection

It’s not the best connection and if we use it for video or Skype it gets used up very quickly, but it’s certainly enough for us to work on the website, check emails and for me to do my research. This strategy has saved us multiple times when we have checked in somewhere and the internet has simply not worked. We have also used it for checking things online while in transit.

Booking Hotels for One Night

What we have learned when it comes to WiFi in hotels and hostels is not to trust what is being advertised. It might say “WiFi available” but when you get there you realize that means, “Available for a fee”. Or you might find that the WiFi is completely broken and no one seems to be coming in to fix it anytime soon.

We tend to only book one night at any hotel that we find online. That way, we can get there and assess the situation. If the WiFi works and the hotel or hostel is okay, we will extend for more nights. If not, we can find somewhere better for the next day.

Look at Reviews

A good way to find out if the WiFi at the hotel sucks or not is to read the reviews. WiFi is becoming an important criterion for many people and they will usually mention it when writing about the hotel on Trip Advisor.

Phone the Hotel

If it’s unclear from the website and the reviews whether or not the hotel has WiFi, you can always phone them up in advance and ask. Make sure you clarify whether the WiFi is free or whether you have to pay for it.

Ask to See the Room and Check

If you are already at the destination and looking around at a few different hotels, you can ask the receptionist if you can take a look at the room. While you are looking at the room, bring a device with you such as your smart phone, iPod or laptop and check that the connection works.

If all else fails, a coffee shop will do!
If all else fails, a coffee shop will do!

Look For Coffee Shops

As a backup in case of emergency, it is a good idea to know where the nearest coffee shop, bar, diner or other public hangout spot with WiFi exists. If you are in a pinch and you just need to send a few emails, you can always head there and get connected for an hour for the price of a drink or a snack.

Having unreliable WiFi while traveling can be a pain, especially if you are a digital nomad or running a blog. Thankfully, there are plenty of things that you can do in order to deal it and ensure that you stay connected while on the road.

Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

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One Comment

  1. These are nice hints about wifi. Maybe I’m too out of date to figure these things out. Found the post useful and will try it next time I have to travel about in the Philippines. Lot of cell phones here!

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