If there is one thing a digital nomad cannot live without, then it’s the internet. We need it to survive. Without a reliable and fast wi-fi connection, we wouldn’t be able to communicate with clients, manage our websites or sell our products. No wi-fi, no work, no money. As simple as that. Unfortunately, the connection is not equally great everywhere around the world. To ensure you still get a decent internet abroad, read the following strategies and tips.
You will learn:
Table of Contents
Local Internet Options
As a digital nomad, you will find yourself often in the following situation: You arrive in a new city where you want to stay for a couple of weeks or months and are looking for a place to stay. With that, you are also looking for places with a decent wi-fi connection to do your work. These are the options you usually have:
1. Internet In Your Accommodation
Luckily, many hotels, AirBnBs and rental apartments provide (free) internet connection for their guests. In the best case, that connection will cover your private and your business need for data volume. But often enough the internet won’t be that good. That’s why you should check the quality before you sign a contract for the next couple of months.
Every time I book a hotel, I use the booking website Booking.com. They don’t only have the best deals but also an extra review part for the quality of the internet connection of each hotel or hostel. Exactly what you need as a digital nomad! If former guests rank it very poorly, obviously avoid the place. The same goes for Airbnb reviews. Check what other guests say about the internet.
Pssst: Get 25 USD off your first stay with Airbnb by using this link to register.
You could also go to the place directly and check if you have a good internet connection by running a speed test. Use free websites, such as Speedtest, to see how fast the wi-fi is, the upload and download speed. If you get very poor results and there is no other option to get internet in that place, you might want to avoid it and look for something better.
2. Cafés, Restaurants & Public Spaces
Today, many café and restaurants have free wi-fi for their guests. Some cities even offer free or cheap internet connections in certain public areas in the middle of the center.
Websites like Workfrom are handy tools to find great places for internet abroad. You simply type in the city you are staying and it gives you the best wi-fi options, like coffee shops, bars, libraries and many more. You can filter your results and look for locations that serve, for instance, alcohol or food, locations that are quieter, are outdoor or where you can go as a group.
I have already discussed the benefits and downsides of coworking spaces in detail. Whether you like them or not, fact is that these shared offices have the best wi-fi in town. At least in most cases. You will have to pay to use them but get rewarded with a nice working space and reliable and fast internet.
The following directories help you to find the best coworking spaces near you:
Mobile Internet Options
Since you don’t only want to have a good quality internet connection for a couple of hours each day, but preferable 24/7 wherever you are, you need to have a mobile connection. Check out what options you have to get mobile internet abroad.
1. Local SIM Card
Don’t make the mistake and get a regular international plan for your phone. The roaming rates in most countries are beyond expensive.
Whenever you arrive in a new country, go and buy a cheap local SIM card with a reasonable plan. You often get text and talk time included, as well as data volume. Take Bali for example. You can get a plan with 8 GB of data for about 15 USD. That won’t be enough to do all of your work, but it most certainly is sufficient to check emails and get small tasks done.
Bear in mind that your phone needs to be unlocked, otherwise you won’t be able to use a local SIM card. I always buy my phones unlocked. In case you haven’t, ask your provider to unlock it or look for places online that are specialized in that.
Tip: If you need to do work from your computer, but don’t have any wi-fi, only your local SIM card in your smartphone, you can use the data from your phone by tethering. Simply turn on ‘Personal hotspot’ under ‘Settings’ and connect to your phone by going to your computer wi-fi, select your phone and enter the password (which you can create on your phone).
2. Data Roaming USB
In case you want to be on the safe side and make sure that you always have an internet connection on your computer, too, you could bring a data roaming USB. You simply insert a SIM card, plug it into your laptop and are good to go.
These devices usually only provide internet access for the laptop where it’s plugged in. But there are a few options out there, like the Huawei WiFi USB, which allow you to connect up to 10 devices.
3. Wifi Hotspot
A wi-fi hotspot is a pocket-sized device, that needs a SIM card to give you internet abroad. These portable devices allow you to set up a wi-fi connection for 10-15 devices, like tablets and laptops. But beware that more devices will reduce your speed. The connection is private and password protected.
The better ones come with some very handy additional features, such as boosting the signal from an existing network. The Hootoo and RAVPower Wireless Travel Router can also be used as a portable battery to charge up any USB powered devices you have.
Tip: While most smartphones need nano or micro SIM cards, many wi-fi hotspots require a standard sized card. So make sure you buy the correct size.
4. Global Hotspot
If you don’t want to buy a local SIM card in every country for your phone or wi-fi router, get a global hotspot. They offer reliable wireless internet abroad, so you don’t have to worry about local provider anymore.
Let’s take Skyroam as an example. The portable pocket-sized device costs about 80 USD. Once you have it, you only pay 8 USD a day and get unlimited wi-fi wherever in the world you are. You only pay for the days you need it. If you are just going on a short trip, you can also rent a device.
It’s definitely very pricey if you use it every single day. But for emergency uses it’s an easy and hassle-free option.
Tips For Getting Faster Internet Everywhere
Ok, we now know the different kinds of internet access we can get everywhere. But as it is often the case, your connection might be super slow. Luckily, there are a few tricks and hacks to increase your internet speed. Check them out:
1. External Wireless Card
We all know the struggle: Being at a place where they promise free and fast wi-fi, but then you end up at the opposite corner of the wireless access point. Your connection will be very poor and even drop out every once in a while.
A good external wireless card has a powerful transmitter and antenna, which is stronger than the one on your laptop. You can plug them in via USB and they will typically find more networks than your computer and also get a stronger connection.
2. Use Multiple Networks
Imagine one network drops out and another one automatically takes over. A dream? Not anymore. With Speedify you can join multiple connections together. It doesn’t matter if it’s a wi-fi, wired or cellular connection. It combines the bandwidth and you have immediately an improved internet speed.
3. Find The Best Spot In Your Room
I know it sounds ridiculous, but moving around your room with your device could get you the best connection. Certain building materials or electronic equipment, such as microwave ovens, can block radio waves and cause trouble getting decent internet access.
There are even maps out there that help you find the best spot in your room. Check out Heatmapper to get a free visual indication where you should place your laptop.
4. Use A Wired Connection
A hotel in the city center, countless of wi-fi networks around and hundreds of people in each. That often results in very slow speed for everyone.
If there is an Ethernet port somewhere around and your laptop has a network socket, you could try to organize a cable and get a wired internet connection. This is a fairly safe way to get faster internet abroad.
5. Turn Off Apps
Especially if you haven’t connected in a while, many apps will jump right in as soon as you have internet access again. Just think of common apps that digital nomads use, such as Skype, Evernote or Dropbox. Once you have internet again, they are all desperate to get their updates done.
Shut them down or deactivated their automated background processes and you will instantly have more bandwidth for your browser and email.
6. Plug Your Laptop In
Many laptops reduce the strength of their wireless card a little bit as soon as they run on battery. This saves energy and allows you to work longer in battery mode. However, you might not be able to get a weak wi-fi network.
Reconnecting the power cable might do wonders to your internet.
Internet Abroad Has Never Been So Easy
As you can see, it is not that hard anymore to get decent internet abroad. Many hotels, coffee shops, public spaces, and coworking spaces have great and often free wi-fi access.
If not, you can always bring your own devices, such as hotspots or data roaming USBs, or simply use a local SIM card on your phone.
There are many quick and easy tips that help you amplify the existing (weak) network, for example turning off background apps.
Being a digital nomad, traveling the world and being able to work entirely online, has never been so easy as today. Of course, there are still places in the world where it is nearly impossible to work from because of the internet situation. But with the mentioned strategies and tips most places won’t be a problem at all.