So you’ve got your accommodation and transport plans sorted. You even have the restaurants and cafés to visit noted down in your Google Spreadsheet. The last thing you need to figure out is how to stay connected.
Of course, you’ve probably already been fussing around with some way to get online while overseas. But here are our top ways to get WiFi when abroad, and how feasible each method really is.
Data Roaming Packages
This is probably one of the easiest ways to get connected, though when used carelessly, can be the most costly. Depending on where you go, relying on your service provider for Internet connection can be pricey and limiting. Offering as little as 100MB for as much as $45, it’s understandable why people would rather rely on free WiFi.
But service providers are offering more and more attractive packages, such as M1’s new Data Passport service, which allows you to make use of your current data package. Singtel’s DataRoam Saver Plans offers unlimited data from $15 – $30 a day, depending on where you’re travelling. That’s where your lobang auntie friends come in very useful.
The biggest problem with the blanket term “Data Roaming packages” is that everything is subjective. It’s definitely worth it for short trips to nearby countries like Malaysia, but if you’re travelling to Europe or the States, prices can shoot up pretty fast. So do your research before considering this option.
Reliability: Very high
Convenience: So easy!
Price: Who knows?
Buying a data SIM card
This plan works — sometimes. The only issue with buying a data SIM card is that they have very rigid plans. Short 5- or 8-day trips usually give you great options, but anything more and you’d likely be stuck. Sad thing is, you probably won’t have the option to shop around for better options — navigating a foreign country can be difficult without Google Maps, so you’re likely to cave in and get a SIM card anyway.
Also, prepaid cards can cause a whole lot of stress, especially when you’re caught with an empty balance in a time of need. Avoid at all costs.
Reliability: High, until your prepaid card runs out of money
Convenience: A serious pain in the ass if the airport doesn’t sell you what you want
Price: Acceptable if you’re staying for very specific periods like 5 days, 8 days, or a month. Don’t ask me why, I didn’t make these rules up.
This is probably one of the most under-utilised options, but it can take a great amount of weight off your chest. Renting a WiFi router which you can bring with you on your trip can ensure that you have reliable WiFi constantly. It can also be surprisingly affordable. Y5Buddy charges $9 a day for unlimited WiFi in most countries in APAC, while Changi Recommends has a promotion that is setting the cost to $10 a day, while waiving the cost for the first day.
The only issue is that constant use can drain the routers’ battery like crazy, so be prepared to carry two power banks (one for your phone and one for the router) in your bag if you’re a constant WiFi user — or risk being stranded without a Twitter feed.
Pro-tip: Compare the prices of the router rentals in Singapore to the country you’re travelling to — if you’re lucky, you may get a real steal.
Reliability: Everything but the battery life
Convenience: As convenient as having yet another phone with a really shitty battery life
Price: Pretty damn good
Memorising WiFi-available locations
There are some places that you know will have WiFi no matter where you go, like Starbucks, MacDonald’s, or the airport. The only problem is that you don’t want to be visiting Starbucks like some tourist. God forbid you look anything like a tourist.
Reliability: As reliable as brand promises
Convenience: Very — the stupid coffeeshops are everywhere.
Price: A coke or latte — or if you’re totally shameless, absolutely free.
If you’re a WiFi-spot explorer, then WiFi locating apps will be the perfect way to have free and constant connectivity. Apps like WiFi Map and WiFi Mapper are great for locating connection spots. Problem is, you need WiFi to use this app to find you WiFi. It’s great if you’re looking for some seriously strong WiFi to upload photographs to Dropbox or get some work done, though.
Pro-tip: If you found a place with great WiFi, but they’re limiting your access, then you can try spoofing your media access control (MAC) address to get limited WiFi from one spot. This will require you to download an app capable of doing this like MAC Makeup and a certain degree of tech-ness to understand exactly what you’re doing.
Reliability: As reliable as the WiFi you’re using to look for other WiFi spots.
Price: The coke or latte from before, and maybe another coffee here too.
Hacking into other people’s WiFi
No, we’re not going to teach you how to hack into people’s WiFi, but trust me, it’s very doable. It is a dubious act that may save you from a desperate moment of WiFi-lessness, but trust me, the security of your devices may very well be compromised from hacking other people’s networks, as ironic as that sounds.
Reliability: It’s pretty much WiFi roulette here.
Convenience: Not at all, but when you’re in a real fix…
Price: Absolutely free — or your devices’ health and all your private information.
No matter where you travel to, always make sure that you can get free WiFi in your hotel. In this day and age, it’s almost a given right. You may be limited to surfing the web only during the night and early mornings if you’re an intense traveller, and you may end up either downloading a map onto your phone or uploading your Instagram pictures in quick successions in the middle of the night, but at least you can safely say that you’re returning to a reliable, comfortable, WiFi-connected temporary home.
Reliability: Solid, or complain.
Convenience: Very — if you’re a traveller that never leaves the hotel
Price: One hotel room.
Are you nuts?!
Reliability: Absence, sadly, is always reliable.
Convenience: Why did I even choose to travel again?
Price: Some serious FOMO.
The truth of the matter is this: if you’re looking to pay for constant, reliable WiFi, then be ready to pay upwards of $10 a day. That, my friend, is the cost of connectivity these days. But the good news remains: there will always be WiFi for those who seek it.