Travel internet access
|September 26, 2009||Posted by Rach under Technology, Travel Tips|
If you’re yet to set out on your travels and you’ve been freelancing for a while or even if you’re just an avid blog reader who likes the idea of making a bit of extra money online, chances are you already have a fast, reliable internet connection with generous or unlimited bandwidth. Cheap fast broadband internet access is something many of us have come to take for granted so once you’re on the road you’ll want to quickly find the cheapest, easiest way to stay connected so that you can keep working and making money.
So in this article I’m going to go through some of the main methods of staying connected while you’re travelling, how to find a good place to work from and keep your productivity up and touch on some security precautions you should keep in mind.
Temporary connectivity – types of Internet access for backpackers and travellers
- Wifi in your guesthouse or hostel – This is probably the cheapest and most convient option for travellers. A lot of hostels now offer free wifi access as part of your room rate so you can get straight to work without even leaving your room. Sometimes there may be a fee for this service which can range from a cheap daily rate to an expensive hourly rate, so check this before you check in. You can search on hostelworld.com for accommodation that provides wifi and if there is an applicable fee. One downside of this type of access is that if you’re staying in a dorm room you’re unlikely to be able to concentrate on your work with people coming and going all the time. If you’re staying in a private room this is much better but again, check the description and reviews on hostelworld as sometimes wifi will only be available in common areas in which case you’ll want to make sure you can find a comfy quiet corner to get some work done.
- Wifi cafes – If you’re not lucky enough to have free wifi in your accommodation you can usually find a handful of cafes and restaurants that will offer you this as long as you buy a drink. The availbilty of free wifi can vary from place to place (for example Bangkok has hardly any free wifi and you’ll be expected to pay for an internet pass on top of your cappucino) so do your research before you go if you’re planning to stay in a particular place for a while. The Lonely Planet Country Guides are usually pretty good at listing cafes with wifi access. Again you’ll want to try and find a quiet corner where you can get some work done without too many distractions. Be aware of outstaying your welcome too – you’re likely to get a few glares if you just order a coffee at 9am and stay there the rest of the day. Be considerate and try to work in quiet hours (ie not lunchtime – you’re taking up a seat that could be used for a paying customer) and rotate between a few cafes from day to day if you have this option.
- 3G or CDMA Internet access – connect with a mobile phone SIM. If wifi is expensive or unavailable where you are, or you simply want more flexibility in where you can work, you may be able to get connected with a 3G or CDMA modem and a mobile phone sim. Availability and coverage do vary widely so do your research before you go and test out your connection in different places, as signal strength varies a lot within a small area. If you can’t pick up a 3G connection then you may be able to access the internet via 2G although this is likely to be too slow to do any serious work. I use 3g internet access with Telkomsel here in Bali and I’ve found it to be fast and fairly reliable, although a bit on the pricey side. You’ll need a special modem to use with your sim card (you can sometimes use your mobile phone as a modem although this tends to be slower). I’ve been using a Sierra Wireless modem which I’ve not had problems with, however it does tend to overheat if the signal strength is low so keep an eye on this. Some mobile phone companies will give you a free modem if you sign up for a contract but you probably won’t want to do this unless you’re planning to stay in one place for a significant length of time (see below).
Remember if you’re using a shared internet connection there’s always a chance that your data may be compromised. Run a firewall on your computer and make sure your anti-virus software is up to date. If you’re doing anything particularly sensitive like online banking, you may want to wait until you have a more secure connection rather than using the free wifi in the cafe down the road. There are various tools available to keep your data safe while you’re on the road. Do a google search for ‘internet cafe safety’ to get started.
Long-term connectivity – types of Internet access for expats and location independent professionals
- Your own ADSL or cable broadband connection – If you’re staying in one place for long enough you may be able to get a short or medium term contract with a local broadband internet provider. There’s usually a setup charge involved with this and it may not be available where you are so check if this is important to you before you commit to long-term accommodation. However if you can get it this is probably the most convenient and cost-effective way of staying connected.
- Prepaid Wifi hotspots – These have become very common in recent years and if you can’t pick up any free wifi where you’re staying, it may be the next best option if you’re within the coverage area. The premise is that you sign up for an account and then whenever you’re in range of one of the ‘hotspots’ you can sign in and use the wifi connection. Easiest way to see if you’re in range of one of these is just to have a look through the available wifi networks on your laptop – if any of these are prepaid hotspots it will come up with details of how to sign up whenever you try to use your web browser.
- 3G or CDMA internet access with a mobile phone sim – As above, but if you’re staying in one country for a while (say 6 months or longer) you’ll probably be able to sign up for a contract which will give you cheaper internet access rates than ‘pay as you go’ sims and you may be able to get a free modem bundled too. Make sure to check your signal strength and connection speed before you sign up for anything!
- Dial-up access. When all else fails there’s always good old dial-up but remember you’ll need a phoneline for this! Many companies these days offer a ‘free’ service so you only pay for the price of the phone call but remember this can add up quickly!