A few months ago Fred Perrotta wrote a great article about finding wifi abroad. Having now spent the past year traveling and finding “offices” on the road myself, I thought I would add to this list with a few other places I’ve found helpful for getting online.
If you’re not already staying in a hotel, hotel lobbies are a great place to get connected. More and more hotels offer free wifi these days and you can find out exactly which ones do by using a hotel comparison website and selecting only to view those with wifi. From there it’s a case of looking at which ones have friendly lobbies – places you would feel comfortable working in. I tend to look out for places with business conferencing services as they’re more likely to be used to non-guests using the hotel’s facilities and of course be used to giving the wifi password out to them.
If you want a bit more space than a typical hotel room – I tend to like having a dedicated “office space” – then an apartment might be right for you. Sites like Airbnb, Housetrip and all of the other start-ups in the field all offer a great selection of apartments to rent by the night or month and it’s easy to segment so that the results only contain those with internet access. Recently I discovered Tripping.com which allows you to search sites like airbnb, wimdu and homeaway in one go. I’ve recently used it with a reasonably good degree of success to find affordable apartments (wifi equipped etc) that can be rented by the month.
If you don’t mind the smell of chicken nuggets, McDonalds is a handy place to get online every now and then. A large number of their stores worldwide have free wifi – at the time of writing more than 11,000 in the US, more than 1,000 in Canada and in most stores throughout Europe and Australasia as well.
Alternatively if you don’t mind the sight of hipsters, there’s usually a Starbucks in most major cities.
House sitting basically involves looking after other people’s homes (and usually pets) while they’re away. There usually isn’t any payment involved but in return for you minding someone else’s house, you get to stay there for free. Last year I spent nine months living in France, five of which were spent on one long-term house sit. That’s roughly 270 days, which in terms of savings is in the thousands.
Aside from the obvious benefit of free accommodation, the other often overlooked benefit of house sitting is that you’ll be living in a house that’ll probably already have wifi set up. Unlike renting an apartment where you’ll have to sort out local bank accounts and social security numbers to get connected – plus usually wait a few weeks for an engineer to come out – you can get online and back to work straight away with house sitting.
I try not to move around too much when travelling and only really follow this page of longer-term house sits, however if you’re happy to do shorter assignments there are even more opportunities for that.
3G Data Plans
For most digital nomads, especially those that work in an IT-related role, 3G isn’t ideal as your sole internet connection. Most plans limit the amount of data you’re allowed at around 2-3GB and even if you’re not watching videos, listening to music etc, this probably won’t last you the month.
Still, it’s a handy resource to have and there are some companies worldwide that now offer better data limits of up to 10GB. The prepaid with data wiki is an excellent international guide
Many libraries and government buildings have free wifi. Finding out which ones do is often quite difficult and sometimes the easiest thing to do is either Google it or wander down to your local tourist information and ask in there.
Google “Free Wifi + placename”
Finally if you’ve exhausted all of those other options and are still coming up short, try googling free wifi and the name of the area you’re staying in. It’ll usually throw up a few cafes, bars and hotels as well as the odd forum or blog result from someone who’s asked the same thing. If you’re in a foreign country you might also need to google it in the native language e.g. “wifi gratuit”
There are also, as Fred mentioned, a few apps for finding wifi such as Wifi Finder.
James is slowly making his way around the world, working as he goes. He is currently based in the South of Portugal. You can follow his house sitting adventures on his blog here.
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