Do and don’ts of free wifi

We’ve never paid to use the Internet while travelling.

We rely on Internet access for reviewing; booking accommodation; organising travel and attractions; translation; currency conversion; keeping calendars; social media; and calling home.

But, the Mobile Data setting on our iPhone and iPad is switched off and we rely solely on wifi – making sure that we stick strictly to a few basic rules.

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How do we do it?

Firstly, we try to only book accommodation that offers free wifi. In the past, it wasn’t easy – but things have changed dramatically in recent years.

We also make a concerted effort to work out in advance where free wifi hotspots are located.

One good way of doing this is to download and use the Wi-fi Finder App.

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When you install and first run this app, it downloads a database of free and paid Wi-Fi hotspots around the world – so you can then open the app when you don’t have an Internet connection.

And, of course, there is a fast-growing trend of cafes, pubs, restaurants, airports and shopping centres offering free wifi – some with time limits.

For example, here are some UK and European hotspot examples we are aware of:

  • London – a public network called The Cloud offers free wifi in the CBD and in scores of pubs, bars, cafés and restaurants
  • Paris – ‘Paris Wifi’ offers 296 hot spots, including parks; gardens; libraries; and museums.
  • Edinburgh – free system being installed in city centre. Numerous cafes.
  • Barcelona – free connection at museums; parks; markets; libraries; shops; and the beach.
  • Rome  – ‘Roma Wireless’ free wifi throughout much of the city.
  • Vienna‘Freewave’ service across the city.

OK, so how safe is free wifi?

Security is the big downside of free wifi, so we find it vital to follow a few key rules.

We DO treat all free wifi as probably being unsecured.  If they are secure sites, that information is usually found in a security clause of the ‘terms of use’ that you typically have to agree to before use.

We DON’T do any form of Internet banking over a free wifi. If we need to do this, we make sure that we find a secure site.

We DO make sure that every website we use on free (or otherwise wifi) has an address or  URL that starts with HTTPS and not just HTTP. The S shows that the website is using a secure communication.

If a website isn’t using HTTPS then we don’t enter any information into it on the Wi-Fi hotspot. We just browse it and leave.

We haven’t done this, but we have been told that, as an extra security precaution, you can install a plugin for Firefox and Chrome browsers called HTTPS Everywhere.

This apparently encrypts communication with those websites.

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How about mobile hotspots?

We’re keen to trial the new generation of mobile wifi hotspots, such as Tep Wireless or Xcom Global, that rent a mobile Internet connection that fits in the pocket.

This gives you wireless Internet access for a number of devices wherever you travel.

These are all the rage at present and we hope to bring you some reviews soon.

 

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