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, for most of the time, 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.
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.
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 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.
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.