About Jo Meunier

Jo is a Senior Editor at Alliance Virtual Offices. She loves chatting with people about virtual offices and is always eager to share stories, tips and ideas about remote work on the Alliance Blog. Connect with Jo on LinkedIn.

5 Ways to Find Wi-Fi When You’re Working on the Road


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For freelance entrepreneurs, mobile workers and digital nomads, working remotely is a way of life. Thanks to awesome mobile technology and wireless Internet access, you no longer have to be chained to a desk to get the job done.

But that doesn’t mean finding a reliable Wi-Fi connection is an easy task – especially when you’re combining work with travel.

We asked wandering worker Josh Rigo (Wander With Josh) how he finds a good reliable Internet connection on the road:

“As we know, finding Wi-Fi can be difficult and spotty and I’m still on a quest for a good portable Wi-Fi solution. However, many countries have great cell service. If you get a local SIM card you can usually get pretty decent (if not excellent) data speeds, and then use your phone as a hotspot to tether your other devices.”

If you can get a reasonably stable 3G or 4G connection, your mobile cell phone makes an excellent portable Wi-Fi source. Bear in mind that not all smartphones support tethering, and you’ll need to make sure it’s included on your contract too – otherwise be prepared to pay extra. Check out PC Advisor’s step-by-step guide on smartphone hotspots.

There are plenty of other ways to get connected, too. Here’s a quick overview:

1. Smartphones:

As we discussed above, you can use your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot and tether your laptop to your cell phone connection. Be sure to set a secure password so only you can access the wireless connection. That way, you’ll keep your online activity safe and you’ll also prevent others from stealing your Internet bandwidth!

2. MiFi:

Nick, a photographer and blogger of Nick’s Wanderings, says: “I tend to use a local SIM if I can get one and a MiFi when out and about.” MiFi is the brand name for a wireless router that acts as mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. Depending on your network, it may look like a miniature router or a ‘dongle’ that plugs into your laptop’s USB port. Ask your smartphone operator about mobile routers and compare prices against other operators, too.

3. Local Cafes:

While small independent cafes provide a more authentic local experience – and support the local economy – the larger chains do tend to offer a more reliable Wi-Fi connection. If you’re just replying to emails, an independent cafe should work fine. For more demanding tasks such as Skype calls or uploading large files, you’ll often have better luck at a chain cafe or fast-food joint.

4. Accommodation:

Most hostels offer Wi-Fi, but be sure to check the speed and whether it’s in your room or only in shared spaces. If you can only get Wi-Fi in the common room, it may hinder your concentration and you’ll also have to share your bandwidth with several other users. Check out AirBnB apartments if your budget allows; you’re more likely to get faster speeds and more privacy.

5. Day Desks:

Coworking spaces are springing up in towns, cities and off-the-beaten track locations all over the world. Wi-Fi quality is often of a high standard, although the cheaper options usually require you to share an open-plan office with other users. That’s great for collaboration and networking; less so when you need to jump on a private Skype call.

For a more professional experience, you can rent meeting space and day offices on-demand. Prices vary enormously, but they’re not as expensive as you think. For instance in the US, $10 per hour gives you a private cubicle on 5th Avenue in New York (right near the Empire State Building) or a business lounge in Orlando, while this business center in Miami provides individual office pods for $12 per hour.

What Wi-Fi Speed Do You Need?

This awesome infographic from Live Work Anywhere tells you how fast your Wi-Fi needs to be for certain tasks. For instance:

    • Low bandwidth ranging from 100 kb/s to 1 mb/s will give you reasonable Skype calls (not video) and email access.

 

    • Medium bandwidth ranging from 1 mb/s to 4 mb/s will give you GoToMeeting calls, Mailchimp for e-newsletters, social media uploads, Google Hangouts and Skype video calls.

 

  • Push it up to 8 mb/s and you can go wild with Skype Conference, Dropbox, Google Drive and more.

Tip: Test your current Wi-Fi speed at any time by using www.speedtest.net.

Some of these apps work on lower speeds too, although you’ll probably notice a difference in reaction speed, upload times or output quality. Bear in mind that ideally you’ll have a dedicated line that’s not used by other people, too.

What’s your top tip for finding the best local Wi-Fi connection when you’re working on the road? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter.



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