For an increasing number of international travelers, staying connected with their mobile device has become a necessity. You want to check in with your loved ones back home or check in with work at least once a day while you’re away. So if you plan on staying connected, you need to know how to find a Wi-Fi connection abroad. Here are five ways:
- Use a SIM Card
One of the least expensive ways to stay connected abroad is to unlock your phone from your regular carrier and use a prepaid subscriber identity module (SIM) card that lets you connect with any provider. To use a SIM card, you must first arrange with your wireless provider to unlock your phone. This can take several days, so take care of this at least a week before your trip.
You should also research local carriers in your destination city so you can find plans that suit your needs and locate a store that sells SIM cards near where you’ll be staying. Most countries require you to supply passport information to obtain a SIM card, but some, such as Germany, only allow you to buy a SIM card if you can provide proof of residence. Additionally, getting your SIM card activated may take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
To avoid the wait, buy a SIM card from a reseller before your trip. You can also get a KnowRoaming Global SIM Sticker, which is a thin SIM card that sits atop your regular SIM card to let you connect to carriers abroad. Some devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 come with a SIM starter kit and are designed to make it easy for you to switch SIM cards.
- Check With Your Wireless Provider
Another way to stay connected while traveling is to check if your wireless provider offers a service that covers the country you’ll be in. Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon now offer iPhone customers free Wi-Fi calling, which enables you to make voice calls through a Wi-Fi network or hotspot instead of using your carrier’s international plan.
If you don’t have an iPhone, you can use your carrier’s international plan. WhistleOut provides a comparison of rates major carriers offer American travelers to Mexico, Canada and the U.K. To reduce the costs of using such plans, you can cut back on data usage by sending text messages through Facebook’s Messenger app or using Skype for voice or video chat.
- Find Free Wi-Fi Services
Whether you’re using a SIM card or your wireless provider, you can trim down the number of minutes you use by tapping into free Wi-Fi hotspots. For instance, many airports and restaurant chains such as McDonald’s and Starbucks provide free Wi-Fi. Apps such as WiFi Finder help you locate local Wi-Fi services, too. Make sure to use good security precautions when connecting to free Wi-Fi services, such as using a VPN connection and verifying the identity of unknown networks.
- Use Loyalty Programs
Another way to find free Wi-Fi services is to take advantage of loyalty programs offered by some companies. For instance, hotel chains such as Hyatt, Starwood and Marriott offer free Wi-Fi to loyalty club members who book directly. Some credit card companies also offer loyalty programs. American Express, for example, offers users who enroll in its Boingo American Express preferred plan complementary, unlimited Wi-Fi access.
- Tether Your Devices
If you have a smartphone connection for your Wi-Fi, you can also use your phone to connect other devices, such as your laptop, by tethering them to your phone. Tethering effectively turns your smartphone into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot by sharing your phone’s connection with other designated devices in your network. Most major smartphones support tethering, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry.