How to Use Communication and the Internet While Traveling
For smart tourists, it is very important to always be online, because online maps, tickets, and communication with other tourists are not available without the Internet. This is also important for DMOs and tourism organizations, because if tourists are online, they can share their impressions on social networks, broadcast live, and generally create the so-called UGC (User Generated Content), which can inspire visiting this destination by other tourists.
We constantly draw the attention of the tourism authorities and DMOs to this fact. Gradually, the situation is changing for the better, and in some countries they are already providing more and more free Internet connection points for tourists, for example, in France, Britain, Lithuania, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.
As we mentioned here , it is better to use mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) when traveling. These devices can be connected to the Internet in two ways: via WiFi or via mobile communications (having a SIM card inside the device).
A WiFi connection distributes the Internet over short distances, while mobile Internet is available anywhere where there is a mobile connection. Typically, WiFi connections are cheaper, often free, but work in limited spaces, such as a territory of a hotel or airport. One way or another, you will have to pay for mobile Internet, but of course mobile communications are more convenient.
The problem of roaming is common all over the world. You are registered with a mobile provider in your country and you have a SIM card of this provider installed in your phone, but when you use this SIM card in another country, additional charges may apply, often significant – this is called roaming.
In a number of countries, such as the European Union, roaming has been canceled, so if you are a resident of the EU and use a European number, then communication in another EU country will not be charged as roaming. However, if you come from outside the EU, then this does not apply to you.
Important! Usually roaming is very expensive and bills for communication can be hundreds and thousands of dollars, so you should be especially careful when using a smartphone while roaming.
Be sure to check with your mobile provider about the cost of roaming in the country of destination before you travel. It happens that local mobile providers in your country sell roaming packages for quite reasonable prices, but such offers are limited in time and in traffic volume. In addition, it is necessary to redeem such a package in advance. You should very carefully study the conditions of communication, the cost of incoming and outcoming calls, SMS, and the Internet.
How to Turn off Mobile Data While Roaming
For tourists, there is a hidden danger of using mobile data while roaming. Usually the Internet connection is very expensive while roaming. A smartphone, being connected to the Internet, can receive various data and updates in the background, but you will subsequently have to pay for the connection.
To prevent this from happening, if you did not buy an Internet package at a special price and the Internet tariffs are high in the host country, all smartphones have the function of turning off the mobile data while roaming.
Do the following:
On iPhone: on the main page find the “Settings” icon and tap it, the phone’s settings page will open. You should select “Cellular”:
Then select “Cellular Data Options”. When Data Roaming is enabled, the button is green; when it is disabled, it is gray. To switch, just move the button to the desired position.
On Android smartphones: find the “Settings” icon on the home screen, after tapping it select “Network and internet”. You will see a page where everything related to communication networks is collected:
On the network management page, select “Mobile network” and enable or disable the option with the “Roaming” button. When the button is bright, it means that roaming is enabled, when it is gray, it is disabled.
Local SIM Card
If roaming is still expensive, you might want to buy a SIM card from a local provider. But in some countries special permission or registration may be required, although many countries already sell special tourist SIM cards. Each country has its own communication laws and regulations which should be checked before traveling.
Some phones supporting 2 SIM cards can be connected to both your home mobile provider and the provider of the host country.
For smartphones running iOS, these are some models such as iPhone XS/XS Max/XR, iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 that support 2 SIM cards.
For smartphones running Android, there are many types of phones that support 2 SIM cards. This should be clarified in the instruction manual for the particular model.
As mentioned earlier, smartphones can receive the data not only by mobile network, but also by WiFi connection. This is a connection to the Internet, which is created by special devices, routers, which receive the data and then distribute it to several smartphones, computers or tablets. Usually, the coverage area of routers is small, within 100 meters.
In some public places, such as shopping malls, airports, there are areas where Wifi connections are possible. Such zones are called Hotspots.
To solve the communication problem, most hotels offer free WiFi in the rooms and inside the hotel, but this type of connection is only available when you are in the hotel. Moreover, the availability of high-speed WiFi Internet in hotels has become the gold standard of service. Not without reason, there is a saying among hoteliers: “Bad Internet – a bad hotel”. It’s not uncommon for a generally good hotel to get negative reviews just because of slow internet, so hoteliers should take the quality of the internet just as seriously as the cleanliness of the rooms.
In order to connect to the hotel network, you should ask for the name of the Internet network and a password. How to connect to the hotel network will be discussed below. If you cannot connect, you should contact the hotel reception with a request for help. Usually hotels have an IT specialist who is obliged to help guests connect to the Internet.
WiFi and Hotspots in Other Locations
In some cities, there are hotspots with free WiFi in public places and restaurants, but you need to find them out in advance on the Internet or in visitor centers.
There are also WiFi maps that display Internet access points. For example.
Recently, public transport such as buses and trains also began to provide WiFI, as evidenced by stickers inside the salons. As a rule, free Wi-Fi is available on cruise ships. Airplanes can also provide WiFi connection, but often for a fee.
How to Find out What WiFI Networks are Nearby and Connect to Them
It is possible that there is an open WiFi network near your location. Such networks often provide the Internet at airports, buses, shopping centers, and libraries, but tourists don’t know about them. Maybe the restaurant where you dine also has free WiFi.
Any smartphone detects such networks, but how do you know about it and connect to it?
To view available WiFi networks and connect to them, do the following:
On iPhone: press the “Settings” button, then select “WiFi”:
A page dedicated entirely to the WiFi connection will open.
The green button opposite the top WiFi label means that the smartphone is receiving a signal. If necessary, you can turn off WiFi with this button simply by moving it to another position.
The network that the smartphone is currently connected to is marked with a check mark.
Below there is a list of available network names. A closed padlock icon means that a password is required to connect to these networks. The open padlock icon or its absence means that you can connect to the network without a password.
To connect to the selected network, you should click on the selected network and enter the password in the next window. Usually, in hotels or restaurants, the staff provides such information.
Then press the “Join” button. As a rule, everything will happen automatically and the smartphone will connect to the network. If this does not happen, you should seek help from personnel who can help.
On Android smartphones, find the “Setting” icon and tap it, then select the “Network & Internet”:
Then, select “WiFi”, find the network and connect to it using the password:
WiFi Router Rental
In many countries, there are services for renting mobile WiFi routers. This is a device that is connected to the local mobile network and gives the Internet to the tourist through its own WiFi. This can be convenient, because it does not require a replacement of the SIM card, and will not lead to additional communication costs, except for an advance payment for the rental of the device. Often the points of router rental are located at airports and other places where tourists gather.
We recommend that you search the Internet for such companies before your trip, study their tariffs and terms of service, and it is quite possible that some offers will satisfy you.
Tourist SIM Cards
In addition, you can buy a special tourist SIM card, which works in many countries, but you should carefully read the terms of service and tariffs.
For example, there is a service called Drimsim that offers various solutions.
Conclusion. In the modern world, there are many opportunities to always be in touch, and the task of a smart tourist is to learn how to use all these opportunities. And the task of tourism organizations and authorities is to provide a smart tourist with an inexpensive and stable Internet connection!