Travels with Laptop Charlie #12 –Staying Connected on the Road

28 August 2011

internet connection travelOne of the modern inconveniences of travel is finding how to get connected to the internet from foreign countries. It’s not always as easy as using your phone or wifi. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box. I remember one time when I was shipwrecked on the shores of an Indian Ocean island with nothing but a coconut and a bicycle chain…but that’s another story. Below are a few of the best ways to stay connected on the road that don’t’ involve bicycle chains or coconuts.

Keep in mind that the further you go off the beaten path, the harder it gets to connect, so if you are doing volunteer work in a Sierra Leone village, chances are it won’t be cheap to get on the web. However, there are a few ways to make those wifi connections more apparent when you do find them.

First of all, like a good scout, you should always be prepared. Research where you are going and what is there. If there is some sort of a university or research facility, your chances of connection skyrocket. Once you find the connection, it’s often either open or only as far away as asking if you can have the password. If you can’t, then it might be time to learn some hacking skills

Of course, maybe there is no connection. Your first option can be to tether your laptop to your mobile phone using the 3G networks which most mobiles work from these days. Most providers allow you to tether, but if not, you may have to void the warranty by jailbreaking your phones OS. When you tether, it gives you a connection, albeit a slow one that hearkens back to dial-up. Another thing to remember is that roaming rates apply.

Another option is to get a 3G dongle. These are usually about the same cost as a monthly broadband connection and fairly common even in developing countries. Downside is they usually only work in the country you buy them in. Dongles are great but one of the big problems I run into is that as soon as you have one, everyone wants to buy it. Let’s face it, sharing is good, but I have a laptop for work and keeping in touch with family and I buy the dongles for the same reason. If I let someone else use either than I can’t very well use them, can I ? Nothing bothers me more than having to ask someone to use my own devices, so just a hint…if you ask if you can use my dongle or laptop, the answer is always no. Even for my wife.

If you are a startup millionaire you can just get a portable satellite kit. Prices begin at nearly 2000 pound and go up much higher if you want better connections. You will be very cool with this and have a connection anywhere on earth, but it will cost you more than most people on the planet earn. If you are a spy or a dot com mogul, this is the option you should pick. As for me, I’m going to update my wifi hacking abilities instead.

  • Vago Damitio travels and writes about it while pretending to do something his wife finds more respectable. More of his adventures and travel tips can be found at

Posted in: Travels with Laptop Charlie