How-to Be a WiFi Bandit While Traveling


I’m lucky to do a lot of extended traveling with the flexibility of my mobile job. So when I leave the country to explore another, I usually take this laptop and my phone with me to work on the fly and to check-in on things back home.

The problem with using your smartphone in the US or overseas is that data rates can get super expensive. We’re talking from $1-3/MB that you’ll fly through in the span of a couple emails. Here are a couple places where you can be a WiFi bandit while traveling:


1) The Hotel Lobby – Many high-end hotels offer free WiFi in their main lobby. If you’re lost or looking for directions, this is a great place to stop and reload your map. I also find that when I’m completely stuck, I can ask the concierge or front desk for directions or help.

Other times, if you order a drink in the lobby, restaurant or cafe – you can ask your server for the WiFi password and usually they don’t refuse you.

2) Starbucks – Locations throughout North America consistently offer free WiFi. It’s a great excuse to grab a coffee, sit down and regroup. I like to download all my email, update my twitter feed and share pictures from my latest travels on Facebook.

3) Panera Bread – If you are in the US, this bakery chain offers free WiFi and an affordable lunch menu. Think of it as a very fancy chain cafe.


Photo Credit

4) The Local Public Library – Usually has a free WiFi code. Just ask at the front desk, sometimes there are usage limits.

5) Museums & Art Galleries – Most major museums and art galleries have installed free WiFi so visitors can stream audio tours on their phones. If you need to download your email to make sure things haven’t gone haywire at work, you can try to do it here.


6) Target – Stock up and refresh supplies while you download a few new songs for your road trip. Most if not all Target stores in the USA offer free WiFi.

7) Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Sephora and H&M – Pretty much a terms and conditions page comes up, click yes and you have access inside these stores.

8) McDonald’s – Travelling overseas with sky high data fees is the worst. Don’t even think about uploading a photo online, it can cost you $3/MB and you’ll cry when you finally get your cell phone bill. When I’m in Europe, I have been able to lock down some free internet (although inconsistent) at McDonald’s. In Europe, free WiFi is definitely harder to come by.

9) The Mac Airport Express – I travel on work and press trips a lot and have multiple devices like my laptop, phone, my husband’s laptop and phone that are all fighting for the internet. I usually bring along my Mac Airport Express when I travel as my portable wireless router. It’s no bigger than a standard adapter and you can plug the ethernet cable from the hotel connection, directly into it to enable all your devices. That way, everyone can get some work done in the morning before heading out for the day.

Using it on the subway in Tokyo

Using it on the subway in Tokyo

10) Rent a Pocket WiFi – If all else fails, you’ll want to rent a pocket WiFi. We did this in Japan and it saved our marriage lives. I found free WiFi very hard to come by in Tokyo and Hong Kong, when I did finally get into a log-in screen – it wasn’t necessarily in English. You might want to save yourself some time and hassle and just rent a pocket WiFi. I wrote about my experience with it here and it only cost me about $10/day – which saved me from buying internet everyday at my hotel.


Where do you find free WiFi when you’re traveling?


  • As a fellow lover of traveler, I was also happy to discover that when in Mexico a lot of the public parks have free wifi! Such a nice surprise when out enjoying the sunshine.

  • I’m also an avid traveler, and most of my recent trips have been on cruises all over the world. Most of the ports have free Wi-Fi so that cruise ships staff can Skype home. Easy to spot: when you see dozens of people sitting down anywhere with their laptop and headphones = Free Wi-Fi!!
    I use this a lot as Internet on cruise ship is very expensive and slow. McDonalds is always reliable as well! And let’s not forget Tim Hortons across Canada!

  • Lisa Ng

    Thanks for the tips! Marie-C, I had always assumed WiFi on a cruise ship would be mega-expensive, but did not know the ports had free WiFi! That’s super handy to know.

  • Loved this post! I’m currently in India, where wifi is very limited, and it’s driving me insane! I think I need to invest in a Pocket WiFi, so the first question out of my mouth anywhere isn’t “Do you have wifi?!”