When you’re travelling in a new place, the networks you know and trust aren’t usually available. You obviously can’t use your home or business Internet connection. Wi-Fi is hard to find and often insecure. And since mobile networks are mostly country-specific, you’ll find yourself on a new phone network too.
All this makes it difficult to stay connected safely and affordable. You can’t upload your amazing vacation snaps the moment you take them, or stay in the loop with your friends and family. And even when you do find a café with free Wi-Fi, you have to worry about who might be eavesdropping on your private stuff.
But wait – there are smarter ways to stay connected while travelling. Ways that keep your personal information safe, and cost less. Let’s find out what they are.
Save money with a local SIM card
Your own mobile network charges a lot for data when you’re travelling in foreign lands. We’re talking a hundred times more expensive in some parts of the world.
Thankfully SIM cards are cheap and readily available in most countries. In many European nations, you’ll even find pre-pay SIM cards in supermarkets. Buy one, top it up and stick it in your phone or 3G/4G tablet, and you can get online at cheap local prices.
One thing to remember is that your phone needs to be unlocked for use with any network. Some networks will do this for you, so speak to your provider before you set off.
Keep your data safe with a VPN
If you don’t fancy the local SIM route, or it’s not possible to use one, then Wi-Fi networks are the next best option. Many public places around the world have free Wi-Fi, while others like airports offer paid Wi-Fi services.
The problem with public Wi-Fi is that your data can easily be intercepted. While your home network encrypts and password-protects Wi-Fi connections, public networks often don’t. And there are readily-available programs – like Wireshark – that can allow third parties to see what you’re doing online. This can make private conversations and online banking a very bad idea while using public Wi-Fi when travelling.
The answer is to use a VPN. With a VPN, all data you send and receive on your mobile device or laptop is encrypted. That means nobody can see what you’re doing but you.
The best VPN services use 256-bit encryption and SSL security, and provide easy-to-use apps for iOS, Android, and Routers. So you can stay connected safely on Wi-Fi and mobile networks while travelling (and at home).
Get around censorship
Another problem you could face when travelling is Internet censorship. Several countries block access to popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, which means you won’t be able to stay in touch with friends and families as normal.
A VPN can again provide the answer. VPN’s create encrypted and tunnelled connections between you and the VPN server, which can defeat filters. A downside is that encrypted connections may themselves attract the attention of censors.
Another option is to use the Tor browser, which also encrypts your browser traffic. You can’t get the official Tor browser for iPhone though, and it won’t keep your Skype calls and other app data safe.