by Steve Wilson
I think we can all agree that WiFi is pretty essential these days, especially if you work remotely. For those of us who need to get work done when traveling, it’s indispensable. Meghan and I get local SIM cards for our phones so we don’t always need to worry about finding a local hotspot to get our emails that but our laptops need that WiFi. Let me tell you three quick stories…
Before we booked the AirBnB here we asked specifically if they “had good wifi” and were assured they did. Upon arrival, we found a really great place (keep an eye out for the article on Ubud) but when we jumped on the WiFi we found it was pretty slow, to our surprise. A short speed test showed we were only pulling about 3Mbps at most but averaged less than 1 most of the time. While that was enough for emails, it wasn’t good for much else. Our host, on the other hand, thought that was pretty ordinary but he really stepped up and actually paid extra to boost his service while we were there. What a guy, right? Turns out we still couldn’t pull more than 3Mbps on average and after looking into the problem further found that the equipment provided to him by the satellite company was sub-par at best, dilapidated at worst. We got around it when necessary by setting up a hotspot from one of our phones but we didn’t want to burn through data too fast. On the bright side, that meant that we had to go explore the town if we needed to get work done and we found some really great places.
We really just needed a place to crash at night between excursions into the Saxon Switzerland National Park and were hoping to do research on hikes and plan our days the night before. The WiFi here ended up being so abysmal we couldn’t even get our emails. We tried setting up a hotspot on our phones again but found our cell service in this particular part of the city was similarly terrible so we were basically off the grid whenever we returned home. After contacting the host, and getting nowhere, I walked around the cluster of buildings we were staying in because I had a hunch the signal was shared by a lot of those units. In the end, I finally got signal two buildings down, outside on the street. Fantastic.
While we were in Ubud we booked our time in Munich and because of the events in the first story we made sure to be specific about what we considered “good” WiFi. We were told the service was 100Mbps so we had nothing to worry about. Fast forward a few months and we’ve settled into a fantastic AirBnB in Munich and are really looking forward to the fast speeds and they did not disappoint. We had no need to check the speeds until a few days in when things started to slow down a bit. When we asked about it we were told the router was in the bottom floor apartment. We were two floors up and while it didn’t matter much when we were first arrived (and were the only ones there), once the bandwidth was split with other guests who stayed in the other apartments in the building, and considering we were in a 600 year old home with very thick walls, we started having some issues. Thankfully, the service was fast enough to begin with that it still allowed us to get our work done.
It goes without saying that no one should sit behind a screen too long when visiting amazing locations around the world but when you do need to put in the time, strong WiFi is essential. When booking a place, be sure to ask things in advance like where the router is located in the building, if it’s even in the same building as the unit you’ll be staying in, how many units split the signal, etc. and take into account whether it’s satellite internet or coming from a hardline. You can only plan ahead so much and there will always be surprises but if you do a little legwork beforehand you’ll thank yourself later.