Having an international data plan can be extremely useful if you travel abroad often, but not everyone can afford one. T-Mobile indeed offers an unlimited-data-internationally plan (albeit it’s slow), but it costs about $60/month. So what about the rest of us? One could try and rely on free wifi hotspots around the globe if they wished, but my preference while on the move is to be able to find it much more reliably than that!
That’s where several applications for your phone and computer come in. Meet Instabridge and Wifi Free, two apps created to solve this problem. They work by storing user-submitted SSID’s for networks and their passwords in a database and making them accessible to you. You can browse these wifi connections via a map, and sort them by those closest to you. The database for both applications is already pretty sizable, especially in larger cities like Amsterdam and Seoul, but some may wish to make it even bigger; that’s where you can come in! If you want to help bolster the database, you can only add the SSID and its password to the database if you are currently connected to it, which keeps the database free of fake passwords. The establishments offering the wifi are supposed to not mind you having it for them to be added, but how much that is enforced is dubious. Still, if you don’t mind connecting to places who normally would let you if you were a customer of theirs, these apps (and those related to them) are for you.
There is a catch for most of the free ones, however.
They want your data. Pretty much all of it. Instabridge is unfortunately a good example of this because it asks for access to everything on your phone (your wifi details, sure…but also your identity, your entire contact list, all of your photos and videos, and even more). Wifi Free asks for fewer permissions – and is my recommendation between the free ones, despite a clunkier interface, because of it – but still asks for all of your photos and videos. They want access to this data to sell it, following the adage of “Nothing is free, but if it is, you’re the product” (at least in a large portion of free mobile applications). This should be a glaring red flag to people, and it’s something to watch out for. These apps work, but if you want to keep your data at least somewhat secure, I recommend finding a paid version that accepts money upfront to avoid making you the product in order to prevent this.
So there you have it. Keep in mind the privacy risks and head for a paid version if you wish, but this is a great, reliable way to find wifi internationally.
What’s your experience? Have you used one of these applications yourself? Let me know in the comments!