Slow, unusable Wi-Fi connections can be the bane of a traveler's existence. As more and more of us opt to travel with laptops, staying connected on the road is becoming much more of a priority. There's nothing more frustrating than having a slow hostel Internet connection preventing you from speaking to your family, answering an important email, or booking the next flight of your trip.
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to speed up your Internet connection while you're on the road.
Here are our favorites:
Test out a Few Different Locations
Find out where the hostel's router is located and try and sit as close to it as possible -- this may mean sitting outside your room along a corridor or simply changing seats in the common room. You may be able to get a stronger connection when you're outside of your dorm room, too, as these aren't usually located near a router.
If you're in a coffee shop and using their Wi-Fi, you can do the same -- look out for where their router may be, or ask someone where it is, and move to sit closer to it.
Purchase a Wi-Fi Antenna
If fast Internet speeds are important to you, consider purchasing a Wi-Fi antenna to boost your connection. These can be bought cheaply on Amazon (we recommend the Alpha USB antenna) and can speed up your connection by as much as 5 times. When we first used this antenna we noticed the number of networks we could detect jump from 4 to 11, and our slow internet connection immediately grew much faster.
I especially recommend traveling with one of these if you're planning to work as you travel, because it'll help make your life much easier.
Start Charging Your Laptop
Strangely, plugging your laptop into charge will actually boost your internet speeds. That's because your laptop will usually reduce the strength of their wireless card when running on the battery in order to increase the amount of time you have before it shuts down.
Plugging your laptop in to charge, then, will give you a small boost to your speeds.
Turn Off Any Apps You're Not Using
If you have any apps running in the background that connect to the Internet, these will definitely slow down your connection. This could be anything like Skype, Tweetdeck, a backup service, like Crashplan, or a Mail application, such as Outlook. These connect to the internet and constantly refresh in the background, so if you shut these down, you'll find that webpages will load faster while browsing.
Use an Ad Blocker
To help keep pages loading quickly, install an ad blocker, such as Adblock Plus. An ad blocker will block all ads from every webpage, drastically improving the speed at which the page loads -- you'd be surprised to know how many scripts websites load these days and how long these scripts can take to load.
Close Unused Tabs in Your Browser
Even if you're not currently looking at a tab, that page could still be reloading every few seconds or minutes in the background in order to keep you up-to-date. You've probably noticed this happening with Facebook, Gmail, or Twitter, where whenever you receive a notification the tab updates with a (1). Unless you're actively using these sites, close the tabs and you'll be able to browse faster as a result.
Check to See if There's an Ethernet Port
If your Wi-Fi connection is too slow, have a look to see if there's an Ethernet port in your room that you can use. You'll need to be traveling with an Ethernet cable to connect, but if do, then you should find yourself with a faster connection. If your accommodation does have an Ethernet port, you'll probably find they offer a cable for guests to use as well.
Use Your Cellphone's Hotspot
Hopefully you've decided to travel with an unlocked phone and pick up local SIM cards as you travel and if so, hopefully you opted for a plan that includes data. If the Wi-Fi in your hostel is too slow, but the 3G or 4G connection in your destination is fast, you can turn your cellphone into a hotspot and connect to the Internet through that. You won't want to do anything like make a video Skype call, as you'll quickly burn through your data allowance, but general browsing, updating social media, and replying to emails will be fine.
I found this to be the best option while traveling through New Zealand, for example, where 3G connections are often faster and cheaper than Wi-Fi in hostels.