No Internet? No problem. How to Travel Without Internet Like a Boss.
Despite me being a 90s kid, I do still remember what it’s like to travel without internet. I remember my first real long solo travel trip. And mistakes from that first trip still haunt me today…
I’d been to a few countries in Europe before. France, Spain, Germany etc. But it was always to go with friends or to meet friends. This time, I planned a month-long train journey around Europe on an inter-rail pass, allowing me to travel across the continent on one ticket. You just need to get out of your home country, first. I’d packed my backpack, which weighed about half my own weight (mistake number one) and had booked everything for the entire trip in advance (mistake number 2).
My Trip Without Internet
What always stays in my mind though about this trip about 12 years ago, is how I arrived in Germany after having taken a 36-something hour bus from Manchester, UK, and how I was just dropped off at the side of a highway. I was the only one left on the bus getting off at the last stop – since no one else was stupid enough to ride for 36 hours on a bus – all to save a few pennies. Back then, I knew no German. I knew no one. I was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It was 3 am in the morning. And, I had no internet.
I had booked a place to stay for the night. In fact, as I mentioned, I’d booked all my places to stay along the route. And I’d printed all of my confirmation emails out, which all came with instructions from certain landmarks how to get to the hostel.
So, with my backpack that I quickly realized I had overpacked, I started out walking in *a* direction until I came across anything that wasn’t highway so I could, at last, find a landmark. After a few minutes walking, I by chance came across a sign that I recognized the name of from the map. So I pretty much just went in that direction. It was completely dark, no one around. And I was so tired. I kept walking and things started to get a bit brighter. Shops, bars, cafes… Until I finally found myself on the road where my hostel should be. I got so excited that I walked in the wrong direction for 10 minutes, before checking the map again and quickly turning back around.
Finally, about an hour later, I’d made it. I checked into the hostel. Showed him my printed-out confirmation form, and let him carry my bag upstairs for me.
“Wow, what have you got in here?” I remember him saying quite clearly.
Travel Without Internet
Of course, 12 years ago, internet existed. Even years before that, I remember the sound of the dial-up connection as my mum turned on the computer. But back then it wasn’t quite as ubiquitous as today. I didn’t have a smartphone with Google maps. I didn’t even have a smartphone that could connect to the WiFi at the hostel. And, of course, I didn’t bring my laptop. Although, I do remember working out that my new iPod could connect to the WiFi and from there I could keep in touch with pals when I was in the hostel.
Of course, now I use my phone when I travel. I look back at this story and I think wow, how did I do that? Was I really that brave?
To Internet or To Not.
I sound old, but travel was different back then. No matter what you think, it really was more adventurous, more rewarding. But unfortunately with the ease of mobile phones and the internet, no one in their right mind would deliberately give up their phone and internet to travel offline, surely? It’s like having running water coming out of your tap and you saying ‘Nah, I think I’ll go collect it from the well today.’ Only REALLY motivated people can do that to themselves.
So… if you really want a travel without internet experience, the best thing to do is put yourself in a place that doesn’t have internet. And trust me, there are lots of places that exist.
Some of us choose to, for some of us, it’s forced upon us. The thought of travelling without internet could seem like a big adventure to some of us and a terrifying concept to the rest. Of course, everyone’s situation is different.
Either way, here are some tips and tricks to help you make the most out of your travel without internet!
Print Out / Write down Names
Absolutely 100% necessary.
Where are you going and how will you get there? Write down your hotel name and any key landmarks nearby. The town, city, nearest train station. You don’t know where you might get lost or who you’ll have to ask. If you don’t speak the local language, at least you’ll have some words written down.
You should also make sure to have the names and contact numbers of a couple of emergency contacts stored somewhere that’s easy for others to find as well as for you.
Download Translation Apps
Very vital, especially if you have any life-threatening allergies or health issues. Write out some key phrases in the local language(s) so you have them on a piece of paper, and if you have a phone with you, download some translation apps for the local language. Make sure you download one that’s available offline.
If you can’t find one, then download the local language on the Google Translate app, which lets you translate languages offline.
This is also useful if you meet any locals along the way and want to have a good conversation.
Download Currency App
Download a currency app such as XE Currency to make sure you’re not being ripped off at the airport when you exchange money or try to buy something, or also to make sure the ATM doesn’t make you get out hundreds of dollars.
If you have no phone, it’s a good idea to write down the exchange rate at the time and do some research into how much things generally cost.
If you’re bringing a phone, make sure all of your maps and documents are downloaded. You can use Maps.Me to download whole countries or cities, and Google Maps also allows for a download feature.
If you’re not bringing a phone, print out any maps, directions, or documents you might need, so you don’t get stuck on the side of a highway in Cologne at 3 am.
Sometimes, you might not have access to emails or files. If you know you will need them, and for some reason, you can’t download them, take a screenshot and put together a folder in your phone of all the screenshots you’ll need when you’re travelling, and you won’t have to worry when you can’t load Gmail.
This is particularly useful when just arriving in a new country and you need documents to show border control, but can’t log onto the Wi-Fi or there is no internet available.
Download Music / Podcasts
Or really anything to keep you entertained. Especially if you’ve gone out on a trek that will last weeks and take you through deep forest or desert terrain. The novelty does wear out after a while (at least for me) and you’re going to want to have something to keep you company. If you’re not used to being without your phone, or not being connected to the outside world, having some music or podcasts downloaded (hopefully the Miles to Memories podcast) will help to keep those lonely blues away! You could also think about downloading some games and films, too.
If you’re going without your phone, consider bringing a small MP3 player (remember those?) with some songs downloaded on them.
Buy A SimCard
Honestly, probably the best tip for travel without internet is to… Buy internet!
In the most bizarre and far-off countries I’ve been to, you can get a sim card for pretty cheap, with some good deals on data. Data is all you need since you presumably won’t be making any calls or texts within the country (and you can do all of this on apps with data anyway).
You might think to yourself “No no, I want to travel Bangladesh by myself without the internet. I’ll save some money, too.” Well, that may have just been your best $5 spent in the country. Don’t force yourself to travel without internet if you don’t want to, just because you feel like you need the challenge. And if you do want to give yourself the challenge, maybe go for something easier than the streets of Dhaka.
Plus, buying a sim card is handy for doubling up as a WiFi hotspot for yourself. Connect your laptop/other devices to your phone and hey-presto! As long as there is a connection, you could be on a beach typing away to your friends online.
Tell Friends and Family
They are probably more nervous about you being out of internet than you are! Let them know when you will be offline and when you plan to be reachable again, and also when they should start to worry if you’re not.
Give them the contact details of where you’re staying and whoever you’re travelling with, if not alone.
If clueless 16 year-old me can do it, so can you.
It’s easy to rely on our internet, and it’s easy to think we need it. When in reality, most people who are alive today never even grew up on it. Take that leap and put your phone away, discover some remote places and have your own adventures. Get lost – but do so sensibly. Have an explore, but don’t put yourself at risk.
Follow the tips above for a save but adventure-packed travel without internet!