Tuesday, July 23, 2024

What to do when your internet goes down while traveling


I was recently traveling abroad in Ireland and Scotland with my wife and our best friend, taking in the sights, the history, and, above all, a healthy amount of whiskey, or whisky, depending on which country we were in at the time.

Unfortunately, while strolling through Edinburgh on June 27, cellular service for many Americans traveling abroad went blank. The reason? According to Syniverse, a third-party service provider that helps connect AT&T (T), T-Mobile (TMUS), and Verizon (VZ) users while roaming overseas, a networking partner ran into issues with its own service partner, creating a cascading series of problems that cut off connectivity for users.

My wife, our friend, and I each lost service while walking around a city we weren’t familiar with, cutting off our access to Google Maps, ride-hailing apps, voice and texting services — heck, everything you’d use your phone for. I couldn’t even post pictures to Instagram, the most important part of any vacation.

I spent the remainder of the day trying to update my network settings, resetting my phone, and generally panicking because I couldn’t check my email every 10 minutes. My wife and friend were not pleased.

Eventually, everything got sorted out on the network side, and we got back online. But the experience reminded me of a few tips that can help when your smartphone’s connection goes down, whether because of a network problem, a power outage, or another issue.

If you’re in a major city, chances are there’s some kind of Wi-Fi access available at nearly all times. Sometimes that comes in the form of free public Wi-Fi networks. Other times it means having to pop into a coffee shop or restaurant to connect. Either way, Wi-Fi will help you do everything from sending messages via chat apps in order to get in touch with people back home to checking your email, using ride-hailing services, and more.

TORONTO, ON - JULY 8: People using the Wi-fi outside Rooster Coffee House on Jarvis St. in Toronto on July 8, 2022. Many Rogers customers across Canada reported losing mobile and internet services early Friday morning, with the provider eventually confirming the issue hours later.        (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Grabbing Wi-Fi from coffee shops and restaurants can get you online when your cellular network goes down. (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images) (Andrew Francis Wallace via Getty Images)

I would connect to Wi-Fi while grabbing lunch or a drink in a pub, then stick around just outside the front door to stay online long enough to call up an Uber to ferry us to our next location. The Wi-Fi also allowed us to connect to news sites to keep up with information about the network outage and look around for nearby attractions we wanted to visit.

We had a number of locations we wanted to see during our time in Edinburgh, many of which required tickets. But without cellular connectivity, pulling up our digital tickets to get into various attractions was a major pain. If a location offered Wi-Fi, we could jump online and present them at the entrance, but Edinburgh Castle, one of the city’s most popular sites, had spotty Wi-Fi coverage at best.

In situations like this, your best bet is to take screenshots of important items whenever you can. Heck, it’s a good idea even if you’re not experiencing network difficulties. The idea is that you’ll be able to present your ticket, whether for an enormous castle or a simple train ride, without having to worry if you’re connected to the internet.

I took screenshots of our train tickets while traveling from Edinburgh to Inverness to see Loch Ness and its most notorious resident, Nessie, and it worked like a charm. The ticket agent scanned the screenshots of our tickets, and we were able to get on with our journey without issue.

This can also help when you need to provide proof of a reservation at a restaurant or want to make sure you’re keeping track of your receipts while away.

Using Google Maps in offline mode may be one of the most helpful tips if you’re dealing with connectivity issues on the go. To do this, join a Wi-Fi network, sign into Google Maps, and type a city name into the search bar. An information card for the city will pop up at the bottom of the screen. Swipe right to left on the top bar of the card where you see Directions, Save, and Add Label, and you’ll see a button that says, “Download offline map.”

Press the button and then press “Download” on the next page. It should only take a few seconds to complete the download, and once it’s done, you can use Maps to navigate the city without a network connection.

It’s an incredibly helpful feature, and one that you might want to consider taking advantage of if you live in a large city. After all, you never know if your network connection will go down when you’re in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

Overall, your best bet is to stay calm if you lose network connectivity. You can try resetting your phone, but if that doesn’t work, it could simply be a problem with your provider. And if that’s the case, you now have the tools to help get by without an internet connection. What’s more, you might even get a relaxing reprieve from our forever online world. Or you can freak out like I did and spend your vacation desperately trying to get back online. It’s really up to you.

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Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@yahoofinance.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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