When you’re out exploring the world, there’s a lot to think about: where should you eat? What should you visit? How do you get around? With so much going on in the mind, by the time you slump down in your bed after a long day, you’re probably not thinking straight when you tap on the hostel’s Wi-Fi.
And while everyone knows the risks of free Wi-Fi, when it comes to connecting to a hostel’s network many will overlook its potential flaws. As such there’s a lot that you’ll need to consider – and tricks to adopt – if you want to stay safe and smiling while on the road.
The Problems With Hostel Wi-Fi
Whether you’re traveling for work or backpacking around the most exotic corners of the world, hostels are popular places to stay for their cheap, no-frills service. But as a side effect of this cost saving you’ll also be sharing a network with potentially hundreds of young, techy-savvy travelers and have to endure the problems of hostel Wi-Fi, meaning…
- Slow connection speeds spread across numerous connected users.
- Old, unsecure routers with either a shared connection password or no password at all.
- Restricted online access in certain countries, particularly Russia and China, with limitations on social media accounts and online content.
Just as when connecting to an airport’s Wi-Fi, making use of such a connection without first taking steps to protect yourself could ultimately lead to having your personal details captured and used against you.
The Importance of VPN for Travelers
One of the biggest dangers at a hostel is shared Wi-Fi, since anyone that has access to the router also has easy access to the online details of every other person using the same network.
While the chance of being hacked might be relatively low, it can and does happen – and it’s certainly not worth the risk. VPN software is the perfect guard against this problem, the likes of IPVanish encrypting your connection and completely blocking any would-be snoopers from tracking your online session.
One thing to consider, though, is the VPN protocol that you use. While the standard of OpenVPN provides the best balance between encryption and speed, it might be too slow for an already snail’s pace hostel network. In these cases, a VPN that offers PPTP is a good option, since although it provides a weaker level of encryption it achieves a quicker connection speed than most other protocols. Minimal protection is still better than no protection.
And since VPNs also bundle in the ability to overcome digital boundaries, you’ll still be able to watch your favorite TV shows wherever that content isn’t officially available. HideMyAss is a great option for frequent travelers, who will then have the longest list of countries to choose from to ensure they won’t miss the next episode of Game Of Thrones.
Increasing the Speed of Slow Hostel Wi-Fi
But perhaps the most infuriating aspect of hostel Wi-Fi is just how slow it is, whether you’re having to sit in a specific seat just to get a connection that works or there are multiple users hogging up all the bandwidth. Besides the obvious trick of positioning yourself wherever the wireless signal is strongest, there are some options to consider for overcoming the trials of slow hostel Wi-Fi.
The first is Speedify, a tool that combines Wi-Fi with cellular data to boost your connection speed and help you to avoid connection drops – particularly useful for streaming movies or TV shows when the connection is inconsistent.
It’s also important to be aware of sneaky tricks like NetCut or WifiKill, programs that essentially let users kick others off a network and direct all the bandwidth to themselves. If you find yourself regularly booted from the Wi-Fi, then it could well be the problem and in this case you will want to download NetCut Defender for PC or WifiKill Protector for Android and activate the self-protection option. VPNs are incredibly useful in these situations too, since these programs reveal IP and MAC addresses of connected devices, and that’s just ammunition that hackers could use.
Lastly, technical travelers might want to consider changing the DNS that they’re connecting to. Using the same DNS as everyone will slow you down as your internet queues up alongside the rest of the traffic; switching to a new custom DNS rather than DHCP could essentially skip that queue, giving your connection priority and overcome slow hostel Wi-Fi.
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