For the city-dweller who’s used to constant connectivity to high-speed internet, going overseas without 3G is WOE. For the social media addict a la yours truly, not having a prepaid 3G simcard or WIFI router is pure frustration. As recent as January this year, I walked a few rounds in Athens’ airport and could not find a shop that sells prepaid 3G cards. It was the same situation at Santorini’s airport.

No one needs mobile Internet!

So I ended up being in Santorini for four days without mobile data.

Here are a few tips I use for surviving without 3G on the go when I’m overseas!

Before leaving, while you still have internet:

Download MAPS.ME app into your phone

I discovered this app only after the Offline Google Maps function. is an awesome, free maps app which you can use without an Internet connection. Neither do you have to download maps ahead. Although its interface is not as sleek as Google Maps, it still works in providing navigating instructions to get you from place to place. I didn’t have an overseas simcard in Ubud, Bali and used this app to monitor that the driver is going the right way. It worked well! (Sometimes it hangs though so all you have to do is to close the app and load it again.)

Note: Maps.Me provides driving, cycling and walking directions via the map. It does NOT provide public transport options the way Google Maps does.


Download your destination’s map on Google Maps

Google Maps has a function that lets you download offline maps of place.

How to travel without 3G • Petite Wanders
How to save Google offline maps

After you choose and confirm “Download offline area“, it will save the map into your app, which you can access without 3G when you’re overseas. While overseas, you can use Google Maps to search for a certain place of interest or address, as well as see where you are on the map. However, there will be NO walking/driving/public transport directions available.

Download TripAdvisors Offline Guides ahead

How to travel with no 3G • The Petite Wanderesswith no 3G overseas • The Petite Wanderess

If you’re like me, who enjoy using TripAdvisors, and who also likes to plan trips on the go, consider downloading city guides beforehand, when you still have 3G. After that, you’ll be able to access things like Where to Go and Restaurants to visit even if you’re offline. I used this tip for planning out my day’s programs while eating breakfast at the hotel (restaurant was an enclosed cave which couldn’t detect any 3G or WIFI) every morning in Santorini!

While overseas:

Make full use of free WIFI & public hotspots

Airport WIFI
Airports in many developed countries will provide free wifi that you can use. Just like the free WIFI we get from some local shopping malls in town, they are either unlimited for free, or you just need to reconnect should you get logged out after a time-period.

Skyscanner produced a guide to using Europe’s biggest airports’ WIFI (note, info is accurate as of 5 Sept 2014):

Surviving without 3G overseas • The Petite Wanderess
(click to enlarge)

Free WIFI in hotels / hostels / AirBNBs
In developed countries, many accommodation providers will have free wifi in the hotel premises. Either at the lobby or in-room WIFI. My AirBNB host in Kyoto even provided a portable router that I can use anywhere I go, for the entire length of my stay!

Free WIFI in cafes / restaurants
The networks might be locked, but if the cafe or restaurant is ok with their patrons using their WIFI, all you have to do is to ask them politely for the password.

Free public hotspots on the streets / in malls
In even more awesome countries, there will be free WIFI available at public hotspots on the streets or provided by the bigger malls. One time I got lost in Seoul, I managed to navigate the correct way by using the free hotspots on the streets. I also managed to contact a friend at Fira’s bus terminal in Santorini, using free WIFI provided by the Greek government.

Note: Exercise caution when clicking to access free hotspots, because there’s always a risk of unsecured networks, fraudulent ‘public hotspots’, and hackers lurking around. 

Hope these little methods will help you minimize any panic attacks for surviving without 3G the next time you head overseas!
Credits: Header image photographed by Jordan McQueen, via Unsplash | Airport WIFI infographic: Skyscanner

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Surviving overseas with no 3G • The Petite Wanderess

// Post is updated on Dec 2016