Have you been there? You see an AirBNB listing that says “wireless internet” and book it. You schlep across the world and find that the internet is nonexistent or unusable.
I’m not saying I can’t live without internet. I’ve visited places like that before. What I don’t like is having planned for internet and find it doesn’t exist or is unreliable. I really don’t like not getting something I paid for.
True, AirBNB hosts can be receptive and fix problems, but in my experience for short stays (2-4 days), the stay is half over by the time it gets fixed.
So, how do you make sure you have reliable internet?
Let’s go over the different “levels” of internet I’ve seen on my travels.
Types of Internet Found in Rented Apartments
First (and best) is the big normal-sized router. If you have wireless internet in your home, you probably have one of these.
This is the router at our apartment in Florence. I added Mr. P’s sunglasses for scale. The size and style will vary, but it should be as big as two of your hands put together.
A router like this will allow you to do any normal things you’d expect to do in a major city with a reliable connection. This includes web browsing, downloading, video streaming, and video calls. It should also allow you to use multiple devices without a problem (we had five wirelss devices between us on the last trip *blushes*).
Second, are these little palm-sized guys (technical term). The device pictured below was in our apartment in Venice.
This allows you to do basic web browsing and perhaps some non-HD streaming (like watching a cat video on YouTube). I tried using the device above to video-call my mom using Google Hangouts and it did not work.
I’m not sure exactly how these work, but I think they connect to cellular networks. Using them is a lot like using the tethering functions on your phone at home.
If you complain about non-existent internet at your AirBNB, the host may bring one of these as a temporary fix (it’s happened to us twice).
Third (and worst) is the missing router. An apartment will be listed as having wireless internet but the property manager is using a router somewhere else in the building to serve multiple apartments. If you check into an apartment and can’t find a router, it could be a bad sign.
Both times this has happened to us, the shared internet was unusable, even for basic email checking and web browsing.
Note, I’ve never actually rented an apartment with an ethernet cable hookup, but I suppose they exist!
What to Do When You Arrive
Walk through the apartment and make sure you know where the internet is coming from.
Mr. P and I usually tag team this. He talks to the host about the nuts and bolts while I search for the router and make sure I can connect one of our devices.
If you can’t get a good connection before the host leaves, do not let the host leave without understanding how they’ll fix the problem. The worst thing you can do is think to yourself, “this is probably no big deal, I’ll keep trying it and will let them know later if it doesn’t work.” It probably won’t work and you’ll probably go without internet for part of your stay.
How to Plan Ahead of Time
Do real people live in the apartment? You are more likely to get a real router when there are real people that live in the space when it’s not being rented out. It’s easy to tell in AirBNB photos — just look for personal belongings. Someone who owns several units in a building and rents them out will try to save money by cutting corners. If a real person lives there but they’re using a management company to help them rent the space, that’s probably okay but you may want to . . .
Ask the host about the router ahead of time. This is going to be our new strategy. Before we book a place, we are going to ask the host if the router is located within the apartment or if it’s shared among units. We may even share pictures like the ones in this post to ask what kind of router it is.
I hope this helps you! Have you ever gotten stuck in an apartment rental without internet?