Nomad Handbook: Free WiFi, Luggage Storage and Printing

We’ll take a turn to the details of luggage storage, finding free wifi abroad how to print those pesky visa invitation letters

Scott and I are looking how to better package these for general consumption. Since the list keeps growing, I’m going to make it a 2-3 tips per week sort of thing, so you don’t get bored reading :) I’ll also include links to previous Nomad Handbook posts as we build them.

Nomad Handbook Part 1 - Planning your trip

Nomad Handbook Part 2 - On the Road

Nomad Handbook Part 3 - Strategy

Take advantage of hotels and luggage storage facilities

The money goes straight to the bellman, the hotel gets cred for convenience and service and you get a place to stash your bags.

The money goes straight to the bellman, the hotel gets cred for convenience and service and you get a place to stash your bags. (

I really dislike seeing travelers lugging their massive suitcases all over a city center. First, they packed too much :) but secondly, there are so many places to cheaply store your luggage, it almost rarely makes sense to take it with you.

First, most major airports (outside of the US) and train stations will have some type of luggage storage service. For about $3-8/day you can get a locker or check it at a desk and be confident that everything will be there when you return. This is fantastic when planning a trip within a trip, or weekend excursion where you don’t need your entire luggage set. It’s also great for 23 hour layovers since it frees you up to see a city more efficiently. One day backpack is all you need.

Second, are full service hotels. Almost all full service hotels have a bell desk with luggage storage services. In a pinch, they can store your luggage, even if you aren’t staying there. Be extremely nice, tell them you’ll be back later after you meet a friend and tip generously (>$2-3 per bag). Generally these services are underutilized (hell I almost never use them when I actually stay at a hotel) and as someone who has a very strong/years long financial relationship with a number of hotel chains, I see it as a excellent brand touchpoint. I am just as likely to sit in the lobby after checking the bag, order a coffee or cocktail and charge it to my SPG or Hyatt card for the points while researching something on the lobby Wi-Fi. I am also more likely to stay in the hotel on a future visit. Both of these are valuable from a marketing perspective.

Note that this does not work in New York (probably due to both security and cronyism reasons - you’ll have to store luggage at Penn Station or this shady operation on 36th St.)

Never assume Wi-Fi will work

Free-Wifi but only if you, like Scott, have a PhD :P  (

Free-Wifi but only if you, like Scott, have a PhD 😛

Man, I get lectures on this all the time. “I just stay on Wi-Fi because my carrier will charge me through the nose and it’s easier than getting a domestic SIM”

Is it?

I’m probably a little biased here because I’m actively working to solve this problem, but I’ve also been very unlucky with finding reliable, free Wi-Fi at usable speeds. Even in well-known brand name hotels in Berlin. Even at cafes in Paris that advertise FREE-WIFI in big letters on the front. Even after asking the staff if there is Wi-Fi. “Yes we have free Wi-Fi.” ::Buys obligatory coffee:: “Oh it’s been broken for months” or my favorite “It’s raining, so it doesn’t work”

Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King and KFC are more reliable and somewhat ubiquitous, but they are usually packed and the only outstations are usually right in the middle of the city center/tourist hell. So there you are waiting 20 minutes, forking over $4.50 for an Americano, crammed into a corner with all of your luggage, trying to confirm your AirBnb reservation or get your hostel address and the network times out. Again. Aaaand again. Fun times, an hour you’ll never get back. Repeat in 20 minutes when you get lost or wander to the edge of your cached map. Your best best are local coffee chains and small bistros/restaurants, but always be sure to ask before you buy.

Weirdly enough, the reliability, speed and accessibility of free internet around the world is not at all correlated with a country’s GDP or per capita income. It’s pretty easy to find in places like Thailand, Argentina, Hungary, Croatia and Brazil (and good ol’ US of A) and pretty infuriating to search for in France, New Zealand, Germany, Canada and Spain. Anecdotal data points for sure, but that’s generally been my experience.

Internet Cafes are useful for only one thing - Printing

Ok, you’re all set for your 6am train to Timbuktu, check your confirmation email the night before and #@%#!, a paper copy is required and ONLY a paper copy. Or a visa on arrival, or an airport shuttle pickup, or some other random form that still exists because people haven’t discovered the internet or trust barcodes on tablets (because clearly THAT’S easy to fake and paper is not).

In comes the only real use for internet cafes, cheap and reliable printing. There’s a grubby PC terminal in the corner. Login to your Gmail or connect your USB thumb drive, print and be out the door in 2 minutes and 20 cents poorer.

Internet as far as the eye can see! (

Internet as far as the eye can see! (

As an aside, they also come in handy if you’ve had everything stolen from you and you need to use your points to book an emergency flight home or contact a friend to save you from dying/starving in a foreign country. Not that this has ever happened to me…

10 Responses to “Nomad Handbook: Free WiFi, Luggage Storage and Printing”

  1. “Sorry, we can’t get WiFi as we’re too close to the Empire State Building”

    True quote from a barman last year on my US trip. On the other hand, same trip, in a pub in San Fran a barmaid there left her iPhone on my table with WiFi sharing on so I could use my tablet. No real problems anywhere else either.

  2. How safe is it to log into an internet café? Connecting a USB to one of those machines seems especially risky.

    • Actually it’s pretty safe. Unless you physically are seeking out and transferring malicious files onto your USB, then onto your own machine (a random setup.exe or my picture.jpg.dmg) that clearly isn’t a pdf or jpg that you made or are trying to print, then the risk is pretty low. Certainly far less than opening random email attachments. Proper places will reimage the machines every few weeks or months.

      • You have it backwards, I’m afraid. If you open a malicious attachment from an email on a cafe’s computer, their computer might be infected. If you put your own USB flash drive in a cafe computer, any malware on the computer can infect your flash drive and then any subsequent device you plug it into. Sometimes, you don’t have any choice, but it’s safest to use your flash drives only on computers you control and trust.

  3. If you were staying at a hotel thought, you can store luggage with them. I do this all the time when my flight isn’t until evening/nighttime and I need to check out at 12PM.

  4. Yes, we often store our luggage this way, and visit Starbucks for connectivity if the hotel has lousy service. P.S. Black coffee is a heck of a lot cheaper than Americanos there, haha.


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