An up to date guide on how to connect to the internet abroad.
Your Options for Wifi Abroad
Even when travelling, you need the internet. It’s useful for maps, social media, restaurant recommendations, online tickets, and staying in touch with your family, friends, or co-workers.
Luckily, the era when you would go home to a giant bill is over, and with the new Wi-Fi choices, you can know from the start how much you will pay.
Here are some of the main options you can choose from when looking for wifi on the road. For more detailed information and to compare different options, check out Roami and work out the best way of getting online abroad for you.
An International eSIM or Travel eSIM
One of the simplest ways to reduce internet and mobile costs is to switch to a local carrier. In the past, the only option you had was to buy a prepaid SIM when you arrived at your destination, insert it into your smartphone, and start using the new services.
Today, things are a lot easier with international eSIMs, which are available online. You no longer need to deal with a physical SIM as the eSIM is already built into your device. Instead, you will create an eSIM profile, usually after scanning the QR code provided by the vendor. In just a few minutes, your eSIM for travel will be ready.
One of the biggest advantages offered by eSIMs is that they allow you to store different data plans for different countries. This makes them perfect for travellers hitting multiple destinations, as they can switch from one network provider to another to benefit from the best tariffs.
Moreover, you can store up to 8 eSIMs in your phone, so you can stay in touch with both your loved ones and co-workers through different eSIM providers.
With eSIMs, all your information is stored in a cloud, so if you get your mobile phone stolen or if you lose it, you will still be able to access the phone numbers on your eSIM. This can be a lifeline if you need to meet people or make arrangements at short notice.
However, if your phone stops working, it is more challenging to transfer everything to a new one than with a traditional international SIM card that allows you to swap phones in a minute.
Starting with iPhone 11, all Apple smartphones are compatible with eSIMs, and many Android phones accept them. However, always check if your device works with this option before purchasing one.
A Prepaid SIM card
A prepaid local SIM card remains one of the most accessible alternatives for mobile internet when your phone doesn’t support an eSIM. Prepaid SIMs are sold at many cellular operator stores and retail stores, and you can almost always find one at the airport.
Once you swap your old SIM with the new one, you can use the new plan that offers you access to the internet, SMS, and calls through one of the local operators. It’s as simple as that.
The disadvantage that comes with a regular SIM is that, unless you have a dual-sim phone, you won’t be able to keep your regular SIM in use. If you have a lot of friends or people at work who will try to reach you while abroad, you need to text them your new contact info, and this can take time.
Important: Check that your phone is unlocked, allowing you to use other SIM cards except the ones provided by your operator. Otherwise, the new SIM card won’t work.
If you need a reliable internet connection and good internet speed, a pocket Wi-Fi, also known as MiFi, mobile hotspot, or internet dongle, is an excellent choice. You can pair this mobile router with a local prepaid SIM to enjoy optimal download and upload speeds on your smartphone without removing your regular SIM. Since you will be carrying it in your pocket, it offers good signal strength and can be a reliable internet option for road trips when you need to keep the maps updated.
Pocket Wi-Fi is usually a more expensive internet option – you don’t pay only for the internet services but for renting the device as well. Some vendors will ship it to you before you start your trip, so shipping taxes are added to the final cost. Also, for some travellers, always checking that they are carrying the device can soon become bothersome. On the plus side, up to four people can join the same mobile device, so it can be useful if you’re travelling as a group.
For many years, international roaming was one of the best alternatives for people travelling abroad, and it remains a good option for those looking to use the same phone number. Often, local carriers offer good roaming plans that include internet access, calls, and SMS for a reasonable price, but it is a good idea to double-check how much it will cost you depending on your destination. Also, consider that some plans come with mobile data caps, which means you will be charged more if you exceed the data limit they impose. And, beware! Some mobile phone providers charge extortionate amounts for data or phone calls and your phone can be churning through data in the background without your realising.
If your budget is tight, you can resort to public Wi-Fi, but you must consider from the beginning that this option is not without risks.
The great thing about a free wireless network is that you don’t need to pay a penny to access the internet and get in touch with your friends or upload your latest photos on social media.
The not-so-great thing is that hackers can insert themselves between your phone and the network to gain access to your data, including your bank details, credit card numbers, personal info, passwords, and private emails.
The more common problem is that the wifi doesn’t work properly or there simply isn’t any. While many airports, coffee shops and restaurants offer wifi, many don’t and those that do often charge a fee.
Living the Nomad Life? Check Out the Most Popular Campervan Wi-Fi Options
Travellers and digital nomads who prefer campervans know that keeping everyone connected to the internet in an RV is not always easy or cheap. Yet, there are a few motorhome Wi-Fi options that can provide internet for multiple devices while on the road:
- a pocket Wi-Fi or Mi-Fi device – works with a SIM card and allows you to connect multiple devices to it. You can use a Wi-Fi booster device to extend its coverage area and have good Wi-Fi in any spot of the RV.
- personal Wi-Fi hotspot – turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot and connect the devices that need internet to it. It can function as a temporary solution as keeping the hotspot function on all the time quickly runs through your mobile phone’s battery. Unless you are planning on using it as a permanent router, you will want to find something else.
- satellite internet – if you will be travelling extensively through only one country, you can consider buying a satellite antenna and attaching it to your camper. You will enjoy steady internet even in the more remote areas at a very reasonable price. The only downside is that you will need to buy or rent the external antenna, and this adds an extra cost.
See also our article on the best campervan accessories for your next trip here.