The internet has made traveling abroad not only manageable, but pretty easy in-fact. We’re now at the point where the phone in your pocket can translate words, give you directions, and recommend must-do activities.
I’d be hard pressed to name a traveler in the 21st century who doesn’t rely on some form of smartphone app. But of course, most of these apps are dependent on having a stable internet connection.
Without one, your phone camera might work, but that’s probably about it. Things get a lot more difficult without the internet, like hitting a 10-game parlay in a Canadian betting site type of hard (it’s very unlikely to happen!).
Thankfully, staying connected isn’t all that difficult. Multiple options exist and these days, most won’t break the wallet. The following are the most convenient ways to keep an internet connection while you’re on international leave or vacay.
Best Ways To Stay Connected To Internet While Traveling Abroad
Local SIM card
The easiest method on our list is to buy a local SIM. That SIM card inside your phone right now? You can very easily replace it with another one that’s tied to the country you’re traveling in.
Doing so will grant you a local telephone number, along with data and minutes (depending on your plan), and it’s the cheapest and easiest way to stay connected to the internet.
Before you get the wrong idea that swapping out your SIM card is hard, trust us, it’s not whatsoever. It doesn’t require opening the phone and loosening any screws. A small pick can unlock most SIM trays with a low-pressure jab. From there, it’s plug and play with the two cards. That’s it!
You’ll find SIM cards for sale at many international airports. Plans will vary in terms of data allotted and how many days it lasts, but there’s something for everyone, whether you’re staying for an extended period or a quick weekend detour.
We don’t want to mention any specific prices on SIM cards because variables include the plan and country. But in simple terms: it’s very modest and below three figures mostly (unless you need a massive plan for a long stay).
This was the way I stayed connected throughout my Mekong River Cruise in Vietnam and Cambodia, and would often use the mobile data as a hotspot to connect my laptop. Worked like a charm while everyone else onboard was struggling with the WiFi on the ship!
Personal Mobile Hotspot
A personal mobile hotspot goes by many different names; you might have heard it called a portable Wifi hotspot, mobile hotspot, portable WiFi, pocket WiFi, portable WiFi router….the list goes on.
But regardless of what you call it, one of the biggest perks of using one is that it’s affordable, and actually saves you a tonne of money.
This is an internet router you can carry with you on your trip, and often works throughout many different countries. You can connect your phone, laptop, and other devices, and it’ll work just like a mobile hotspot.
You can either purchase or rent a full-blown internet router and carry it with you on the trip. These routers work like regular ones you have set up at home – you have a private connection that’s password-locked.
Top companies like Rent ‘n Connect or TEP rent out pocket WiFi devices for as little as 6 Euro a day, and for that you get an unlimited data plan, without speed limitations; that’s high speed 4 G Wifi.
We really suggest this if you’re traveling in a group setting. With multiple people, it’s just cheaper pitching in for a personal router than every individual doing their own thing. These routers are the most reliable form of staying online while away from home.
Free-of-cost Wi-Fi is a thing around the world. You’ll find it in coffee shops, McDonalds, parks, train stations, even beaches now have it, and you’ll find free WiFi throughout many city centers.
You could always cram all your internet use while around these hot spots and save on paying for data altogether. This is great for those on a tight budget, though it does come with security risks.
Most of the public networks we connect to while traveling (cafes, airports, hotels etc) are open networks, which aren’t safe, and allow anyone using them to access your information. They can see data like your usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers.
Sound far fetched? It’s not.
It’s become a trend for cyber criminals to set up public WiFi hotspots in high traffic areas, specifically to trick people into connecting, so they can then proceed to hack or infect your device with malware.
Normally, when you connect to the internet you first connect to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) which then connects you to your websites. All of your internet activity passes through your ISP servers and anyone using the same network (which could be thousands of people if you’re connected at a busy airport) can easily see your data.
If you’re traveling and using public WiFi, we strongly recommend you use a VPN so your connection stays secure, and private (read this post for reasons to use a VPN, and this post for how to choose a good one).
Carrier-Based International Plan
The aforementioned ways are much cheaper routes to stay connected overseas. However if money isn’t a deal-breaker for you and convenience is your biggest factor, most local providers offer an international data plan of some sort.
So many providers exist nowadays and these plans are constantly changing, but one example is AT&T’s “international pass”, which makes data available in hundreds of countries.
Under this plan, travelers pay a flat rate of $10 to continue using their data plan per usual (meaning if you have, say, a 10GB per month data limit, then those some restrictions apply while traveling).
Again, a little pricey, but it requires no work on your end besides calling your cell phone provider and telling them to sign you up. No need to swap SIM cards, lug around an extra device, nothing.
As you can see, there’s a multitude of internet options available for traveling. Now it’s on you to decide which is best for your needs based on price, convenience, reliability, and other factors we’ve mentioned.