Last Updated | 20th February 2023
In today’s interconnected world, it’s important to be able to access the world wide web, no matter where you are. Equally, for many, the need to stay connected doesn’t change while travelling or abroad. This is often for a multitude of reasons such as; staying in touch with friends and family back home, booking flights, activities and accommodation while on the road, using maps and other direction services or simply posting amazing content from your trip on social media. Nowadays being able to do any of this, plus much more relies on a solid internet connection (although we do highly recommend unplugging from time to time while on the road). Everyone has also heard a horror story or been charged first-hand, the extortionate price of data roaming charges while abroad. If you’re not careful connecting to the internet and liking your friend’s latest post can come at a serious cost. In this blog, we outline the cheapest and most convenient ways to stay connected while travelling.
Firstly don’t underestimate the ever-greater coverage of Wi-Fi. Unless you are venturing somewhere truly remote, almost everywhere you go will have some form of internet connection / Wi-Fi for you to tap into. Many hostels, hotels, cafes, restaurants and bars the world over will have complimentary Wi-Fi that you’ll be able to connect to. Depending on where in the world you are, the speed of this will vary. However, it will normally be more than adequate for sending messages, video calls, using social media and searching the internet.
If taking your home SIM card with you and leaving this in your phone, be sure to turn data roaming off when you arrive. This is to ensure you don’t incur any unexpected fees. Then when available simply connect to Wi-Fi to get yourself online. The benefits of this approach are it’s often free and comes at no extra cost. Additionally, many things can be saved and viewed offline (such as music, videos, and even maps). The drawback to just using Wi-Fi is that when you aren’t connected to a network you won’t have access to the internet. For some, this may be a dream, for others a complete nightmare. Below we have a few more options to cater to those wanting to stay connected on a more permanent basis. But first…
A Note On VPNs
Connecting to public Wi-Fi networks is a great option while travelling and the most cost-effective approach. Even if you do have access to mobile data, we still recommend using Wi-Fi as much as possible when it’s available. Then just use your mobile data when needed. However public Wi-Fi is rarely that secure, meaning with little effort people can view your browsing data and get hold of some of your sensitive passwords and security information. We therefore highly recommend purchasing a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and making sure you switch this on when connected to any public Wi-Fi. Without going into the details the VPN allows you to stay fully connected to the internet, yet keeps all your data secure and safe. Our recommendation would be Nord VPN, which is one of the best VPNs worldwide and comes at a reasonable price. However there are many paid and free VPNs out there, so whatever you decide just ensure you use one.
Home Service Provider
Before travelling abroad, be sure to check your home mobile service provider to see what the costs are for using your data, minutes and texts while abroad. Many providers have some excellent deals and options, which means for a small fee, or even for free you can use your phone abroad at no extra cost. For example in the UK providers, O2 and BT Mobile allow you to use your mobile plan at no extra cost in Europe, whereas others such as EE, Vodafone and Three charge as little as £2 a day. Outside of Europe, depending on your contract and service provider, you may still be able to use your plan abroad at no extra cost.
In all circumstances though, be sure to check your contract and whether the destination/s you’re visiting are covered. Additionally check if there are any limits such as the amount of data, or the number of days you can spend in those places. Again Three, Vodafone, EE and O2 all offer quite a wide range of options and cover the most popular destinations.
The benefits of this option are you don’t have to do anything, you simply use your device in your destination country as you would at home. You’ll be connected to the internet wherever you are, not having to rely on Wi-Fi. Plus you don’t have to “unlock” your phone, which if you are tied into a contract at home can be tedious. The downsides to this are not all countries you may be visiting are covered, or your service provider doesn’t offer this kind of deal. Equally, if you plan to be gone for a long time, the fees can soon start to get very expensive. Particularly if you have to pay a small fee every day you want to be connected. £2 a day soon becomes £42 on a 3-week trip if you pay every day.
Buy A Local Sim Card
For shorter trips where your destination is covered by your home service provider, we feel that a combination of both Wi-Fi and home service data should be more than adequate. Plus the most affordable option. However, for longer trips, travelling through multiple countries or when countries aren’t covered by your home plan. By far the best option is to buy a local SIM card. Although, there is an important point to take note of here. And that is your phone will need to be “unlocked” from any service provider you brought it from. Normally if you buy your phone outright with no data plan, it will already be unlocked. But if you’re paying a 24-month contract for example, where you pay for your data and the phone. The phone will be tied to that network. This means if you put in a different SIM card it won’t work. However, you are well within your rights to unlock your phone, even while paying a contract. It’s usually pretty straightforward to do and you just need to get in contact with your service provider. Once you are confident your phone is unlocked you’ll be able to insert any SIM card the world over.
There are two ways to go about purchasing a local SIM. The first is buying a physical SIM card. Often when you arrive at the airport, mobile phone providers in that country have stalls and stands set up offering travel plans, including data, minutes and text. These plans range in price based on what they offer and how long they last (a week, months or even a year). The deals are normally pretty good and they will set everything up for you there and then. All around the world data is becoming increasingly cheaper and you may be shocked to find you actually pay far less than you do for your plan back home. Ahead of landing, do a quick google search on the country’s top phone providers which will give you a sense of who you should be looking out for when you land. As well as how much you might expect to pay. Additionally, if arriving via a different route, or there’s nothing available at the airport. All major cities will have shops from the various phone networks which you can then visit.
The second option is to buy an eSIM (most modern phones allow eSIMs but be sure yours can accept one). eSIMs work in the exact same way as physical SIM cards, however, they are virtual. Meaning you don’t have to physically insert one into your phone. You simply download your data plan to your phone, which allows it to work with an eSIM instead. What this means is before you arrive at your destination you buy an eSIM online for your intended country or countries. Then when you land tell your phone to switch over to your eSIM and you’ll be up and running with the data plan you brought for that country on your eSIM. Several companies out there offer global eSIMs, but here at Everitts Adventures we highly recommend Airalo. (Use code CALUM6285 to get $3 worth of credit when you sign up). They cover pretty much every country and region you can think of and the data plans are all reasonably priced. Ahead of your trip download the Airalo app, or search the website for your destination country and see what eSIMS and data deals are on offer. There are also eSIMs for various geographical regions too. Airalo is great but most eSIMs only last one 1 month. Obviously, you can just purchase again for another month. But if you know you’re going to be staying for a long time, we recommend waiting and buying a local sim when you arrive. You’ll often get a much better deal this way. It’s also worth noting that eSIMs on Airalo only offer data packages, if you want minutes and texts you’ll be better off buying a physical local SIM card on arrival.
The benefits of using a local SIM are it’s usually the most cost-effective option, especially on longer trips. You’ll also get a local number, which could be useful if looking to work and stay long-term. Finally, they allow you to stay connected when Wi-Fi isn’t an option. The drawbacks are you’ll need your phone to be unlocked, plus if removing your home SIM card, this will have to be stored and kept safe so you don’t lose it.
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