5 Means to Stay connected to the Internet While Traveling

In Travel While Working by Phoebe Nicolas

We have become more connected to each other because of the internet. Most of us readily have cellular data that allows us to stay connected to the internet for 24/7. Nowadays, people are almost afraid to lose their connection to the internet because it is primarily how they stay connected, updated, and involved with the world. However, what happens when we go on international trips? How do we stay connected to the internet?

Most of us rely on our cellular data to connect us to the internet. However, that is not always the case especially when you are connecting to the internet while traveling abroad.

There are plenty of options for connecting to the internet while traveling, from free options, to other options that may require you to shell out a small amount.  These include using your mobile data, renting or buying hotspot devices, free public wifi, and even local SIM cards.

In this article, we will guide you through the different options you have to have access to internet while traveling. We will focus on the different options you have for internet while traveling. Here’s the outline of what we will be discussing in this article:

First off, we have to determine why do you need to stay connected to the internet while traveling?

Why Do You Need Internet While traveling?

Each one of us has our own reasons why we want to be connected on-the-go. There are a few recurring reasons and some of them include:

1. You are a remote worker

As what you have read in other articles, a stable internet connection is one of a remote worker’s most indispensable tools – even when he or she is traveling, she has to be connected. You can never tell when there will be an office emergency or an email from your boss or client that warrants immediate attention. Other than staying connected, if you are a dedicated remote worker, you might need Internet while traveling when you decide to squeeze in some few hours of work during your trip.

2. You are a travel blogger or writer

Given that you are building up your blog/vlog and want to develop a good following, new and fresh content is always welcome. When your followers know you are traveling, they would love it if you shared your travel with them, as if they are traveling themselves. This is why you have to stay connected to the Internet while traveling – to be able to constantly update and post content.

3. You have family left behind

Some of the travelers leave behind friends and loved ones to go on an international trip. For closely-knit families, they can easily get separation anxiety which is why they often need to communicate and update their family. There is nothing wrong with calling up your family and sharing with them your wonderful trip.

Now that you have determined the reasons for wanting to stay connected to the internet, what are the different ways you can continue doing so?

Choosing a way to connect to the internet while traveling will depend on several factors. Here are just some of the things you might want to consider:

  • What will you be using the internet for? Clearly define if you will be using the internet for leisure, work, or other purposes. This will give you a picture of your internet needs so you can better choose the option that works for you.
  • How much data do you think you will be consuming? Will you just be sending a simple email to your boss, or do you plan on uploading videos of your trip for others to view? Your internet usage will depend on your intended activity, so listing these will help you make a better internet choice.
  • How many devices are expected to connect to the internet? Some options do not allow for tethering of other devices, while some do. Determine who will be using the internet so you can adjust your options.
  • What is your budget for this? Are you willing to shell out a little extra money just so you can stay connected, or would you rather have internet connection for free?

Options for Internet While Traveling

A public Wi-fi is one that refers to networks providing free public wi-fi without restrictions. Some offer Wi-fi in exchange for watching ads, or other advertising schemes.

1. Free or Public WiFi

When looking for free Wi-fi, there are plenty of options, like Hotel rooms – Many travelers now book accommodations based on the availability of Wi-fi. How common is it to hear people at a hotel lobby inquiring if there is WI-fi in the place or what the Wi-fi password is.

Pros:
Fast speed – Many people have sworn that even public or freeWi-fi is usually faster than using your mobile data in many cases.
Available in a lot of places – Many countries around the world have free Wi-fi all over their country. This is true in countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, and in many other European countries. In these countries, bars, restaurants, and even public places have free Wi-fi.
No added fees – Technically, you will not be paying for extra since you will be primarily paying for the accommodation and not the internet connection itself. Whether you are staying at a hotel, coffeeshop, or a library, free Wi-fi is true to its name – it stays free of charge. It is a bonus that you will be connecting to the internet while staying at a comfortable place, conducive for both relaxing and working.

Cons:
You have to look for it – Not all places will offer free Wi-fi. When you are traveling into far flung places or in rural areas, you cannot expect plenty of places to offer free Wi-fi. Better do your research if you plan on relying on free W-fi to stay connected to the Internet while traveling. Because of this reason, you may not always have internet while traveling.
Limits your activities – Whether you choose to avail of fee Wi-fi from your hotel or at a coffee shop, it significantly decreases the amount of time you could have spent walking and sightseeing. When you are connected to a free Wi-fi from your hotel or the coffeeshop, you become a slave of that place and you might refuse to leave your source of Wi-fi.
Labile connection and speed – That is just it, it is public Wi-fi meaning you are most likely to be sharing with many other people. In consequence, this can decrease your Internet speed. Aside from that, you can get disconnected several times for the duration of your connection.
Time-bound – This is not true to all public Wi-fi, but most others regulate the total time you are connected. Depending on which free Wi-fi you are connecting to, it can get you connected somewhere between an hour, and some allow you to connect longer. However long it is, public Wi-fi can limit the time you can avail of it.
Security risks – Some hackers can try to steal your information while connected to a public network. Be careful not to do your bank transactions and do not disclose personal information while connected to free Wi-fi.

Free Wi-fi is an excellent choice for people who do not want to spend extra money on internet connection or do not have the means to pay for it. Overall, you should be careful when using free Wi-fi. Be careful not to place sensitive or important information when logging in to this such as your passwords, IDs and other.  If you think you will not be needing internet every minute of your trip, free or public Wi-fi can a be a good option for you.

2. Cellular Data

Nowadays, many people highly rely on cellular data to get themselves stay connected to the internet. This is also true when travelers want to stay connected to the internet while traveling. Using your cellular data is easy, and some carrier providers include data packages or international plans that can cover your internet while traveling. You may have to pay a little extra, but it will let you stay connected to internet for a good period of time.

Many carriers in major countries in the world are now inclusive, and often include data packages in their mobile phone plan.

Pros:
Hassle free – Using your cellular data, you do not need any other device or gadget to connect to the Internet while traveling, simply turn on your mobile data, and voila, instant internet connection. It is readily available with no tricky set up needed.
Can be a cost-effective choice – If your mobile provider supports roaming and international data packages, then using your cellular data can provide internet connection at a minimal cost or even for free. If you do not plan on heavy internet usage, then connecting using your cellular data will be a choice that will be worth you money.

Cons:
Excessive phone bill – If you want to be surprised by your phone bill when you get home, turning on your cellular data for your whole trip should do just the trick. Using your cellular data as a main way of connecting to the internet while traveling can become really pricey, especially if your mobile plan is not inclusive with cellular data packages.
Drains your battery – Using your cellular data even for short periods can easily drain you r mobile phone’s battery. This will become a problem because low phone battery means no communication, no Google, and no taking of pictures.
Coverage – Depending on what country you are coming from, and what country you are headed to, internet connecting using your cellular data will be dependent on your provider’s coverage. Cell service might not be available in other countries, so no signal means no connection.
Connection speed – Lucky for you if your mobile provider supports data roaming and allows you to connect to the internet even when abroad. However, speeds may not be as fast as other means of connecting to the internet.

Before traveling, check with your carrier’s customer service. Let the company know you are planning to travel, and check your mobile phone’s plan for data inclusion. Do your research and ask about the signal and connectivity status in your destination of choice. Learn how to control your internet usage because using your cellular data to connect to the internet can get pricey if not monitored well.

3. Use Local Sim Cards

Purchasing a local SIM card is another cost-effective way to connect to the internet while traveling. It is a sure way that you will have signal for internet connection since you will be using a local SIM card. You can purchase local SIM cards upon arrival at the airport, or get one at any nearby mall.

These SIM cards are relatively easy to use, but a little tricky to set up. All you have to do is insert the new local SIM card to your mobile phone’s slim slot so you can start using it. Not only does it connect you to the internet, a local SIM card will also allow you to communicate thru text, and messaging, or even calling other people with the same local SIM card.

Pros:
Good connection – Signal will not be an issue when using a local SIM card. They are made to have strong signals on their respective providers. Compared to other options, local SIM cards have one of the fastest internet speeds available. Since they are local carriers, it means that their signals are always available in your country of choice.
Readily available – Local SIM cards are ubiquitous; they can be bought right at the airport, in the malls, your hotel, and even on the streets. Looking for a local SIM card will not be a problem when you have arrived at your destination. There are also online apps that allow you to purchase a local SIM beforehand, like Klook.
You are sure it is going to work – Assuming that your phone is unlocked, local SIM cards are sure to work in your destination of choice. Since the mobile provider is local, you do not have to worry about good signal because they are local SIM cards and are being used by normal citizens as well, not just tourists.

Cons:
Requires an unlocked handset – For local SIM cards to be functional, your mobile phone has to be in an unlocked state so it can work with other cellular providers. Locked phones do not allow other SIM cards to be used on them, so check with your carrier or the local tech store if your handset is unlocked. If it is not, and you plan on using a local SIM card to connect to the Internet while traveling, you can ask assistance to have your phone unlocked before traveling.
Variable packages – Depending on the country you will be staying in and the local SIM card you plan on using, they will be offering different packages with different data inclusions, so do a little research to maximize your SIM’s data packages.
Set up can be tricky – Starting to use and setting up your local SIM in your phone can be a little tricky, so you better hope your new SIM card comes with English settings. Setting up your local SIM card can prove to be a hassle if you are not familiar with the provider and its settings.
Lose your number temporarily – Using another SIM card will require you to replace and safekeep your old SIM. This means losing your number, messages and phone calls to your old sim temporarily until you put it back on.
Not reusable – Local SIM cards are not often reusable. After using them on your trip, they only have a certain lifespan while they are not in use. Unless you plan to frequent a certain place, purchasing local SIM cards will often be disposed after its initial use. This not only contributes to plastic waste but also costly, as you have to buy another one each time.

It is best to research a little and discover what providers do well in the place you are visiting. You can easily find these information on their websites. Purchasing a SIM card wherever you go can save you a lot of hassle.

If you are looking to connect to the internet in moderation, and only plan to visit your destination once, then a local SIM card is your best bet for connecting to the internet. These are often used only once during your trip and then discarded. You cannot bring home these SIM cards because likewise, they will not work on your home country.

4. Use a Mobile Hotspot Device a.k.a Pocket WiFi

A mobile hotspot device is a small, handheld object that provides internet connection not just for one, but more devices. A mobile hotspot by connecting to the internet and then creates a local hotspot or devices can connect to.

The downside to all this awesome is that for connecting a single device, a mobile hotspot will usually work out to be more expensive than the other options, and they don’t offer voice or text capabilities – just data.

However, if data is all you are after, and you have multiple devices that you want to connect (travelling as a couple or family for example), then these can be a cost effective and very easy to use option.

Pros:
Connects multiple devices – One of the best things with a mobile hotspot or pocket wifi is it allows you to connect multiple devices while connected to a single hotspot device. That way, all your devices are connected to the internet at the same time. This can come in handy if you are a remote worker transferring files or working simultaneously. Mobile hotspot devices are also the best option for people traveling in groups, since more people can connect to a single device. You can share your internet connection to your friends who might want to update on social media or check on work emails too.
Fast speeds – Among those listed in this article, hotspot devices provide the fastest speeds while connected to the internet. This is because they are connected to cellular data but the strength and signal is magnified because of the device.
Stable connection – Connecting to a mobile hotspot provides a relatively stable connection. You will not have to be worried about losing internet while traveling. It creates its own Wi-fi hotspot network so as long as you stay within a few meters from the hotspot device, you will remain connected to the internet.
Purchase options – With a mobile hotspot device, you can either rent them or purchase them. If you are a frequent international flyer and will be connecting to the internet a lot, purchasing your own mobile hotspot device is the most cost-effective option. Otherwise, you can just try it out and rent a device at a hotel or designated pick-up places in your country of destination.
Have their own batteries – Since mobile hotspot devices are stand alone devices, they do not consume your mobile phone’s battery. Instead, these devices have their own battery packs that can last you the whole day, and you can just recharge once you are back at the hotel or wherever you are staying.
More data – Mobile hotspot devices come with different packages, some even offer unlimited data. This works perfectly for travel bloggers who upload tons of content or for remote workers who have to work all day.
Secure connections – Treat your mobile hotspot device as if it is your home router you carry along with you. Unlike free Wi-fi, you are sure of established, secure connections. You will not have to fear risking your information or getting snooped for bank details.

Cons:
Comes at a price – Mobile hotspot devices are one of the most expensive choices on this article. Renting or purchasing one definitely comes at a price. But this is all worth it compared to the fast internet you will be availing of.
Weight – Bringing a mobile hotspot device takes up space and weight on your bag, so this is an added hassle when using a mobile hotspot device.

Going back to the 2 options for a hotspot device, rent or purchase?

First option
Rent a mobile hotspot device: Rental prices will vary depending on where you are travelling and the amount of data you intend to use. You can pick these devices with no hassle at the airport or at designated places such as malls. For this one, we highly recommend using Klook to rent your mobile hotspot or pocket wifi device. Klook offers pocket wifi devices to rent and cheaper sim cards.

Another option that we recommend for renting is Skyroam. It is an easy to use mobile hotspot device that you can use wherever you travel. If you want be to stay connected to the internet while traveling, renting or purchasing a Skyroam is one of the best solutions out there.

Second option
Purchase your own mobile hotspot device: It saves you money and the effort of picking it up when you finally decide to purchase your own mobile hotspot device. This is one that you can reuse again and again for each trip you go on to.

For this one, we recommend TP-Link 4G LTE Mobile Wi-Fi.

• It is an easy to use mobile wi-fi device, just insert a 4G SIM card to create your reliable personal dual-band Wi-Fi hotspot on the move.
• You can instantly share 4G/3G connectivity with up to 10 Wi-Fi enabled devices – Tablets, mobile phones, laptops, game consoles and more.
• It can reach up to 150Mbps download speeds.
• 4G LTE supported with up to 150Mbps download and 50Mbps upload speeds.
• Selectable 2.4GHz or 5GHz dual band Wi-Fi.
• You can monitor and limit you data usage. Just simply download their mobile app (tpMiFi) from Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Another Mobile WiFi Hotspot that we recommend is ZTE 4G LTE Mobile WiFi Hotspot.

• It works on any GSM Network with a Nano size SIM Card.The sim card does not come included.
• The Hotspot will support the following Technology UMTS/HSPA+ 850/1700/1900 LTE Bands 2, 4, 5, 12, 29, 30, 66.
• The battery life is great up to three devices can be connected at the same time.
• It is portable, small and compact that fits right into your pocket.

5. Use and International Roaming Sim

Second option: Purchase your own mobile hotspot device: It saves you money and the effort of picking it up when you finally decide to purchase your own mobile hotspot device. This is one that you can reuse again and again for each trip you go on to.

These international roaming SIMs cards have coverage in more than 150 countries, ensuring you stay connected when you have one of these special SIM cards. They also come out to be a cheaper option than using your mobile data and more reliable than looking for free Wi-Fi.

International roaming SIM card, or a travel SIM card, is a good option for frequent travelers whose mobile provider charge very high rates for roaming cellular data. There are a number of these travel SIM cards that you can also buy at the airport so you can connect to the internet right away.

Pros:
Flexible data packages – With a travel SIM, you have the option of availing unlimited data packages for an indefinite time, or you could just subscribe to one that is on a per-day basis, whichever suits your reasons and data consumption.
Fast connection – International roaming SIMs provide travelers with a reliable and fast internet speed. Plus, data is usually not capped (does not slow down even a certain amount of data usage is met), unlike other options.
Very simple to use – This is very easy to use, just stick it in your device and you are immediately connected.
No roaming fees – Since it is designed to be an international SIM card, unlike using your cellular data, you do not have to worry about roaming fees.

Cons:
Requires an unlocked device – Just like using a local SIM card, your device (phone or tablet) should be unlocked so that the SIM card can be used, otherwise, it will not.
Comes at a price – And since this provides you with fast internet and you can use travel SIMs repeatedly, they usually are expensive to buy compared to the other options in this list.

How to conserve data and minimize usage

Now that we have listed your different options for staying connected to the internet while traveling, we also list a few tips that will help you conserve data and minimize internet usage.

1. Download apps and other things beforehand

Before you leave home, make sure you have downloaded your music and books to keep you entertained during the flight, your dictionaries and translators to help you communicate, and your maps to get you around.

Downloading them beforehand limits your continuous usage of internet while on your trip. If you do decide not to pay extra for connecting to the internet when traveling overseas, at least you came prepared and downloaded everything you need beforehand.

Some apps even let you download customized city and country guides specific for your destination. These are particularly useful so you do not have to keep on Googling sights to see, places to eat, and useful destination tips.

2. Limit your notifications

Applications running in the background and constant notifications can contribute a significant amount to your data usage. Before heading out, or before connecting to the internet, make sure you turn off these alerts and notifications to prevent you from using up your cellular data even when you are not actively using the Internet.

3. Limit social media usage

You are out on a trip to finally have some rest and relaxation and get away from stressors. Traveling overseas can be a good way to limit your social media browsing. Limit the times spent looking at other people’s activities and whereabouts, and go sightseeing or walk around instead.

4. Control your devices

Limit the devices that you allow to connect your internet option of choice. That way, the connection speed remains stable, because it will surely slow down once many devices are connected. If you have more than one device, try to connect only the device that you will be using a lot or contains more of your important information so that you do not rack up in data usage.

5. Save browsing for a later time

Are you dying to check out your friend’s latest Facebook status, or latest Instagram story? If it is not emergent, urgent, or life threatening, then maybe you can browse the pictures and videos at a later time when you have good internet connection.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, we have enumerated at least 4 different ways to stay connected to the internet while traveling. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Each option works depending on the reasons for connecting to the internet, amount of data usage perceived, and of course, your budget.

During the research for this article, we have found that mobile hotspot devices are one of the easiest, cost-effective, and reliable ways to connect to the internet while traveling overseas. Free or public Wi-fi works best for those who want to connect only for a short amount of time and do not wish to spend more money for internet. On the other hand, local SIMs work best for short travels since these local SIM cards are readily available anywhere.

And that sums up this article on staying connected to the internet while traveling. We hope that you have understood your options better and that you are now ready to make a wise decision of choosing your internet connection options.

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Phoebe Nicolas

Project Manager at Coles Management Ltd
I quit my office based job after 10 years and started to work remotely as a project manager. Working remotely gives me the flexibility and freedom to travel and work at the same time which I really love. I want to share information and tips on how to work while traveling, work from home lifestyle and my travel adventures.
Phoebe Nicolas