How to stay connected around the World
I’m always asked how I stay connected while traveling the world. There are many ways to stay connected while traveling but I always try to figure out which method is the most cost effective and convenient. Some methods include: adding an international plan to your existing mobile phone plan, renting a global phone, renting a MiFi (portable WiFi hotspot), purchasing a local or global SIM card, hotel WiFi. Depending on the type of trip and how data hungry you are will determine the best method.
Adding an International Plan:
The best US carriers are Verizon Wireless and AT&T. They offer cost effective options for users who might use up to 20 minutes of voice and a few hundred MB of data. Make sure you add the plans to your account prior to leaving. This can be costly if you still send & receive SMS text messages (“green bubble texts” on an iPhone). T-Mobile has introduced a new international roaming option with unlimited data but it operates at very slow speeds (EDGE, not 3G or 4G) so I wouldn’t recommend this for the mainstream user.
Renting a Global Phone:
Most carriers will rent you a global phone but I’d avoid this method since most phones these days are international-ready already.
Renting a MiFi (portable WiFi hotspot):
For data hungry users this is the best option available since XCOM Global offers unlimited data usage for $14.95 per day. This is similarly priced to WiFi at your hotel but will offer you the flexibility of having internet everywhere. I’ve used this on my past 5 trips and have never been disappointed. You have a high speed (3G or 4G) connection right when you land in the country and during your entire stay. It really helps with getting around while using Google Maps.
Make sure you have an unlocked GSM phone if you are going to go this method. You are able to purchase a local SIM card in each country you visit to provide you with the cheapest rates available. You won’t know your local phone number until you purchase the SIM card at the airport or local store. You can also order country specific SIM cards from Telestial in advance but they are never a great deal. You can also find Global SIM cards which you can keep the same phone number with you no matter where you travel. I’ve had great luck with Telestial’s Passport SIM card. They are available via Amazon Prime as well.
Most hotels charge for WiFi at a rate of $10-20 per day and you are limited to connectivity in the hotel only. I’d only use this option if the wireless options fail to work but not as my primary connection. The speed of your connection might vary as well.
Best solution for the heavy data usage iPhone user on a 7+ day multi-country trip: Renting a MiFi and using a Local/Global SIM in an unlocked GSM phone such as this for emergency voice calls or texts. You can still iMessage (iPhone to iPhone) anywhere in the world if you have WiFi as it uses data and not SMS.
Best solution for the lite data usage iPhone user on a short single country trip: Either activating your international data plan or purchasing a country specific SIM.
Want to know the best solution for your trip? Comment below with your requirements (destination(s), length of trip, voice/data usage while abroad, your US wireless carrier, etc.) and expect a prompt reply.