Staying Connected to What Matters While Travelling
Staying connected while you travel is more than just a convenience. We’ve all grown accustomed to using our phones and mobile devices to look up new restaurants, get directions for unfamiliar places, and stay updated on social media. The chances are that you don’t want to surrender your always-on device just because you’re going on holiday, or travelling for business.
When we use our mobile devices to connect with the internet abroad, this is known as data roaming. While roaming can be a great way to make sure we don’t miss out on any essential emails or Twitter posts, it can also be incredibly expensive.
So, what are your options for staying safely, affordably, and reliably connected on the go?
Data roaming: check before you leave
Most contracted broadband services for mobile phones are already enabled to allow international use. If you’re worried that you might not be able to connect on the move, you should be able to deal with the problem using a quick call to customer services. However, pay-as-you-go mobile is a different story. You may have to purchase an add-on to access the internet away from home, or it might not be supported at all.
But it’s also vital to confirm costs before travelling. Remember, where you go and who you roam with will determine how much you spend. In the EU there’s currently a price cap of 4.3p per MB, but countries outside the EU can be a lot pricier. You can quickly get an idea of the different roaming charges with Broadband Genie’s roaming tool, which allows you to check the basic costs of roaming data from UK network operators for just about anywhere in the world.
Mobile Tethering and SIMs
Need to connect on more than just your smart phone? Tethering is a solution for using your phone as a modem or turning it into a portable Wi-Fi router. You can connect via Bluetooth or USB, but enabling the Wi-Fi hotspot feature creates a localized wireless internet connection that you can use to get online with multiple devices. Tethering is ideal for those times where you can’t access Wi-Fi, particularly since a good 3G or 4G connection can be just as effective as broadband.
Of course, just like using broadband on your phone, tethering puts you at the mercy of your roaming charges. Since it’s generally not included in your monthly data allowance, tethering bills can quickly add up. This is why many people are beginning to consider using international data SIMs from specialist providers such as World SIM and Global Gig which are specifically designed to offer a roaming data at a lower cost. As well as offering cheaper rates, the positive side of many of these deals is because you pre-pay for the allowance there’s no chance of over-spending and accidentally going over your roaming limit, as the connection cuts out when your bytes are up.
Using Public Wi-Fi
Finally, no matter where you’re travelling to, the chances are that you’ll find a café or coffee shop that sports a free Wi-Fi connection sponsored by a major company, or operated by the business itself.
Free Wi-Fi is obviously the most cost-effective way to stay connected while travelling, but it’s also the least reliable. Not only do you have to track down somewhere that offers Wi-Fi, but when you arrive at the café, you may also find that the connection is limited at best. If you’re looking for a place to host an online meeting then a local Wi-Fi enabled coffee shop may not be the answer. And you should never use public Wi-Fi on anything that requires you to enter a username or password without securing the connection with a VPN, as there is a risk of the transmissions being intercepted.
Keep Costs Low
When travelling, the best way to keep your connectivity costs low is to:
- Download before you travel. Get a good supply of music and movies saved on your device before you leave so you don’t have to stream while you’re away.
- Set automatic updates to only happen when you’re connected to Wi-Fi
- Know the rates of different roaming providers
- Only switch roaming on when you have to
Good luck, and happy travels!