Ask 10 travelers about their experiences using data on their smart phones while abroad and you’ll likely get at least five horror stories. Trying to stay connected on your wireless devices can be a frustrating experience. The stories of people getting billed outrageous amounts from their cell phone carrier are so common that you probably know someone personally who has gotten a nasty surprise.
It only takes getting burned once to make you want to avoid that pain in the future. A study from consulting company Deloite found that 53% of travelers surveyed said they turn off their phone or at least their data when they travel to a new country. Few take advantage of the overpriced “international add-on” plans that limit usage to a low amount that’s hard to predict or measure.
T-Mobile has been the most progressive carrier, including international data and texts in their regular rates. But while they’re growing fastest, they’re still trailing the two largest carriers by millions. Plus you may only get 2G speeds and get throttled after a while if you use too much data.
Make Your Own Travel Hotspot
The best solution for most people would be a portable hotspot like you can get from TEP Wireless. For a flat $9.95 a day you can create your own hotspot with their Teppy device and connect up to five devices at once. It gets its signal from local wireless companies in the country you’re in, so you can be surfing like a local instead of a visitor. You get unlimited data, not a stingy amount that makes you ration your e-mails and web surfing.
This device will work in 64 countries around the world, including almost all of them in Latin America. The only holes in the map between Mexico and Patagonia are Belize, Ecuador, and the seldom-visited trio of Suraname, Guyana, and French Guiana. You can get one device and one plan for all of South America if you’ll be visiting multiple countries. If you’re jetting around the world you can get a global version.
Why not just use Wi-Fi hotspots? Well, it’s not always secure on public Wi-Fi hotspots, plus those tend to be the noisiest places around. That can make it tough to do calls by Skype or Facetime. In hotels the signal can be unreliable (especially in colonial era buildings with thick walls) or if it’s a luxury chain hotel there may be a daily charge and a device limit. Surveys often show hotel Wi-Fi fees are the most hated fees of them all.
With your own 3G personal hotspot you can stay connected while you’re trying to find a place on the map, while you’re in a taxi, or when you’re delayed at the airport. These are places where you take connectivity for granted at home but where you’re cut off when you could most use a connection while traveling.
Part of what makes a great vacation or satisfying business trip is eliminating the least pleasant parts of the journey. There’s not much any of us can do about the flying experience on the U.S. airlines these days, but this is a solution to avoiding connection frustration on the road.
See more information on controlling your own data connection in this infographic below.
Please include attribution to tepwireless.com if using this graphic.