Staying connected while traveling abroad

Discussion in 'Travel Technology' started by noel, Feb 5, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. noel
    • Original Member

    noel Silver Member

    On a recent trip to Italy, I decided I would need constant access to the internet. Because I have an addiction and in keeping in touch with work and family.

    I came across this company, Xcom Global, and thought I would write up a review of their servies. (spoiler alert: I loved it!)

    They basically offer a no hassle method of connecting to the internet overseas. Either through a MiFi device (which is what I used) or a USB plug for laptops. The MiFi a little steep at $17.95 per day, but that included unlimited internet usage! And there is a 10% off coupon if you sign up for their newsletter, so that cut some of the cost.

    But it worked flawlessly. From the moment I touched down in Milan, I had a mobile hotspot with unlimited internet access! I mostly used in to give life to my android phone giving me access to google maps to find my way around, google voice to check voicemails, and skype to call home.

    The only problem was battery life. They give you the option to order more batteries, but I already had rechargeable backup battery that power through usb ports, so this didn't really effect me. But I would definitely recommend some extra juice.

    I have only used it in Italy, but the list of supported countries is pretty long.

    (here is a review on engadget that convinced me to give this a try)

    What ways do you guys stay connected while traveling? internet cafe's? international call plans? or do you just like to unplug?
    infamousdx, Miles, Gargoyle and 2 others like this.
  2. HaveMilesWillTravel
    • Original Member

    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

    I often rely on (free) WiFi in hotels and other places. My company now has a deal with AT&T that gives us unlimited international data on the iPhone for just a bit more than you paid... except it's per month :) That works out great for keeping up with email, using Google maps to find my way around, ... and thanks to MyWi even as a hotspot for my iPad or laptop. I also have iPass as an option (again, though my employer), but I haven't had to use that in quite a while.
  3. ArizonaGuy
    • Original Member

    ArizonaGuy Silver Member

    Up until January 17th, Verizon still had a global data plan for global-capable smartphones at $65 a month, prorated for the length of your trip. I've used it a dozen times with a BlackBerry Storm/Storm2 and then with a Droid 2 Global. I would always upgrade to this plan a day before leaving the US and downgrade to the standard $30 domestic unlimited data the day after returning. I've used it in a dozen countries in Europe as well as New Zealand, Australia and South Korea. While voice calls are a joke and sending texts costs 50 cents (receiving is a nickel), the the unlimited data was great. Skype over 3G on Android solved the voice call issue and Google Voice solved the text messaging costs as well.

    However, if you didn't hold onto the plan and downgraded after January 17th you can't get it back. And it's become absurdly expensive. For $70 a month you get 100MB of data in Europe and the Caribbean. Go over that, or go anywhere else in the world and it's $20.48 per MB. The global plan is allegedly still available to customers on corporate contracts but I travel for leisure so it doesn't apply to my personal line.

    I get that the carriers are playing a delicate balancing game of profit and customer pain. I understand that foreign carriers charge US carriers high fees for such roaming (and the reverse is true for many non-US carriers roaming in the US) but cutting a very reasonable program so drastically isn't the answer - they offer no reasonable option for the traveler to Asia, Africa, South America, etc. $20.48 per MB is not reasonable. They've just effectively told customers to go ahead and use prepaid SIM cards. I'll do this in New Zealand soon (Xcom Global conveniently doesn't cover NZ at present) as there are some reasonable prepaid plans including data on NZ carrier 2 Degrees. And I'll still save on calls and texts using Skype and Google Voice.
    noel likes this.
  4. ScottC
    • Original Member

    ScottC Silver Member

    Xcom Global is getting great reviews - and it shows how stupid the operators are that they haven't stepped into this market. Operators that still think a business traveler will be happy with 100MB are stuck in 2002.
    Miles likes this.
  5. joesmoe
    • Original Member

    joesmoe Gold Member

    Some provider provide even less when roaming. Austrian Mobilkom use to offer like 15MB iirc, it was a crazy small amount.
  6. sagefemme52
    • Original Member

    sagefemme52 Silver Member

    I bought a USB dongle from WIND when we were in Italy for 2 1/2 weeks last fall. The price was @ 60 euros, which included a generous monthly data plan. The speeds were excellent and it was very reliable for where we were based (primarily on Lake Como).
    We also had the Verizon World phone with it's excellent international data plan (for the first time), on that trip. I am totally bummed to hear that Verizon has gutted that option when traveling internationally, unless of course, you want to pay the new (exorbitant) prices.
    Thankfully, it sounds like the perfect opportunity for some new players in telecommunications, to step into the breach here.
  7. scoow
    • Original Member

    scoow Silver Member

    I've also enjoyed Verizon's int'l plan with my Storm. With its effective demise, guess I'll be shopping around (contract ends this month!) - and watching this thread.
  8. noel
    • Original Member

    noel Silver Member

    Wow. That sounds like it was an amazing deal while it lasted.

    I'm a sprint user, but that would have been enough to get me to make the jump. Too bad they killed it.
  9. noel
    • Original Member

    noel Silver Member

    Here is an interesting break down of US carrier fees while traveling abroad. I nabbed it from a really great article on the topic from engadget. You should check it out.

    [​IMG]
    sobore, flacey8, loadera and 7 others like this.
  10. IMGone
    • Original Member

    IMGone Silver Member

    Great chart ... thanks for the overview. I'll be sticking with TMo in this case as I travel more internationally outside Canada than to Canada. I expect with the proliferation of android & iPhones that TMo is also under increasing pressure to decrease some of their unlimited data plans, even domestically. The fact that everything is "data" on an android phone vs the bes access with a bb is the key reason I'm still waffling on whether to make the jump. It's like 30 cents a day pro-rated to cover all international email and bb messenger which is excellent. My contract has essentially expired at this point (I have another month or two on the contract) and I need to make the decision soon.
  11. YVR-Flyer
    • Original Member

    YVR-Flyer Silver Member

    After using a CSL prepaid number for many years, I recently upgraded to a 1010 contracted account which provided for discounted (unlocked) iPhone 4. The primary benefit for a traveler is roaming data add on package where you can roam in 32 countries for a flat rate of HK168/day for unlimited data - "DataRoam Day Pass". Quite a bargain compared to the costs using a Canadian or US cell phone service in those countries. (Canadian roaming rates are $25/MB on Telus).

    iPhone Plans:
    http://1010.hkcsl.com/iphone/eng/serviceplan/index.html

    DataRoam Day Pass:
    http://1010.hkcsl.com/jsp/roaming_a...ges/dataroam_day_pass/service_description.jsp
    Plus1 likes this.
  12. ArizonaGuy
    • Original Member

    ArizonaGuy Silver Member

    This article at BoyGeniusReport covers the global roaming plans of the 4 majors, similar to the Engadget chart above, and also includes what the current available data plans are for global access. It notes that at one point all four had some kind of global roaming plan but now we're all paying a lot more and getting a whole lot less.
    Freddie Listo and noel like this.
  13. wijomas
    • Original Member

    wijomas Gold Member

    We pay around NZ$30 per MB for roaming data overseas. I used to use United Mobile, but they've now gone bust. I've yet to find any replacement global SIM with good data rates who are actually reliable enough to use all the time.
  14. noel
    • Original Member

    noel Silver Member

    wow. great article. It's crazy how quickly those prices have shot up. One would think given more time, these wireless companies would form agreements with each other lowering the costs. Clearly that isn't the case. Which sucks.
    Miles likes this.
  15. IMGone
    • Original Member

    IMGone Silver Member

    I'd assume the charges increased as the usage skyrocketed - its unfortunate that they are pushing data-centric phones all over the place while increasing the fees associated with using those phones at the same time :(
    Miles likes this.
  16. Saracen
    • Original Member

    Saracen Silver Member

    For quick email checking, it's possible to pay per minute with some hotspots through your Skype account. Probably the best bet for short quick checks.

    Details here.
    joesmoe likes this.
  17. joesmoe
    • Original Member

    joesmoe Gold Member

    I've used that before, careful though it adds up really fast as it is per minute.
    Miles likes this.
  18. Muerl
    • Original Member

    Muerl Gold Member

    After reading that article I am really thinking about switching to Sprint and getting a new BB from them at somepoint down the road, assuming they don't drop that plan between now and then.
  19. CrankyScott
    • Original Member

    CrankyScott Silver Member

    One word of caution to those using wireless access, do so with care. Maybe I am paranoid, but when I use a wireless connection I use a VPN to encrypt my traffic. There are way to many opportunities for a bad guy to snoop a wireless connection.

    There are a number of free solutions but I have found most to have intermittent service. It is free. SO I have opted for a paid service ($55/year) and have been very happy.
  20. IMGone
    • Original Member

    IMGone Silver Member

    Can you provide the name of one of these services?
    Monkey Girl likes this.
  21. HaveMilesWillTravel
    • Original Member

    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

    By wireless you mean Wifi/WLAN, right? Think snooping on 3G traffic is not quite as straightforward. Yes, if you dont use VPN, anything that doesn't go via HTTPS (SSL) is insecure. But a wired connection isn't necessarily safe either.
  22. Phobia
    • Original Member

    Phobia Silver Member

    SPG and Hyatt give me free Internet access for my status (both platinum). When I am staying elsewhere, I use Vodafone UK data roaming for my laptop (£9.99 for 50 MB per day in EU) and T-Mobile data roaming on my phone which I only use for emails - I think it is £10 for 50 MB for 30 days in the EU, although I may have remembered this incorrectly.
  23. IMGone
    • Original Member

    IMGone Silver Member

    I saw an interesting article the other day where BB users use the least amount of data (expected), but that Android users use more data than Apple users on average. That was a surprise and something I need to think about as I look around for a new phone (have a bb, was thinking android)

    I wasn't sure if they were automatic or can be turned off, but the higher data was connected to some polling processes they have running all the time for email and other apps
  24. joesmoe
    • Original Member

    joesmoe Gold Member

    They already have.
  25. joesmoe
    • Original Member

    joesmoe Gold Member

    The BB's use the least amount of data transfer because of how efficient they are at checking for new mail, downloading mail, etc.

    The BES/BIS servers do alot of the work behind the scenes so the phone doesn't have to, thus increasing battery life, security, speed, and decreasing data usage.

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