Here is a look at the various ways to surf the internet while overseas and at the best way to enjoy reliable internet connectivity at an affordable price.
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Whether taking a short vacation, backpacking or becoming a digital nomad, it is important to stay connected while traveling abroad. There are several options for getting online overseas, each of which has advantages and disadvantages, not least the cost. Here is a look at the various ways to surf the internet while overseas and at the best way to enjoy reliable internet connectivity at an affordable price.
An alternative, affordable option for surfing the web overseas is to use an embedded SIM (eSIM) for travel. Certain mobile devices are now being manufactured with eSIM capability, alongside the traditional physical SIM card and slot. An eSIM is a microchip embedded in the mobile phone that cannot be removed but can store multiple profiles. This provides a more flexible and convenient option to access mobile data when overseas. You simply choose and pre-pay for a plan. A QR code is provided that you scan using your phone’s camera. Once configured, you can access the data abroad via a local network. You can also make and receive voice calls over Skype and WhatsApp. An eSIM can be bought for a single country or region, such as an eSIM for Europe, which makes them an increasingly popular choice.
Using your existing mobile plan
If you want to use your existing mobile phone and plan abroad, it is important to contact your provider to ask about their international add-on plans that offer mobile data. Simply going overseas and using your phone the way you would at home leaves you vulnerable to roaming charges, which may be expensive. The charges are imposed by mobile networks when a user leaves the “home area” (i.e., travels abroad) and uses their phone. An international add-on plan can be a convenient way to surf the web abroad without incurring these charges. However, it is unlikely to be the cheapest option and may not offer the flexibility required, such as if you plan to be overseas for an extended period.
Public Wi-Fi networks and internet cafés
Cheap options for staying connected overseas are to tap into public Wi-Fi networks or to make use of local internet cafés (or cybercafes). In many locations around the world, public Wi-Fi networks are available, which visitors and locals can use for free. Hotels, libraries, restaurants and government buildings are among the places where you can usually connect and surf the web on your mobile device. Meanwhile, internet cafés charge customers a small fee to access the internet, while also providing access to computers. The main issue with both of these methods is cybersecurity. Accessing the web via a public network or internet café can leave you exposed to hackers and malicious networks. In addition, network coverage might be patchy in some areas. The best advice is to use a virtual private network (VPN) to establish an encrypted connection, sign out of accounts after checking emails, etc, and avoid conducting financial transactions over unsecure networks.
A popular option for getting online when abroad is to buy a travel subscriber identity module (SIM), which you insert into your phone. The traditional SIM consists of a small plastic card that is placed in an ejectable slot in the phone. A SIM stores a user’s profile, including their phone number, allowing them to use their device to send text messages, make phone calls, and connect to mobile internet services. Travel SIMs offer short-term mobile data plans for use in a single overseas country to let travelers surf the web, again avoiding roaming charges. Some phones have dual SIM capabilities, so you can use your travel SIM alongside your regular phone plan. The advantage of this is that you can use the travel SIM for mobile data, while still receiving calls on your usual phone number. Disadvantages include that if your phone only has one SIM slot, you will have to change cards. In addition, this is not always the cheapest option, especially if you buy the SIM on arrival in the overseas country.
So, which is the most affordable method?
When deciding which method to use to connect to the web abroad, it is important to balance cost with security and reliability. After all, tapping into a free, unsecure public Wi-Fi network might be the cheapest option, but this becomes irrelevant if it results in your financial information or identity being stolen. Also, if a strong connection is needed, a cheap option that offers unreliable connectivity is unlikely to be satisfactory. Overall, for those with a compatible device, purchasing a travel eSIM can work out to be the most cost-effective solution that also offers reliability and flexibility when surfing the net overseas.