How to Use Your iPad or PC Abroad

Many of us, some more than others, are almost attached at the hip with some sort of tablet or PC. I can only concur – leaving home without my iPad just wouldn’t be the same. In fact, the first thing I do when I wake up is make coffee and sip it while catching up on significant (ok, I admit it, at times, less than significant) events. When I travel, I need to have my iPad with me more than ever. Whether it’s showing friends and family neat tricks (“hey, there’s my house!) on Google Maps or making a call via Skype to Bank of America to verify “suspicious” charges to reactivate my credit card, to finding out what is happening back home, I find myself using my iPad multiple times per day. In fact, it’s my lifeline back home and to the office.

While I am no Jeff Bezos, long ago I adopted something I read that Mr. Bezos does (or at least did at the time). Almost every day, I will answer a customer service call or a sales call here at Cellular Abroad. I do this in order to stay grounded with real customers’ needs. If there is one thing that stands out when I speak to our customers, many of whom travel on an annual basis, is that there are always stories of unexpected circumstances such as, “the wifi in the hotel was not available” or “I was on the phone for hours to resolve an issue – thank God I had your phone.” The point I am trying to make is that when you are on vacation or even traveling for business, the last thing you want to do is find yourself in a position where you are without internet access or affordable cellular access. Here’s what you can do to ensure that you indeed do have access to the internet on your device.

Free is Good
Yes, free is good but not necessarily great. The old adage, “you get what you pay for” is very often true. But, if your budget only permits or at least prefers free then here is what you can do in order to best take advantage of this. First, check with the hotel and ask them if they do have free internet access. Also, ask them how reliable it is. I had a friend who was told that there was free internet at her hotel in Sicily. Indeed, it was free…during the hour or two that it was typically working during the course of a day. She ended up spending hundreds of dollars having to get a taxi twice a day to a neighboring town in order to access her emails work emails. Not fun for her and it ended up being anything but free.
If the hotel staff tells you that it isn’t reliable or even if they claim it is, ask them where there is wifi availability in the surrounding area. Usually there are restaurants or cafe’s that have wireless access. If you can live with not having to have access to the internet anytime, anywhere then this may work for you.

Plan B
Again, not every place does have free wifi or reliable free wifi. Plus, even if they do, you may need to access bank accounts or other accounts that require a secure connection, one that free wifi cannot offer. In this case, here are a couple of options.
If you are traveling to just one country, say only to Italy or only to Spain, AND your device accepts a SIM card, get a SIM card with a data plan for that country. If you are traveling to multiple countries, you can still get a SIM card but you will pay a little more. Either way, you can get data plans for small fractions of what it would cost to roam with an US provider. However, if your device is not 3G and does not allow you to put in a SIM card, your best bet is rent or buy a MiFi hotspot…and that brings us to plan C.

Plan C

I am a big fan of Plan C and based on all the positive reviews we have, for example, on our Italy MiFi Rental, I am not the only one. There are several things I really like about the MiFi. First, it is very easy to use and works with any device. All you have to do is to power it on, put in the security password and you and up to 5 others can go online. In addition, it is portable, works anywhere and is secure.  If you read the reviews for the Italy MiFi Rental, you will get some ideas of what people have done with their MiFi. Some of my favorites are using Google Maps in their rental card on their iPad to navigate their way around and video Skyping with their parents while running with the bulls in Pamplona. Let’s see the Kardashians top that!

While the MiFi is not dirt cheap, by comparison to other solutions, it is a great deal. For example, and using Italy as a comparison (which is however one of our better deals), just 3G data, without the device, with the least expensive US carrier for 10GB of data would be well over $1,000.00 whereas a two week trip to Italy with our device would run you about $150.

The last thing I would like to address is that almost everyone traveling has unique needs when it comes to cell phones and data. Some people just need something for emergencies, others to make a few calls and maybe check an email or two and still others need to send huge files of video back to the US for a Rick Steve’s travel show for example.  My recommendation is to call Cellular Abroad, describe your needs to us (and even me personally) and we will explain the best options – even if it has nothing to do with a product we carry.

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About Sebastian Harrison

Founder and President of Cellular Abroad and travel writer.
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4 comments on “How to Use Your iPad or PC Abroad

  1. Robert Nicholls on said:

    I hope that the Cellular Abroad service is improving and that they fully support the iPhone. I had a SIM from CA for use in Spain and another in Belgium. About the only thing that could be said is that the “Callback” feature worked and that by dialing a combination of digits I could call the US and the UK. However, it was impossible to use the standard numbers– +1617….–in the phone’s phone book.
    For me, it was not realistic to enter new dialing instructions for the main recipients. The good news is that the service people in the US were available and they tried valiantly to help.

  2. Leslie jones on said:

    I am going to try you next time. Many years ago I rented a phone from you with great success. This time I have an iPhone 5S and am traveling in Spain , France , and Italy. I bought a SIM card in Spain with the understanding it would cover all countries with phone, data. and internet. Wrong. No internet outside Spain and I was left to find free wifi or pay hundreds of dollars for satellite wifi on my cruise. And you are right. Some restaurants will say they have wifi but they in fact steal it from the hotel next door and the signal is weak.

  3. Patrick E. Adams on said:

    In this case, here are a couple of options.
    If you are traveling to just one country, say only to Italy or only to Spain, AND your device accepts a SIM card, get a SIM card with a data plan for that country.

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