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This Travel Wifi (formally TEP Wireless) review was by invitation from the company to review their portable wifi device for travel when I was in Germany and Turkey. They did not request a favourable review. All opinions of this little box of goodness remain my own.
With a monthly mobile phone plan, it’s easy to take WiFi for granted. But when you travel, things get tricky. Either your high roaming charges break a small part of your soul (alongside the realisation that you are addicted to the internet) or WiFi is hard to come by when you need it most – like when you are lost trying to find your guesthouse after your bus drops you off in the arse end of nowhere.
So when wifi providers, TravelWifi (formally known as TEP wireless) approached me about trying their portable WiFi for travel device, I wasn’t going to turn it down. Not only am I an internet browsing addict (reading news, looking at pictures of cats and Facebook stalking), but also I need reliable, consistent WiFi for work. ALWAYS. My sourcing of the internet comes from a steady flow of switching sim cards and saying “Do you have WiFi?” almost daily.
Why Portable WiFi Rocks
To a blogger, WiFi is like oxygen and TravelWifi supplied me with a healthy dose. This pocket-sized handheld device now forms part of my staple travel kit and my only girlie gripe being I want a white one to match my iPhone.
However, colour is irrelevant to the connection. Now I can get 3G wireless internet in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Oceania. It works in the same way as any other wifi hotspot, except it’s all mine, although I can connect up to five devices to it if I am feeling generous and if you ask nicely.
Other than that, I can’t complain. It’s not bulky (the full kit including charges and a spare battery even comes in a cute and compact pouch), and it connects quickly and easily. All you have to do it turn the device on, find the connection on your laptop or phone and enter the password. It’s as simple as any standard wifi connection.
Any little glitches I’ve had with it have been quickly resolved via Skype or e-mails with the TravelWifi support team. I once had an issue connecting (and I’m sure my e-mails sounded as though I was dying because of it) but it was solved within a day or two with a couple of resets of the device.
Being in random and obscure countries, I’ve been saved by the VPN access of this device too, which meant in Turkey I could access Youtube and Twitter when it was blocked on local connections for example. VPN in general also means better online security, especially in areas where local connections can be a little sketchy.
Is There a Catch?
The main thing I would highlight here is that the cost of €5 per day (for a daily allowance of 150MB) can be a hefty expense if you are on a long holiday. However, if you use wifi regularly, or need it for work as I do, then this is a cost-effective option for long-distance roaming charges – TravelWifi claims to be cheaper than 95% of most carriers.
Another downside for me is that TravelWifi currently only works in a limited number of countries (which stands at about 30 right now), which is tricky for me when I bounce around different countries, especially in more remote parts when Google maps are much needed! However, they are expanding, so in time, greater coverage will come I hope.
What Happens When Your Contract Ends?
When you need to send back your device or switch it for a new contract in a different country, you can drop it off or pick it up at the airport or pop it straight in the post with supplied pre-paid envelope (or a pre-paid stamp can be sent to you to post from the country you are in if you are not going home). Or, if you inform TravelWifi upfront that you are going to say, three countries, then you can work out your long-term pricing plan and let the wifi coverage roll.
Portable Pocket WiFi For Travel. Recommended?
So overall, would I recommend portable wifi for travel? Yes, if you absolutely need WiFi on the road. If you hardly need it and are happy to wait for sporadic wifi connections with your coffee and cake or accommodation check-in, then this option will burn a little hole in your holiday pocket. But if you do decide to connect yourself with the world 24/7, then this nifty little box is easy to use and takes up hardly any space at all.
Many local people think I have two mobile phones, so I just look important. All the cool kids are getting portable WiFi now, don’t you know?