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High roaming charges abroad? Is decent wifi hard to come by? This TravelWifi review shows how portable wifi keeps you connected.
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.
Travel WiFi Review – The Benefits of Portable WiFi
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 is 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.
Find out about costs and Wifi coverage here.
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.
Tep Wireless says
Hi Becki & Taavi,
Thank you for mentioning your case. Taavi, we apologize for the misunderstanding, if you would please let us explain, we would like to do so:
On our website we make it very clear that our unlimited plan comes with a data policy imposed by the network. Taavi unfortunately used an extreme amount of data in 10 days, and was emailed by Tep that she was approaching fair usage limits, at which point we sent her instructions on how to limit data usage. After continual high usage, we then had to ask her to either pay for more data or suspend the service so that she was not charged by the network. Tavi, it is worth noting that you used about 5-6x the average data usage.
We mention our data policy in multiple places when customers place an order:
1) On our cart page when customers select the unlimited package
2) Before customers place an order in our checkout page
3) In our rental agreement that customers sign before placing an order
4) In our order confirmation email immediately after a customer places an order
This information is clearly highlighted on our site regarding the unlimited package. I know that a fair usage policy is not ideal, however our service (and all roaming service) is design for international travelers; people who are on holiday or a business trip abroad. As a data roaming service it is inherently different than domestic country network services, and is not meant as a substitute to residential internet.
I hope that helps to clarify.
Taavi, for the inconvenience we would be happy to provide you with a 50% off voucher for any upcoming trips in the future.
Taavi Davies says
I rented a pocket wifi from Tep after reading your review. Unfortunately, their service is terrible for people who are not reviewing them. I bought a 32-day “unlimited” plan (the unlimited part cost EUR 3.95 a day more than the 150MB/day plan) to use in France. Tep cut me off after 10 days, saying I had reached my data limit – which for an “unlimited” plan, seemed like a mistake. After several emails and calls (wow, it’s difficult to get through to them on the phone) they explained that “unlimited” means “5GB” and I had the option of not using data for the next 22 days, or paying them for more data. And then they hung up.
I hope the pocket wifi continues to work out for you as you travel. But seriously, you shouldn’t recommend it to others.
Sounds cool, but might be a bit out of my price range for my purposes. Definitely less expensive than short term plans for portable wifi in Japan though. In Taiwan I broke down and bought a cheap phone that allows me to just switch SIM cards, which makes more sense when staying in each place for a month or more.
Backpacker Becki says
I agree. Long term it’s better, short term, you might find better deals within the country or be able to find local connections sporadically.