Tag Archives: SIM

How to use a prepaid SIM card for Internet access overseas

2017-08-29

Every freelance writer, digital nomad, or remote worker who is traveling overseas will need Internet access – sooner or later. If you are working and traveling, you will need it the moment you arrive in a new country. No problem, many people think, I’ll use the hotel Wi-Fi, free access at McDonalds, or Wi-Fi hotspot at a nearby café. Sure, if you know what you are doing, because recent news reports showed us that multiple hotel Wi-Fi networks in Europe and Middle East were infiltrated so that hackers could collect guests’ banking and other passwords.

What can a traveler do to have an Internet access overseas that doesn’t cost a fortune and that is reliable and secure? The answer is to purchase a prepaid SIM card with a data plan in each country you visit.

three prepaid sim cards
The objective is to use a prepaid SIM card on a smartphone, or on a 4G router. You can use as much Internet you want without having to worry about paying more than the price of the data package you have paid for. Better yet, you can turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot and connect your laptop or tablet to the Internet via your personal hotspot.

In many countries, a prepaid SIM card is easy to get. Find a mobile network operator’s retail shop, a mobile phone store, an electronics store, or in some countries, a kiosk that sells SIM cards. Choose the initial amount of data that you want (often starts from 1GB), and make sure you get the information on how to top up more data (if you need to). In some countries, there are no formalities – you just pay and that’s it. In other countries, you have to show your passport (the salesperson may have to copy it), and fill in a form.

Turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot

creating Wi-Fi hotspot on Android smartphone
Your SIM card is the key to establishing Internet access, but some technical stuff has to be maneuvered before it will work. If you only want Internet access for your smartphone, turn off the phone, remove the current SIM card from your phone, insert the prepaid card, and start the phone.

An advanced solution is to turn your phone into a WiFi access point for your other devices. Here is how to establish your own Wi-Fi hotspot:

1. Insert the prepaid SIM card into your phone, and start the phone.
2. On an Android device, tap Settings -> Mobile hotspot and tethering -> Mobile hotspot.
3. Tap the Mobile Hotspot switch to set it on. If this is the first time you are turning you phone into a Wi-Fi access point, change the hotspot name and password to your liking. This is the Wi-Fi network name your other devices will connect to and the password you have to enter on those other devices. Anyone within the Wi-Fi signal range can detect your hotspot and try to connect to it, so keep that in mind when choosing the password.

establish Wi-Fi access point for mobile devices
Depending on your phone’s Android version, the described process may vary a bit. Once completed, the phone’s Wi-Fi signal is reserved for connections to the hotspot (your phone), and your phone’s mobile network connection (it doesn’t matter if it is 4G or 3G, the only difference is the speed) provides access to the Internet for all devices.

Now, connect your laptop, or other device to the new hotspot you just created by entering the hotspot password you specified.

If you regularly need a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, get a dedicated 4G router

People who travel and work want to ensure they have the tools and connections everywhere they go. Assuming that you already have a SIM card with a data plan that you can use in a country where you have arrived, the best product to have is a Mobile Wi-Fi/4G router. The router connects to a 4G or 3G mobile network for Internet access, and provides Wi-Fi signal for your devices to connect to.

Having a dedicated device for Internet access lets you use your smartphone’s phone number for phone calls and messages, and save its battery.

Huawei 4G Wi-Fi router for mobile internet access
The Wi-Fi/4G product category doesn’t have a self explanatory name, but for instance, this Amazon search lists plenty of products. The key things when choosing a product are:

The product is battery powered for mobility.
It is unlocked, and accepts any SIM card you insert into it.
4G is the fastest mobile data connection type at the moment, but as a backup connection, 3G works as well.

I have been using a Huawei 4G mobile router for a couple of years – sometimes continuously for months – without problems in many countries and on many networks.

When you get your router, connect your laptop to it. Login as admin, and change settings if you have to. This is important: save the router’s local IP address and admin password into your password manager, because you will have to access the router admin panel sooner or later. For instance, some networks send text messages to the phone number associated with the SIM card, and the only place where you can read them is the router’s admin panel.

The nice thing with prepaid SIM cards is that they work as a backup connection if your main Internet access point fails, and you can use it when on the road – without having to spend hours looking for a Wi-Fi signal.

Travelers rejoice, EU has removed roaming charges! But what about visitors from non-European countries?

2017-06-15

European Union has reached a crucial milestone in its effort to create a truly single market for its member countries. Telecommunication service providers whose networks we use when we make phone calls and connect to the Internet are not allowed to charge extra if you take your mobile phone to another EU country and let it connect to a local network. You can make phone calls and use Internet services for the same price as in your home EU country.

woman talking on cell phone
All EU citizens who travel are certainly happy about the decision that was inaugurated on June 15, 2017. If you have a prepaid SIM card, doublecheck your operator’s policy. For instance Vodafone still charges extra if you use your prepaid SIM card in another EU country, but it was the only one I could find. Others are following the new EU policy.

What if you arrive in Europe but don’t have a SIM card from a EU country? Usually, you would purchase a prepaid SIM card in the country where you landed, right? Well, that’s what you still can do. Here is the best part: choose wisely, and you can roam in EU countries with that SIM card and only pay the charges of the card’s home country. If you buy your prepaid SIM card in Germany, and travel to France and Italy, you consume your voice and data plan according to the German operator’s home plan.

The initial period for free roaming is two weeks. If you roam longer than two weeks (14 days), your operator has the right to contact you and perhaps apply extra charges.

So, the thing is to doublecheck that the prepaid SIM card operator doesn’t have extra charges for roaming, and you want to have a SIM that can be topped up via the Internet or via phone. In some countries, you must walk into the operator’s shop to top up, but that’s not going work if you travel.

Thank you, EU! Here is the statement concerning free roaming from the EU office that includes an extensive FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) as well.
prepaid SIM cards for internet access

This is a travel writer’s most important tool on the road

2017-06-13

When any professional, for instance, a digital nomad or a remote worker, who is working while traveling, packs for the next assignment or destination, there is always the question if something could be dropped from the travel kit. The number of electronic devices seems to be gradually growing in my travel bag, at least. Which tools are the essential ones to get the job done, if the assignment is to write on the road?
digital nomad working at a terrace near fruit farms of Murcia

Here is the set of key tools for a travel writer according to my experience.

Maps.

Both digital and paper maps are crucial for planning. For navigation on the road I use offline digital maps, but I have good printed map books as a backup.

Laptop.

Most writers type their manuscripts on laptops, and so do I. Nonetheless, it is quite amazing how little laptops have developed if you compare them to tablets and smartphones that have gone so far in such a short time. Where is the touch screen in laptops? Decent battery life? Protective cases for taking them on the road?

Smartphone.

The ultimate communication tool for keeping in touch with collaborators or calling tourist information offices of the world. The camera on the phone is also a very useful and important tool for a writer.

Tablet.

I use tablet a lot for planning (maps, distances between distances, routing) and researching background information on destinations. On the road, it is the in-car navigation device instead of the dashboard GPS. Tablet is probably the first tool that many other travelers drop from their toolset, but in the future, I may even choose tablet and keyboard instead of a laptop.

prepaid SIM cards for internet access
Local prepaid SIM card.

Some travelers rely on Wi-Fi hotspots to get online, but the best way to have Internet access when you need it is to buy a local prepaid SIM card with data plan. Insert the SIM card to your smartphone, 3G/4G Wi-Fi router, tablet or laptop.

Backup disk.

The next backup disk I am going to get is a portable, wireless SSD disk. In the office, I can continue using USB hard drives that can store terabytes worth of data.

Camera.

I write and take photos for books, but even if you wouldn’t take pictures to be published in an upcoming book, camera is a vital tool for a writer. Photographs have many functions: they show how a place looks like, they help a writer to remember details of a place, and they can document objects.

I just realized that paper and pen are not included in the list of key tools. It is very rare that I use the trusted and reliable note taking technology, but occasionally I do. Pen and paper are usually somewhere near to make notes, for instance, during a phone conversation, but they are not vital tools anymore. Another thing I realized is that occasionally I need help. Hubstaff Talent is a service for finding remote talent.

mirrorless SLR digital camera with zoom lens
If I had to choose only one tool from the list above, which one would be the most important for a travel writer? Camera.

Yes, a camera. I am slightly surprised by my choice, but if I had to select only one thing I can take along for the next trip, it would be a camera. By taking a photo, I can document details of things I would have to write down. Overview photos of landscapes and city streets help me remember how a place really was. I can quickly document information boards that highlight the key points of a sight or a protected park. Video clips of local markets, main squares and pedestrian districts remind me of the buzz and feel of the place. A camera is also a handy note taking aid: I can record a video clip with a note to myself. If it is my job to take the photos for a book or an article, those images have to be taken as well.

Naturally, when the time comes to start actually writing, a camera won’t help anymore. But the photos and videos will.