The telephone and the Internet when travelling… it is a bit like managing money when travelling, it’s a world in constant evolution, that you have to follow, study, test to finally find the best solution for the type of traveller that you are. I’m pretty bad at this kind of thing and I tend to go for the easy way out, before studying the issue once and for all years later. For example, I was very familiar with the concept of the international sim card, but I had never taken the time to look into it until a few weeks ago…. You can visit https://www.simoptions.com/ and learn more about International SIM cards.
Without wanting to be a killjoy, in 12 years of traveling, I have had time to see the evolution of telephony and the Internet while traveling, to struggle without the Internet, to spend time in Internet cafés, to use rechargeable phone cards in phone booths, to chase after all the Wi-Fi in the world, to travel without a smartphone, etc.. Even if there is always a certain nostalgia for the hard times, for those moments when you get lost and meet beautiful people, for those blessed moments of disconnection, I can’t deny how much simpler my life is today, with all the solutions that exist, especially when working on the road.
How do I stay connected while travelling?
I started by going on a rather relaxed trip, not really worrying about my internet connection when I travel, other than choosing a youth hostel with WiFi whenever possible. It hasn’t always been easy, especially in New Zealand or Australia, or when the hostel’s internet connection was a big joke or when the electricity went out. Yes, I’ve gone crazy quite often, because when you have deadlines and you can’t do anything, it can drive you crazy. Burma has been a nightmare, but I expected it.
The more I continued to travel and be serious about my career as a freelancer and digital nomad, the more I started to choose where I would visit and stay based on the connection. This goes for the hotel, for volunteering, but also sometimes for the country… I could hardly travel for a long time in Paraguay or Cuba for example, at least for the moment, unless I log out and go on vacation.
So I started to choose meticulously the places I was going to, to refuse volunteers who were too isolated, but also to buy local sim cards to stay connected. I bought my first local sim card in Argentina, but it was rather expensive, so I only took it “just in case” to connect quickly or make phone calls when I needed to. As I was hitchhiking across Patagonia, this seemed essential to me. Gradually, I started buying local sims cards when I stayed in the country for a long time, when it was cheap or when I had a specific need for work while roaming.
I have tested buying sim cards in Bali, USA, Thailand, Japan, UK, Taiwan, Bosnia, Croatia, Germany, Canada and of course also in France (because no, I don’t have a plan, as I haven’t been in France for more than 8 years). I only hide that depending on the country, buying a local sim card is more or less complicated: in the United States, I had to go to a store, have a passport and pay very, very expensively; in Canada, I had to put a friend’s address, subscribe a contract and the cancellation was a puzzle to put on hold on the phone; in Japan, the cancellation was also complicated and I had to pay for an extra month when I was no longer there; in Bali, I did my homework, because there were a lot of scams and price variations x 10; if the other countries listed were very easy, I think Germany won the prize: I was there for a week for work, and after buying a sim card in a phone shop, then you had to activate it online, then print a paper, get it certified at the post office and send it, then wait for the activation! A real obstacle course!
I also tested the Pocket Wifi system in France and Japan, which I found very interesting because you can have the device sent to your first hotel and go on the road with it, then send it back by La Poste when you leave. Sometimes, Airbnb accommodations offer this system so that you can have Internet everywhere with you.