Budget tips: How to stay online while traveling without breaking the bank?

Sure, going on holiday definitely means relaxing and unwinding completely. You do not have to see those (work) e-mails right away. However, it is still nice to have the opportunity to look up the weather at your next destination, book a hotel or just post a picture on Instagram. In this blog, I describe my tips for staying online without making any high costs.

1. What is the cost of 1 MB abroad?

Before you leave on a trip, it is useful to check what your MB’s cost abroad. This is something I often forget, and only notice when I receive the text message from my provider after I crossed the border. It pays off to look up the cost in advance; they vary quite a bit per country and per provider. Are you thinking about switching providers for a new cellphone subscription? Then it’s smart to dive into the cost of using your smartphone abroad and take these costs into account when choosing your new provider.

What are the costs of Internet within Europe?

If you have a European telephone subscription and you travel within Europe, I have very good news: from June 15th, 2017, the roaming costs in EU countries have been abolished! This means you don’t pay extra costs for the use of data outside your home country. Nice!

What are the costs of Internet outside of Europe?

This is the part where it becomes complicated. Because finding out what the costs are to go online in New Zealand or in Japan can be tricky. Fortunately, you do not have to do this yourself, since “Consumenten Collectief United Consumers” has made a practical map with the roaming costs per provider for 1 MB internet *. Super convenient and really worth checking out before you travel!

In addition, there are a number of providers that have special foreign bundles. This saves you a lot of money abroad. United Consumers has also listed these costs on their website.

2. Free WiFi

If the roaming costs abroad are too high for you, “Free WiFi” is your best friend. Free Wi-Fi is offered in more and more places. For example, in Japan, we often visited the 7-11 or Starbucks for free WiFi. In New Zealand, we went to the supermarket Pak’n Save where free WiFi is also available. Furthermore, in Australia, McDonald’s was our place for free internet and we found a number of WiFi hotspots at Bondi beach. On the website Wi-Fi Space, you can find out where free Wi-Fi is offered in your area.

Free WiFi on airports

Free Wi-Fi is also available at almost every airport in the world. Super convenient to arrange an Uber just after arrival or to find the address of your hostel. Or of course to drive away the boredom when you’re waiting at the departure hall. Sometimes, the WiFi is only free for passengers in the business lounge and so you must have a password. Therefore, below a world map with all the passwords of airports in the world. This has been realized in a crowdsourcing project so if you have new information, add it! When you click on the map, you can download it and use it offline as well.

3. Google maps / Maps Me

Actually, this is not a tip on how to stay online, but on how to find a way in a strange country or foreign city without the Internet. When I know I won’t have internet, I download the map of the area where I am going beforehand. This is possible via the Google Maps app: click on “offline maps” in the menu and create a map. You can then simply search for restaurants, hotels, etc. on your map and you can also create directions.

Another option is the app Maps Me. Here, too, you download a map in advance so that you can simply look up everything on location without internet. I find Maps Me the easiest for cities, and Google Maps I use mainly when I want to reach out to a whole area, for instance when we do a Road Trip.

4. Local sim cart

When l go on a trip around the world I take with me: two mobile phones :-)! Yes, I really do. A cellphone with my Dutch SIM card and one without a SIM card. Especially, in South East Asia, we bought a local prepaid SIM card in every country we visited. This is quite cheap: for less than 10 euro you can usually use WhatsApp, book hostels and go on Instagram. This is an easy money saver.

Another advantage: many local hotels, transport companies or tour operators are only willing to call you at a local number.

We usually bought our prepaid SIM card at the airport just at arrival. However, a local SIM card is not advantageous in every country. In Australia, it was so expensive that we decided not to buy one and in Japan, we got from many guesthouses a portable WiFI hotspot.

If you don’t want to change your SIM card every time, you can also opt for a mobile hotspot that you can use all over the world. The company GlocalMe offers such a hotspot. You can use this with different devices at the same time. You pay a local data rate per country. The GolcalMe hotspots are for sale via Amazon.

5. What do you do when there is no connection at all?

Yes, there I was, in the Philippines, on a rock in the middle of the sea. I had walked into the sea with three phones high above my head, climbed on some slippery rocks and tried to get a cellphone connection now. On our way, with the Buhay Isla sail trip, we had just arrived on a deserted island, without cellphone connection. But when the guide saw the panic in my eyes, he came with a solution: a cellphone connection on one spot in the sea. And that’s where I was standing right now. My phone with Filipino SIM card remained blank: no reach. And also for my other phone with a Dutch SIM card, not much happened. In the end, Ries’ his phone turned out to be his winner: I heard the phone ringing.

During four months of travelling, this was not the only time we didn’t have a connection. Such situations also took place in the hills of Vietnam, in the Abel Tasman park in New Zealand and during the Kumano Kodo trek in Japan.

My tip: always check in advance (if possible) if you will have cellphone reach. Do you really need mobile coverage (no internet but telephone connection)? Consider buying or renting a satellite phone. Not something cheap, but I found a company where you can rent a satellite phone from 30 euros per week: Safesat.  Ask yourself, is this really necessary? When we have no reach, we especially enjoy peace and quiet. Because sometimes it’s not so bad to have no phone, mail, Instagram, Facebook or WhatsApp at all.

What are your tips to stay online without breaking the bank?

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*These prices apply to Dutch telephone subscriptions



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