Staying Connected While Abroad

The idea for this post came after I’d been on a few trips and started weighing up my options with regards to either continuing to use local SIM cards whenever I land at my next destination or investing in one of those universal SIM cards. To be more specific the most popular one I know of is one which is issued by Orange and dare I say the data rates offered appear to be quite expensive when compared to the standard price of internet connectivity across the world.

Okay, so for some of us data isn’t expensive at all in our home countries and we tend to take it for granted, but even for those for whom data is expensive, like residents of South Africa for example, the rates offered on this Orange global data SIM are rather high.

I’ve not invested in one myself as I use my friend’s one whenever I’m on a trip and she’s not planning to go on one for a while, so I just transfer the money to her and she then loads it up with her bank account.

I must say it’s rather convenient, but this convenience comes at a steep cost. It is indeed great not to have to swap out SIM cards as soon as you change time zones and in some instances the SIM card even works high up above the clouds on the plane. So it’s great to be able to quickly jump online and search for a good restaurant while you’re on your layover for example, or if you’ve landed and you seek to holler an Uber (out of reach of the free Wi-Fi extended at airports).

Again though, this is convenience that comes at a super high cost, so I’d say it’s probably worth investing in one of these, but then you’d only really use it when you really have no other options.

Otherwise staying connected abroad is relatively easy, starting with the mentioned free Wi-Fi you often get at airports. Not all airports offer this free Wi-Fi though and for the most part those that do will limit your access to an hour or based on a set amount of data. This is a sign that this data is to get yourself organised and not to waste on frivolous tasks such as watching YouTube videos, unless of course you’re waiting to board your flight and everything is sorted out already.

Most places of accommodation offer free Wi-Fi as somewhat of a standard inclusive “perk,” which I put in inverted commas because really it’s probably built into the room rate. This means you should make full use of it, although I’m not suggesting you abuse it in any way.

Finally, often at the airport you’ll find people selling SIM cards with some prepaid data and voice plans. Talk to these people. Business usually flows quite nicely for them so they’re not out to milk you for the most they can get. They’ll usually be sincere with information like how much data you’d need to buy based on what you’re going to be using it for while you’re in the country and how long you’ll be staying.

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