How can I get and stay connected to the 'net while travelling in Europe?
July 18, 2006 7:22 PM   Subscribe

How to best stay "connected" while travelling in Europe?

I'm looking for experiences or anecdotes MeFites can share on this topic; there's a lot of raw info out there, but not many detailed testimonials.

I'll be travelling in Europe for about a year starting in a month or two. My companion and I are both travelling with laptops, which we'd like to use to access the 'net on a regular basis. We'd also like to travel with a phone that can be used easily for "local" (i.e. wherever we happen to be) calls, calls to other parts of Europe and overseas calls which would likely be limited to Canada.

We'll be staying frequently in cities and populated areas, but might find ourselves in the boonies or a less-developed nation every now and then.

So, please: Do you have any suggestions about 'net connectivity and/or cellphone use for travellers in Europe? I want to leave the field open to any suggestions, however broad - for the purposes of this question, money is not an issue but portability and usability are.
posted by chudmonkey to Technology (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
As for cellphones, I've been doing quite a bit of research on this myself as I'll be living in Europe for several months this fall. Assuming you have a capable phone (tri- or quad-band) it may be advantageous to you to buy a multi-country SIM card.

You can pick up country-specific SIM cards just about anywhere, they seem to be almost as ubiquitous as phone cards here in the states. The downside to doing this in every country is that you have to get a new one, obviously, in every country, and your number will change with every new SIM card. The latter might not necessarily be a problem if you're onl concerened with staying in touch with your co-pilot but if you want to give someone at home a Cell # at which they can contact you, changing it every week isn't a very good solution.

The multi-country SIM card is going to cost a bit more per minute but you are getting a much more seamless solution. As for access in remote areas, I'm not sure about that. Haven't really looked into it for myself as I'm only planning on being in medium to large cities. Hope this helps, have a great time!
posted by jckll at 7:33 PM on July 18, 2006


Here are two things you might want to consider:

1. When I spent two months (I know it's not nearly as long as you're planning) five years ago, Internet cafes were standard means for connecting to home. Last time I was over (two years), WiFi was common enough that sniping it wasn't a problem. Consider buying a T-Mobile
WiFi subscription
.

2. Buy one of those pay-as-you-go cellphones and check up on roaming charges. If roaming charges are exorbitant, you can just buy phone cards (with an electronic chip instead of a complex number to call); every country has them and payphones are still everywhere. Snoop around and try to find a calling card with good rates to the USA from Europe that has by-country access codes -- you don't want to be paying huge premiums for your calls home. I suppose if money really isn't an issue, you could just use your US cellphone over there, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Good luck -- it's one of the best things I've ever done. Make sure you stop by Munich in the spring (Oktoberfest is also fantastic, but very crowded), when the weather is good and the biergartens are open.
posted by kdar at 7:45 PM on July 18, 2006


If there is a major metropolis on the Continent that doesn't have some version of an Easy Everything 24 hour internet cafe/ enormous warehouse I've yet to visit it. The UK is actually the least wired place I've ever been, mostly because everything closes at 5pm. Unless there is a compelling reason to bring your own laptop, you probably don't even need to: you can do most anything from these centers (send pictures, receive faxes, make prints etc).

I can tell you right now that roaming charges are exorbitant as are all international calls on Pay as You Go phones. If you get a Pay As You Go phone your best bet is to get it unlocked and buy a SIM card for every country you hit- this is actually a good idea just for convenience. If you need a phone on your person you can buy one with a good international plan or just bring your Canadian phone, it will be expensive but not too bad. If you only need it for calling people back home once in a while phone-card it from call centers. Cheaper and easier.
posted by fshgrl at 7:56 PM on July 18, 2006


Consider buying a T-Mobile WiFi subscription.

Maybe from T-mobile.de, but buying the US version doesn't save you any money. When in Germany last, I was charged 18ยข a minute to roam, which was about what it would have cost to buy time one-off from T-mobile Germany. The only difference was I was able to have it billed to my US account which was nice, but not worth the premium.

When I was in London in 2003, I found I could "roam" from Boingo.com for $5.95US a day at places where the local fees were about that for an hour. They seem to have closed that loophole and now require a per minute charge like T-mobile does.

There are lots of free wireless hotspots. And even more internet cafe like and things EasyInternet. I found the paid hotspots to be more expensive at hotels and airport lounges than in the US. The Swisscom-Eurospot hotspots can be quite spendy.
posted by birdherder at 8:23 PM on July 18, 2006


We travelled for 8 months with an old unlocked triband nokia and a roaming SIM from Telestial. Since we had one phone # we were always accessible. It was also economical since incoming calls are free. Making local and international calls was quite expensive. I avoided doing this and usually used skype to call home. I suggest you take 2 phones. One with a roaming SIM and another with a locally bought SIM that will give you cheaper local calling rates.

As for internet, I found 4 strong open wifi signals in the place we were staying in Paris. I convinced the night clerk to let me use the front desk computer for free in Naples. In Amalfi I connected via the B&B owners cell phone. In hotels where I paid, I (more than once) persuaded them to give me extra days of connectivity. And then there are always cafes. You will find ways.
posted by Hash at 12:21 AM on July 19, 2006


When my wife and I were moving through Europe I stayed in contact with my work through email and IM. I had a laptop in my pack and would just stop at internet cafes for an hour or so here and there. One thing I have to say, all the places we stopped from Germany to Italy had internet cafes. I only had one that wouldn't give me a direct connection into my laptop, and this was at a little place in Germany. It was a travel agency that had internet access and called itself an internet cafe. This was more due to the lady there not really understanding than anything else.

That said, most of the computers at the cafes I used I would be scared to use for anything I actually cared about. Only one of the cafes I went to had any kind of imaging software in use and most computers were full of random programs users had installed. If you forgo the laptop and rely on these computers, I would suggest taking something like a knoppix cd or some such.
posted by chrisroberts at 8:19 AM on July 19, 2006


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