How We Use the Internet While Overseas (without going broke!)

David uses the wifi on Amtrak

Internet access is much easier to find now than it was when we started this crazy life we lead.

When we’re in the States, we have service with us all the time because our smartphone creates its own hotspot.

Catching up on Amtrak's Northeast Regional
But overseas, it’s a whole different enchilada.

If we tried to use the Internet in the style in which we are accustomed (think tons, then double, no, triple, that), we’d go broke – fast.

Most service providers charge an arm and a leg to add an international Internet package and we don’t have (m)any limbs to spare.

Keeping in touch in Queensland, Australia

So, we usually end up getting the cheapest prepaid package and hope to heck we don’t have to use all our precious bytes.

Even with severe Google withdrawals and refraining from checking our email until we’re at our hotel, we always end up using them, and more. Something inevitably comes up that chews them up.

We sometimes choose where we eat based on whether or not they have free wifi (and, trust us, that’s no way to decide on a restaurant!).

We’ve been known to stand outside a building with our tablet and glom on to random signals.

No matter where we are in the world, our first criteria in a hotel is that they have good wifi. And then, there is always that awkward request at check-in where we ask for the room closest to the wireless router.

Decibel's text reaction to Mommy paragliding in Lima PeruOur favorite text from Decibel right before we went paragliding

We don’t mess around when it comes to being connected.

It is imperative that we stay in touch with our loved ones and manage to keep our stories flowing.

Thanks to Tep Wireless for providing Internet for us for 10 days! As always, all opinions are our own.

Tweeting from our balcony on our cruise ship using Tep!

So when Tep Wireless contacted us to see if we’d like to give their pocket wifi rental a go, we leapt at the chance to test drive on-the-go Internet access while outside the US.

We decided to really put Tep through the paces as we live-blogged our way through Holland and Belgium. We would be visiting big cities like Amsterdam, but would also be passing through some remote areas as we made our way from place to place on a European river cruise.

The package you get in the mail when you rent a Tep Wireless device
The device comes with a universal power adapter, a handy-dandy carrying case, a pre-paid return envelope, micro-USB cable, and instructions.


Here’s how Tep works:

– We told Tep the days we would be needing our device on the Tep website

– The unit was delivered to us by mail before we left the USA.

– Once we were finished, we just popped it into the prepaid envelope that was provided and mailed it back.

Easy peasy.

Holland and Belgium

Here’s how Tep worked for us:

When we arrived in Amsterdam — before we even left the plane — we turned on our device, entered the password, and logged in on our tablet.

Our email downloaded quickly and we were able to send out a tweet and upload a photo of Holland from the air, all before heading to customs.

The speed was good – comparable to the 4G we receive on our phone.

Veronica holds her Tep Wireless device in Holland
The device is small enough to fit in a pocket!

As we traveled to more remote regions on our cruise, the speed varied greatly, as would be expected since the device delivers service using cell signals, the same way a smartphone does.

Service was much better in Holland than Belgium and there were a few times that we didn’t have a signal at all as we sailed, but never longer than an hour.

Using Tep Wireless in Holland and Belgium!
Enjoying a fine Belgian beer in a fancy glass!

All in all, we loved having Internet in our pocket wherever we went, and much of the time we had a laptop and a tablet logged in at the same time without a noticeable loss of speed.

Live-blogging was a breeze, we were able to post more often and didn’t have to wait until we arrived back at the ship to send out our dispatches.

We got to eat where we wanted, wifi or no, hang out at destinations a bit longer, and linger over a fine Belgian beer while emailing with loved ones.

You betcha we’ll be using Tep again!

In Ireland…
Our experience was so good on our prior trip, that we decided to use Tep on our own dime in Ireland. Here’s how it went.

Using Tep Wireless in Ireland!

We put Tep through the paces in Ireland!

Connectivity was strong in Dublin, as we expected it to be, but we were very pleasantly surprised as we headed out along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Some of the places we visited were remote — to say the least — and there were very few moments where we didn’t have service. Kudos Tep!

South Africa…

An angry male rhino in Kruger National Park, South Africa

We were a little hesitant to give our little Tep unit a go on our photo safari in South Africa, mainly because Kruger National Park is pretty dang remote.

By contacting Tep from their site with our concerns, we were sent a map with the locations we could expect to get service.

In Johannesburg, where we were staying before our safari, the map showed excellent service (and it was), but the Park showed up as very limited. Doing research showed us that cell service is spotty there in general as well.

Not having another option (the camp that we stayed at in the Park had no wifi either!), we decided to give it a shot anyway. We had varying service on the five (ish) hour drive between Johannesburg and Kruger, emulating an extremely rural drive just about anywhere in the world – great close to towns and villages, slower when not.

An elephant walks by a river in Kruger National Park, South Africa

In the Park, we got better than we expected. The service map told us that we wouldn’t get anything at our camp (but we got slow connections, and were sooooo happy to have it!) and nothing while driving around (it came and went – but it was there!).

Our advice is: If you are going on photo safari, just be in the moment and forget about wifi, but if you HAVE to have it, Tep worked for us. Contact them ahead of time and let them know where you’ll be when traveling in South Africa in general, just so you know what to expect.

In Sicily, Italy

Our bicycle tour of the coastal cities of Sicily was phenomenal – riding out trusty steeds all day – then eating as much Sicilian food as we wanted at night.

Then in the morning and noon too.

And, as we rolled along, the granita and gelato stops were frequent.

Our little Tep unit traveled along with us every step,

or should we say pedal, of the way – so we could share our culinary adventures with ease! Not one outage anywhere – Sicily’s covered!

We’ve been so pleased with Tep Wireless that we’ve decided to fully endorse the product and become an affiliate. We get a little bit of money if folks use the service from links on this page, just so you know. As always, all opinions are our own.

David and Veronica,

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26 thoughts on “How We Use the Internet While Overseas (without going broke!)”

  1. Just wondering with living in New Zealand, if I would be able to access one of these devices when I travel overseas, or is it just for US folk?

  2. Hot spots and battery life are dreadful! It’s good to know that Tep lasts up to 5 hours. During those 5 hours, did Tep have a stable connection or did the signal go in and out? #GFEpart2

  3. I hadn’t heard of TEP. We used xCom Global on a trip to Switzerland a couple of years ago and were extremely happy. It was comp’d and would have cost around $15 a day which seems pricey. Do you know what TEP typically charges? I need to investigate. Thanks for the info, we’re talking with someone about a home exchange in July in Amsterdam.

      1. The Tep site says $9.95/day. Do you have a discount code to get it for $7.95/day? And could we use it in the US? Am I correct in presuming it uses whatever network provider it can receive, depending on your location?

  4. Very interesting, but they won’t be able to deliver it to us once we move to Mexico. A shame, I was thinking we could really use it in places where there isn’t much for wifi, like when I was in Chiapas. Hint Hint Tep! Can’t you ship to Cancun at least?

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