Got a group trip or need to be online on multiple devices while you travel? A portable wifi router is your best bet.
The multitude of choices we have these days for staying connected while traveling is unbelievable, especially when you consider that less than a decade ago, roaming Internet access was rare and ridiculously expensive. Most of us sought out local data SIM cards or some rare hangout that offered free WiFi!
These days, data roaming plans are much more affordable and I usually rely on my M1 Data Passport (a postpaid plan for Singapore residents) or the StarHub Happy Roam (which anyone visiting Singapore can get). When I’m going on assignment, however, just having data roaming on my phone isn’t enough: that’s when a travel WiFi router comes in handy.
Lately, a few companies have popped up to offer a cheaper and more convenient alternative for traveling Internet addicts: portable Wifi routers. Each router you rent comes with its own password, which you use to connect your device the same way you’d connect to a regular Wifi network.
Do you really need a portable Wifi router?
The tiny devices provide constant, reliable Internet access while you’re on the road without the crazy costs of data roaming (especially in a country where your provider doesn’t offer an unlimited data roaming plan).
Instead of rambling on, here’s a comparison of 3 companies offering portable Wifi routers for Asia and how they compare to using a prepaid data SIM card.
Prepaid data SIM card
Varies with provider
|170+ countries worldwide||10 in Asia,|
5 in Europe,
9 in Asia, USA
1 (tethering rules vary)
|Up to 5/10||Up to 8|
Up to 5/10
|Where you can get it|
Wherever you are
|Singapore, US, Japan, Taiwan||Singapore Changi Airport|
Singapore, Hong Kong
|How to get it|
Activate via your mobile service provider
|Reserve online and collect. Delivery $7||Reserve online.|
Collect at Changi Airport
Reserve online and collect. Delivery $12
I actually wrote this because several people have been recommending the Changi Recommends and Y5Buddy routers, while my friend told me about XCom Global and I found it to be much better in terms of coverage and price! Of course I had to spread the word.
Are portable Wifi routers worth the money?
- Since you can connect around 5 devices, you can share the router with friends and split the cost. With 4 people, that’s ~$4 a day!
- No worries about connecting to the wrong partner network for your provider and incurring insane roaming charges.
- If you’re passing through several countries in a single trip (e.g. Europe/Southeast Asia), the XCom Global routers even allow multiple-country usage, while the rest don’t.
- If you’re traveling alone, or staying in one place for more than a week, a local SIM card is still the best option.
- Sharing the router with friends? You’ll still have to stick together to get a connection (here’s another excuse to upload group photos on Instagram).
- If you’re going to be busy exploring or working…it can wait till you’re back in the hotel/hostel/cafe. Really.
Looks like I’ll be renting a portable Wifi router for my next short trip. Until then, please share your experiences with different portable Wifi routers. How was the connection speed and strength? Are there any other companies out there you’d recommend? I’d love to hear your advice!