Being a sojourner (and Ingress agent 😛 ), I usually stay connected during my travels using the cheapest method possible: by getting a local SIM card with data plan. In some countries, however, this can be a real hassle. In Australia and Norway, for instance, you’ll need to register with your personal details before the SIM card can be used. So during shorter trips when free Wifi isn’t readily available, I have to resort to data roaming plans from my telco provider.
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!