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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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,
In Northern Europe
Our epic cruise through Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Poland, Germany, Denmark, and Norway had results much like our prior cruise to Holland and Belgium, except this was on an ocean cruise as opposed to the river variety.
<--Pictured is our lunch of bear dumplings and smoked beaver in Estonia!
For fun, we played around and dared our Tep unit to wow us by seeing how far we could get out to sea before he gave gave up the ghost. At times, it was pretty surprising!
All in all, he was great on land (we were mostly in towns and major cities). Service was spotty in the fjords of Norway - but, hey, who needs Internet in the fjords of Norway? We'd have to be off our rockers to be tweeting in a place like this:
(one of our first social media posts was of poutine—a gloriously unhealthy dish consisting of french fries, gravy, and cheese curds—it's not Canada until we get our mitts on some!)
...we found we had full coverage, NO outages!
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, GypsyNester.com
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