Before going any further, this article concerns Japan (mainly, but I’m talking about another international roaming solution below).
Many of you don’t know the existence of the “Pocket WiFi”.
I have already teached a lot to people about this subject in the past, I thought it was a good idea to write a short article.
What is it?
It’s a small box that holds in your hand (you can put in your bag, pants, in short you store it where you want) and that allows you to connect to the 3G/4G network with a limited or unlimited number of devices (mobile, tablet, laptop etc) no matter where you are in the visited country.
If you’re satisfied with the free hotspots available in some places then forget about the pocket wifi.
If you’re addicted to social networks, you like to post everything, I advise you to rent one, don’t use your 4G data because you risk to have a huge surprise at the end of the month when you’ll receive your bill.
Few years ago it didn’t exist so I managed to buy a mobile phone with a prepaid sim card at Softbank with the help of a buddy (that almost all non-Japanese had at that time, if you had same, high five bro), cause when you’re a “gaijin” (japanese “pejorative” word for foreigners), if it hasn’t changed since then, you can’t buy a phone if you’re not domiciled there. It helped me to keep in touch with people on the spot but never to know where I was going to haha.
I’ve used several times a pocket wifi during my last trips to Japan. I especially rented it to be able to locate myself in the streets/metros/trains and to remain reachable for my family or acquaintances (and therefore i’m not using my own data to call or send text messages).
If you go to Japan (especially for the first time), I recommend it, it’s a must have.
When you have no good sense of direction (like me), this stuff will save your life on the spot.
Practically all the addresses that you’ll find on the websites of the places to visit are in Japanese (including beautiful kanji and incomprehensible numbers) kind of this:
Tower Records in Shibuya (random example to give you an idea, there is worse)
Except in major streets or websites in English where you can read them in roman alphabet.
Even if you have an idea of where you have to get off from the metro/train, going outside of the station is not funny at all (especially if you don’t go out on the right side as it has happened to me many times).
For you who are used to go in Japan, you know very well that almost nobody speaks English there, you better discuss with your smartphone if you want to arrive at the destination (on time).
You know as well as me that the hotels/guest house etc have a relatively shitty wifi connection, so don’t count on this network either.
Also keep in mind you won’t be able to use it if you’re “underground” like level -1 of a building, if your box doesn’t pick up the network, you won’t connect.
On the other hand it works good in the shinkansen (high speed train).
Contrary to what everybody thinks, Japan doesn’t have many free wifi spots, you’ll struggle to find some or to connect.
I suppose it’s possible to rent directly in Japan, but personally I would not try because you’ll pay more or you’ll have less availability for rental.
For Japan, I’ll never travel again without a pocket wifi, no doubt.
I have used several websites, but the Japanese companies are all reliable.
How do you rent?
1) Choose the site that will be the cheapest for your rental period (don’t hesitate to compare)
2) Book your pocket wifi (select the one that suits you, for my part I always took the most “powerful”)
During booking you’ll be able to select where you want to pick up your pocket wifi:
-Specific address (guest house, friend etc)
Personally, I always picked mine on arrival in Narita at the post office.
You just have to go, give your passport and you’ll receive a large envelope containing:
-Pocket wifi (with the wifi key written on the back of the box)
-Spare battery (it depends if it’s included in your “package”)
-Prepaid envelope to return your pocket wifi
3) Pay online on the website (no other choice)
4) Collect your box on arrival
5) When you leave the country, place it in the prepaid envelope and slip it into a mailbox.
I advise you to drop it at the post office of the airport, the slot of the mailboxes is often too small and the envelope does not fit.
Plan to arrive a little earlier at the airport just for that, I’ve not been able to slip it into the mailbox (just before the security check in Narita) I had to run to drop it off at the post office.
That’s simple and easy.
As for the other countries, I haven’t tested yet, I wanted to rent one for my trip to Canada but it seems that the country is very well equipped in terms of hotspot (trains, parks etc) so for this time I’ll try without it.
Here is the list of sites approved by myself (Japan):
–JAPAN WIRELESS (used the last time I was in Japan in 2015)
–GLOBAL ADVANCED COMMUNICATION (used at the end of 2013)
Others I never tried (Japan):
If you write “pocket wifi japan” in your search engine, you’ll find many websites.
I’ll make another article (or edit this one) for international pocket wifi when I would have rented at least one 😉
If you have used other websites and you recommend, don’t hesitate to commentthis article, I’ll edit 🙂
However, if you’re not interested in renting a pocket wifi, I strongly advise you to check with your mobile operator about the possibilities abroad.
I have a cell phone plan to Proximus, I activated a few years ago the Daily Travel Passport service which contains:
-Outgoing calls: 20 min.
-Incoming calls: 20 min.
-20 text messages
-80 MB (3G/4G)
2€/day in Europe and 5€/day other countries (check on the website if your destination is included because I already had a big joke in Ukraine last year, I paid A LOT).
It deducts from your prepaid card or adds to your monthly bill.
This “package” can help you to not spend astronomical sums if you absolutely have to activate your 4G or you receive a call.
As soon as you make a call or start surfing on your smartphone, the Daily Travel Passport launches directly and you receive an text alert.
When you reach the end of the travel pass, you’re also warned, so no surprises.
That said, you must activate the service first (free).
Proximus also launched the Travel Passport & Travel Passport Intense, it’s the same but you pay monthly and not by day.
I’ll activate one for my trip to Canada, it will be cheaper for me than to pay per day if i really need^^ (like the cheapest pack with 200min, 200SMS and 200MB for 12.10€/month).
I suppose that other mobile operators offer more or less the same things, get some info before traveling 😉