Getting Online in Europe: What You Need When Traveling

Traveling to Europe can be a great adventure and, in this tech savvy world, you’ll probably want to get online while you’re exploring the sights there. Even on vacation we all get the urge to check our emails or maybe even Facebook. It’s not always as simple as connecting to Wi-Fi once you cross the seas. Here are some things to keep in mind as you try to get online in Europe. Getting Online with Your Smartphone If your primary means of Internet access is your phone, you’ll need to watch out for expensive roaming charges overseas. In the European Union, you can expect to pay between .19 to .45 euros, or 50 cents, per megabyte of data. If you’re sticking with your U.S. carrier, assuming they allow for international calls and data roaming, expect to pay a hefty price. If this isn’t the route you want to go, but still want to access the web via a phone, you can buy an unlocked smartphone and purchase a local SIM card once you arrive. The SIM will come with a data allowance that you can upgrade as you go and can help you avoid the roaming charges. A popular option is the European Data SIM card. Connecting with a Laptop If you decide to take your laptop, or hook up to a local computer, there are Internet cafes throughout Europe you can utilize. Think of it like going into a Starbucks, but at these cafes, you’re charged up front to use the Internet instead of having to buy coffee refills to get free access. Prices at these cafes vary, but they usually charge by the minute or allow you to purchase a card with a pre-determined amount of time. Finding Wi-Fi Can Be a Challenge Unfortunately, free Wi-Fi access is not as widespread in Europe as in America. You’ll find it available in many highly populated cities throughout the different countries, but it is sparser in rural areas. If you aren’t always going to be in bigger cities, like Paris or London, you can consider bringing your own Mi-Fi device. A Mi-Fi is a device that works as a personal hotspot, allowing you to connect your smartphone or laptop to Wi-Fi wherever you are. Mi-Fi devices usually come with SIM cards installed, but you may have to buy your own. Having a Mi-Fi is a great solution for anyone who needs to work while abroad or who wants the security of always having an Internet connection. Internet Speeds Overseas Some of the Internet speeds in Europe are on par with those you’ll find in the U.S., while others lag somewhat behind. England, for instance, has a download speed of 30.82Mbps, compared to the United States’ 35.35Mbps. Some countries, like Spain, clock in at under 30Mbps. You’ll also want to check with the different service providers in each country to see what they offer. Popular providers include Orange and Vodafone, though services vary by country. With so many countries spread out in Europe, it’s important to make sure your plan or service will transfer with you. With the right preparation and research, you should have no trouble getting online during your travels. The wide array of Internet cafes available should make it easy for you to find a way to connect but, if you can’t find one, rest assured there is probably a Starbucks right around the corner. They give free Wi-Fi no matter where you are. Photo Credit: Mark Doliner/Flikr

Author -

Ben Kerns is a fan of all things related to technology and the Internet, especially when it comes to discovering new ways to further merge the two together. When he's not plugged in, he enjoys the great outdoors, healthy living, and singing off-tune to cheesy country songs.

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