For years I was nomadic, changing locations as often as every day, usually not staying in any one place for more than a week.
Using a different SIM card in every country I traveled to was convenient for a while. The more times I repeated the process, though, the more I became frustrated at the lag between when I arrived in a new place and when I could actually be connected.
Sometimes I couldn’t get a local SIM card with a data plan until days into my trip, or not at all. After a while, it also became difficult to keep track of what SIM card belonged to what destination.
When Tep asked if I would test out and review one of its wireless devices, therefore, I was happy to say yes just to try something new.
Before I Left
When logging on to the Tep site, I was immediately offered 10% off my first rental for giving them my email address. It’s a standard procedure these days, and I thought it was worth it.
Next, I checked a device would be available in the country I was planning to travel to, in this case, France. It was.
In my case, the cost would average out to about $7 per day USD if I chose the standard plan, a period of 10 days. That’s noticeably more expensive than the SIM cards I’ve used before. They usually cost me $10-20 USD per month for the data plan, and a few dollars for the SIM card itself.
After ordering, I received a confirmation via email. Later, a second email arrived, with a return shipping label and tracking information for my Tep Wireless device.
If you’ve ever heard of or used a MiFi device, you’ll understand what arrived at my home prior to the trip. It’s really a wireless router that acts as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. It came in a leather carry case complete with charging cord, a small manual, and a shipping envelope to return the device at the end of my trial period.
On the back of the device itself was printed the name of the network I’d be connecting to, and the password for that network.
On the Road
The leather case and its contents accompanied me to Paris, and I was already connected on every device I owned before leaving Charles de Gaulle airport. No problems checking into Foursquare, no problems updating my email or sending a few tweets.
I even uploaded an image to Instagram, all within a few minutes of my arrival.
I’d never been able to do that during my previous trips with SIM cards, and I can’t always count on working (or free) airport Wi-Fi. My Tep Wireless device picked up a signal in seconds, and there was nothing else to do but enjoy being connected.
During my time in Paris and during a day trip out to Champagne, I watched my colleagues struggle with their SIM cards and data plans. I even tried to use a local French SIM card I happened to have. Every time I really needed connectivity, though, it was my Tep that came through.
On the metro, trains moving fast through the countryside, even in buildings where there was little to no cell service, my Tep worked remarkably well. The device’s battery life was fine as well, lasting me through the day.
Upon returning home, I placed the leather case in the provided envelope, secured that pre-paid shipping label, and returned the device to Tep. In terms of connectivity, it was the most seamless and pleasant experience I’ve ever had as a traveler in another country.
If convenience is more important than the lowest possible cost, the Tep Wireless device is definitely worth checking out.
Tep is currently available in most European countries, South Africa, Egypt, Mexico, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and parts of Asia. Plans are available from $3.95 per day USD.
Up to 5 devices may be connected to each Tep and rental periods last from 1 day to a year, bookable through the Tep Wireless site.
I am missing a link here! That being said, I was always wondering if I should just purchase a MiFi and do the good ol’ SIM game.
Ahh yes, a link. Sorry about that! I’ve updated the post with the details — thanks for mentioning it!
I think there’s a certain price point where this becomes too expensive for a user. Realistically, it’s not that difficult to find a local SIM shop and sign up for a pre paid plan. Sure, some places there’s a few crappy rules (India!) but 75% of the time I am in and out of a store in 10 minutes with a new local SIM and data plan.
Yes, agreed. I think that the price vs convenience equation is different for each person, but it will cross over for everyone at some point.
I’d suggest that for many people, MiFi rental like this is a reasonable option for a trip that lasts a week or two — especially if it covers multiple countries — but beyond that it becomes hard to justify unless it’s a business expense (and even then…).
Chris, I agree that the cost was the most prohibitive thing for me when examining the options. But for weekend and week long trips, which I do far more of now than I used to (when I was actually nomadic), a TEP ends up being far less headache for the cost than a local SIM.
I spent four years using local SIM cards so when I wrote this review I very much had something to compare the TEP to.
I agree that a TEP would not be a better choice on a prolonged tour of any country. In that case, searching out free WiFi for a laptop, and using a local SIM with my phone would be my preference.
Well I had a really terrible experience using this company, and after googling whilst waiting months for a refund I never got, for a service I never had, I found loads and loads of very, very bad reviews from people just like me, here is one which really caught tep off guard.
Always good to hear the negative stories along with the positive ones, I think. While our reviewer had a good experience overall, it sounds like that hasn’t been the case for every Tep customer.
What is the best alternative to Tep? Do you have any suggestions. I run several membership sites and would love to have access at all times while on our year long trip around the world. Is there any company that offers good global coverage at a reasonable price? Verizon? T-Mobile? do they have good global offerings or is there a smaller less known company that would provide equally good coverage at a more competitive price. To be honest with my business a 1000 dollar expense seems worth it for 365 days of access without having to search out or worry about logging on all the time. The time savings and stress reduction alone are worth it not to mention customer satisfaction.
T-Mobile or Google’s Fi service now have free or low-cost international roaming in most of the world, so if you’re from the US, they’re a great alternative.