Wifi in Central America was....complicated.
Although many places advertised wi-fi, it was often painfully slow.
This wouldn't be a huge issue if I didn't have the desire to share my experiences on my blog, but I do. On top of that, it makes a lot of things easier on the road like booking flights, researching destinations, connecting with folks back home, accessing bank accounts, and everything else we use the internet for these days. In this case, reliable wi-fi is a necessity while traveling - especially for long periods away.
When the advertised wi-fi was non existent and my T-mobile international data plan was lagging, I was able to rely on my Tep Wireless wi-fi hotspot.
What is it?
Tep Wireless offers a convenient portable wi-fi hotspot in 100+ destinations around the world. I wasn't so sure what to expect, but I was often impressed on the reliability of this device that is small enough to fit in your pocket. It allows you to privately connect up to 5 devices on a 3g or 4g network. Basically, you can have ALL of the wi-fi anywhere you go.
How it works
You must rent a device on their website. The device, along with a small instruction manual will be shipped to you within a few days before your trip departure. Once you have returned from the trip, you will need to return the device using the shipping label provided. If you plan to use the device for an extended period of time, you may choose to purchase the device instead of renting.
Once I received my device, I was able to set it up within a few minutes. It's extremely easy, but you can always contact their support team if you have any issues.
Where it works
You can view the coverage map here to see if it will work in the country that you're traveling to. You may purchase coverage for a single country or for multiple countries. I was using the global pocket wi-fi which works in multiple countries. Beforehand, I knew that the hotspot would work in all countries I was traveling to - except Belize. It always worked best in very populated areas. However, it is quite a bit slower in less populated areas and some remote areas where there is no local network to connect to. On my sailing trips, I was unable to use the device. However, it would often work if the boat was sitting at the port or close to land.
Overall, the device worked at least 80% of the time that I tried to use it. It was unavailable in areas where there is no cell signal to connect to & I read this on their site beforehand. In all other instances, it saved my butt.
Why you might need a Pocket Wi-fi
On the road, you can usually access the internet through public wi-fi networks(hotels, restaurants, etc), International data plans(T-mobile's is free), or purchasing a local SIM card. Hotel & restaurant connections can be slow or unreliable, Data roaming can be extremely expensive if you don't have a free international plan, and purchasing a local SIM card isn't ideal unless you plan to stay in a specific country for at least a few weeks. So, Tep Wireless offers an alternative to each of these options. Given you are in a covered country, you will have secure and private access to wifi at any point. It can be used to:
- book flights, hotels etc.
- use maps
- research destination activities, history, etc.
- upload photos & videos to the internet
- use apps like WhatsApp & facebook to connect with friends & family back home
- check bank accounts, email accounts, etc.
- do remote work
TEP's portable wifi rental is currently priced at $8.95 per day. This option is better suited for quick trips. You also have the option to purchase/own a device at $99 and then pay $8 per day. You will only pay for the days that you choose to use the device. This option works best for those who travel for extended periods of time & move around to different countries.
Yes, this is pricey. For budget travelers, this might not be the best option. However, it may be worth it if you need to do work online - like myself. The pricing also works out great if you are traveling in a group, because you can split the daily cost between up to 5 people/devices.
Battery Life: 8 hours of use from one charge
Wifi speed: unlimited 3g up to 7.2Mbps
If you're unimpressed, they offer a 100% satisfaction guaruntee.
Overall TEP worked very well when I needed to use it. I was often impressed with connection speeds even in some remote places like the Andes Mountain. For someone who intends to work online like myself, the device works just as described. I'd recommend TEP's portable hot-spot it to anyone who is searching for an unlimited, quick, private, & reliable wifi hotspot to use during their travels.
Disclaimer: TEP Wireless sent me a device to review, yet all opinions are honest & my own.