In today’s digital age, constant connectivity is a must, especially for the modern traveler. Whether you’re on a business trip, a solo backpacking adventure, just visiting family abroad, or paying a visit to a mecca of your favorite anime or manga, staying online can help you navigate foreign lands, communicate with loved ones, or close an important business deal. This leads to the pivotal question: Should you borrow a portable WiFi device or a rental SIM card? Let’s delve into the merits and limitations of each to help you make an informed decision.
Let’s check the benefits of mobile hotspots.
One of the biggest advantages of portable WiFi devices is the ability to connect multiple devices simultaneously. This means your laptop, phone, and tablet can all use the same internet connection. It’s especially beneficial for groups or families traveling together.
With a portable WiFi hotspot, there’s no need to switch out your SIM card or change any phone settings. Just turn it on, connect, and you’re good to go.
Many portable WiFi devices offer consistent internet coverage, seamlessly switching between the best available networks. Also, you don’t have to worry about how data-consuming the use of your device is. When you use a SIM card and use up the data volume allowed for the card, you have to buy more data. However, a portable WiFi device frees you from such concerns.
Now, let’s compare with the disadvantage.
Portable WiFi devices run on battery. This means you need to remember to charge it regularly and you may find it out of battery when you need it. Of course, you have to pay attention to the battery of your own phone and personal devices, and this may well sound cumbersome.
Another thing to pack! It may be a small addition, but it’s still something you’ll need to remember to bring along. Also, as we confirmed, you have to pay attention to the remaining battery life of the pocket WiFi device and your personal devices. Therefore, you may have to carry around a portable battery just in case. Now another one to pack.
Although this depends on the plan and device you choose, some WiFi devices have a limit on data communication, like 3 gigabytes a day. If you need continuous access to the Internet every day, you should choose the unlimited plan.
The other option you can take for your journey with stable access to the Internet is to use a rental SIM card. Let’s check the benefits of this choice first.
By swapping your home SIM card for a rental SIM, your phone directly accesses the local network. You don’t need an extra device, which can be quite handy. Also, since your phone is directly connected, you don’t need to worry about the battery life of a secondary device.
Depending on the duration and nature of your usage, rental SIM cards can sometimes be more cost-effective than pocket WiFi devices. While the fee of mobile WiFi hotspots is often charged per day, the price of SIM cards often depends on the data volume available. So, if you don’t use your device that much on the go and your vacation is fairly long, using a SIM card will be the more cost-effective choice.
On the other hand, this option has also disadvantages.
Unlike portable WiFi devices, a SIM card usually provides connectivity for just one device, although you may be able to use tethering to capitalize on the data capacity.
Not all phones are compatible with every SIM card. Travelers might need an unlocked phone to use a rental SIM, which can pose challenges. If your device accepts only an eSIM card (not a physical card), you can’t use rental SIM cards. Even if you can use another SIM card in your phone, you may have to adjust the setting. Plus, the SIM card you use contains your phone number. Therefore, if you change SIM cards, your original phone number won’t be available for making and receiving calls while the rental SIM card is in use.
Switching out your regular SIM card for a rental can be a bit fiddly, and there’s always the tiny but present risk of misplacing your original card. As you know, a SIM card is so small and easy to misplace.
Although SIM cards do not have a limit for the availability of data communication per day, you should control the use. SIM cards function similarly to prepaid cards. Once you exhaust the available data volume, you can no longer use them. So, if you carelessly use up your data volume on the first day of a week-long trip, you will be in trouble.
The choice between a pocket WiFi device and a rental SIM card largely depends on individual needs.
If you’re traveling in a group, want to connect multiple devices, or prefer the convenience of not switching out your SIM card, a mobile WiFi device is likely the better choice for you. The compact device allows you to access the Internet world almost everywhere, with no limit on the data volume if you choose such a plan.
For example, consider if you live-stream your travels in a foreign country, listen to your favorite music or YouTube videos while walking on the street and riding the train, play a location-based app, or constantly use social media and make posts on Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter) and other platforms to share your greatest experience. These activities will require good connectivity and ample data volume, and thus a mobile WiFi device will be a much more dependable option.
On the other hand, if you’re on an extended trip but don’t require much data volume every day, or want a direct connection without an extra device and have a compatible phone, a rental SIM card could be the way to go. This option is also much more lightweight and good for those who prefer the baggage to be easily manageable.
For example, if you are a light user of devices with access to the Internet, it’s probably true that you don’t need much data volume during the trip. Or, if you prefer to use a free WiFi service at a hotel where you will stay to post your experiences and photos to social media, you can save data volume on the street. Also, consider if you have to travel a long distance in the country by transferring trains or planes. In that case, having an extra device like a portable router can be a burden.
In Japan, you can visit and use free WiFi spots almost everywhere. So, it’s not difficult to access the Internet when needed―just visit a cafe for it (and a cup of coffee). Of course, the hotel you are going to stay in will have a free WiFi service available for the guests. However, when using some of these WiFi services, you may feel the traffic is heavy. This is because such a free service is available for everyone nearby.
Therefore, if you need large and continuous data communication 24/7 in Japan, it will be a better choice to use a pocket WiFi service. On the other hand, when you don’t need Internet access on the go, if not at all, that much, using a rental SIM card will be a much more inexpensive and cost-effective way.
You want to know what plan is good for your next journey in Japan? Let’s check our plan!