Kiri and


Connect 4 – keeping connected on the road

June 26th, 2013 (by Steve)

As the days tick down before we head off into the sunset mainland Europe in Bertha, so the jobs are slowly being ticked off too. The job for today? Sort out how we’re going to stay connected to our friends and family back in the UK. Now I say that it was a job for today – this is actually something that we’ve been musing for several months as we also have been considering how much we want to be connected too. We don’t want to take much electronic kit in the van as that would equate to more stuff for people to steal, but also more stuff for our batteries to be drained by.


Initially we baulked at the idea of shelling out money for keeping connected when we’re travelling in Bertha, but then we examined what we currently pay in the UK for our telephone and internet per year, and it put things into perspective:

  • Landline rental: £14 per month
  • Broadband: £6 per month
  • Kiri’s mobile contract: £8 per month
  • Steve’s mobile contract: £13 per month

That comes out at £492 per year…plus we had a connection fee for the broadband, which covered the router as well.

So, we’ve settled on 4 methods for keeping connected in Bertha, all neatly facilitated by Motorhome WiFi (we’ve also used Adam + Sophie’s personal site “Europe By Camper” for research on other stuff related to our trip). So, what are the four methods?

  1. Open wi-fi – with a booster system, we’ll be able to connect a laptop to any open wi-fi hotspots within a larger range than if we just used the laptop’s own wireless antenna. This means at campsites we’ll be able to sit in the comfort of our own van and get online, or sit in a McDonalds car park in the van. We’ll try to use this as the main source of getting online as after the initial cost of the equipment, it’s free! Cost: £160 then free!
  2. European 3G PAYG SIM – we realise that we won’t always find an open wi-fi hotspot to use, so if we’re desperate to get online, we’ll do so using a roaming 3G SIM. However…neither of us will be taking smartphones, so we’ll be using a mi-fi device that acts as a wireless hotspot so that we can use a laptop with it. The other option was a 3G dongle, but we’ve found it’s quite a hassle to get 3G dongles to work nicely with Ubuntu. We won’t be using it every day, so it’s great that it’s pay as you go. On the days that we use data, we’ll also get 50 SMS messages free, so that’s when we’ll reply to texts! Cost: £30 then €3 per day that we use it for 50 Mb Data, 50 SMS and 50 minutes
  3. European 2G PAYG SIM – OK, technically this is also a 3G SIM, but it has the bonus of providing free incoming calls when in some countries in Europe, with the UK caller paying the price of a UK call too. Again, this is pay as you go, so we won’t be charged when we don’t use it. To be honest, we’ll most likely use this for receiving phone calls rather than calling out. Cost: £5 then free(ish)
  4. Letters – yep, that’s right, we’re going to use pen and paper to write letters. We both love receiving letters in the post – there’s something so much more special about it than receiving an email and as we’ll have more time in the evenings without worrying about being online, we should hopefully have time to sit and write to people. Cost: price of a stamp

To be honest, all of this weighing up has made us realise that actually we take for granted the 24×7 connected world that we live in at the moment. Just 10 years ago I didn’t have a constantly-on broadband connection and 15 years ago I didn’t even have a mobile phone (imagine a teenager without one now!). Do we need to be constantly connected? Do we need to be constantly updating everyone on what we’re doing? The answer is probably “no” to both of those questions – you’d get bored soon if we were constantly giving updates anyway! Maybe this trip will give us a new outlook? Until then, we’ll wait for the parcel in the post!

4 Responses

To be honest you will probably do okay with local PAYG SIMs in the various countries. In some countries that’s easier than in others, and some countries have more extensive free/cheap wifi than others, so between the two you should get decent enough net access.

Yeah, that’s always an option too – with the Toggle mobile the additional benefit is that in certain countries we won’t be charged for receiving calls from the UK, and the callers will only pay for a local call.

Hi guys! I’m guessing you have a EuropaSIM? We used one for over a year and found it to be great, especially in Italy where we had a massive 500MB per day. The only gotcha is the APN setting; make sure you use the correct one and be careful about having more than one set. We used the SIM in a tethered Android phone and although had only one default APN, another was present and we found we were being charged twice per day. On the WiFi front, MacDonalds is great in the sense it is free, but can also be dog slow, in a location at the back of a shopping centre (so no access from the car park, even with a booster) and in some countries they ask for a local phone number to text the access code to. If you ask nicely, the ‘you want fries with that?’ fella might give you the code. same goes for campsite WiFi, meaning that although it might be there, it is sometimes plain old pants, no chance of a Skype call for example. We found ourselves wanting daily Internet access, even though we happily accepted being off grid in other senses. It made life easier in terms of looking up places to stay, reading about the history of places, getting advice from folks via the blog, and telling our families we were still alive! Good look with the crossing, fingers crossed the storms passes and you can get over the water quickly and into fabulous France! Cheers, Jay

Hi Jay, yep, we’ve got a EuropaSIM which we’ll use in a mifi (we’re not taking smartphones) – thanks for the warning about the APN! I think we’ll find ourselves using it more than we first imagined!

As for the crossing… I’m sure we’ll be ok; hopefully not too many fallen trees on the way to Dover either!

Leave a Reply

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.