Ask LH: Is Renting Internet Access With My Car Overseas Worth It?

Dear LH, I’m planning a trip to the UK and I’m trying to sort out my data options for my phones, iPad and netbook. I know there is no way I’m going to use my own network’s roaming so I was looking at TravelSIM or similar but I’ve just found out that the hire car company I’m using offers a Wi-Fi device for £9 a day with 1GB of data a day.

This is still rather high and will add up over a long trip but it does seem better than roaming charges of $20 per MB and still better than TravelSIM at $1 a MB (assuming I use more than 13MB a day). But are such Wi-Fi systems effective? Is there a better option?

Needs Data

Dear ND,

When it comes to travel data, planning in advance is definitely wise, so it’s good you’re already looking into it. One advantage you’ve got if you’re only travelling in the UK is that you don’t have to deal with the challenge of different roaming rates for different European countries.

While you haven’t specified which option you’re using, it sounds like the deal offered by Hertz in the UK, which charges £9 a day with a £35 minimum charge and for a Wi-Fi hotspot which uses the Vodafone network to provide the connection. Hotspots work well and are especially useful if you’re travelling with multiple devices. Renting is certainly an easy option, but it’s probably not the absolute cheapest way you can go about things.

As a point of comparison, I travel to the UK quite regularly and I use a prepaid mobile dongle from 3 which charges £10 for 1GB of data for use over 30 days (£15 for 3GB; £25 for 7GB). I could easily use that with a Wi-Fi hotspot as well; 3’s official one is a pretty hefty £85 (including 3GB of data), but over a fortnight that would still be a similar cost. If I got a non-network locked hotspot before leaving home, the price would be even lower. While 1GB a day (or unlimited data) sounds tempting in theory, in practice you’re very unlikely to use even a fraction of it unless you’re uploading lots of photos or spending your evenings watching iPlayer.

That said, you probably don’t want to spend time during your holiday messing around with buying a new SIM and setting it up. So if you’re not anticipating using a Wi-Fi hotspot when you get home as well, the rental deal is a pretty easy way to go, and, as you say, much cheaper than roaming or using an international SIM. If readers have other options to recommend, we’d love to hear them in the comments.


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