The 8 Best Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots That Will Keep You Connected Around the World
Though many travelers dream of being completely off the grid for days - or weeks - at a time, the reality is that most of us have to work. Even though more companies are adopting flexible vacation and paid time off policies, checking email while OOO is often expected. Or, if your current gig requires frequent travel for client meetings and presentations - reliable and accessible Wi-Fi is not only appreciated, but required. Many remote workers and business travelers rely on a hotspot to keep them connected, no matter where the job - or their wanderlust - takes them.
As a way to fire up a wireless internet signal across countless countries, these small devices solve a lot of woes. But hotspots aren't exactly intuitive - especially if you don't have experience with changing sim cards abroad. Much like a phone, when you land in a new place, you'll need to purchase a SIM card and activate the data to use the internet. While some brands do offer an easier pay-as-you-go option, the majority rely on location. This internet won't always have the same speed you'd find at a co-working space, at home, or at work - but most of the time, it's 4G.
As location-independent software developer and founder of DevelopHER Designs Jessica Tatham explains, portable hotspots can be used throughout the world, but the level of connectivity differs greatly depending on your GPS location. "They're not foolproof," she said. "Obviously they're going to work much better in a city than they will on safari in the African bush or floating on a boat in the middle of the Adriatic Sea."
And if you are tempted to browse through Netflix or Hulu to wind down from a day of meetings or sightseeing, you will easily burn through data fast. Some providers - from Verizon to AT&T - may offer an unlimited data option, but it won't come cheap. If you have an international phone plan, you can use your phone as a hotspot, giving you near-instant access to the net on your laptop (or tablet or camera). This is the choice for Tatham, who uses this method for updating social media, but then purchases a local sim to make sure she can reliably meet her deadlines.
Her biggest advice is to read the details and reviews: "You want something that you can reload inexpensively. There are a lot of companies out there that charge outrageously for the refills and that can empty your wallet. A better option can be hotspots that either allow you to just refill at whatever the local internet provider is, or use one of the hotspots that gives you unlimited internet."
Below you'll see our picks for the top mobile Wi-Fi devices. It's important to note that you'll need to research an internet plan or subscription (or source a SIM card) - to make these usable. You will also be limited to the coverage area of the provider you choose, so research which countries they offer internet service in before signing up.
The 8 Best Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots of 2021
- Best Overall: Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L
- Best Budget: Alcatel LinkZone 4G Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot
- Fastest Speed: GL.iNet GL-AR750S-Ext Gigabit Travel Router
- Easiest to Use: GlocalMe G4 Pro 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot
- Best Battery Life: RoamWiFi R10 4G Portable WiFi Device
- Best Multitasker: Netgear Nighthawk M1 Mobile Hotspot
- Most Travel-Friendly: TP-Link N300 Wireless Portable Nano Travel Router
- Best for Gaming: Nommi Mobile Hotspot