5 Portable Wi-Fi Hotspots That Will Keep You Connected Around the World
Whether you need to stay on top of your email inbox or your Instagram feed, these mobile hotspots enable you to access the internet on the go.
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. 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,” she said.
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 — like the T-Mobile One — 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.
Boost Mobile ZTE Warp Connect
Though Boost’s coverage area isn’t as widespread as other competitors, the budget-friendly price does make testing on the fly a more feasible possibility. With this unit, you can connect up to 10 devices, making it ideal for group travel. It offers 4G-status connectivity and has a battery life of at least eight hours. Of course, if you are using it to answer emails from an airport, you can always charge as your using it, too.
To buy: boostmobile.com, $50
GlocalMe G3 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot
What we like about this hotspot is its flexibility — and the ticket it provides to travelers who are hopping across continents. They have their own Cloud SIM technology, allowing you to connect to the net in 100 countries across Asia, South America, North America, Europe and Oceania. Also nice: you can use their G3 Wi-Fi, or you can replace the SIM card with a local provider if the standard connection isn’t fast enough for your needs. You can also connect up to five devices — and it’ll stay powered for 15 hours before you need to recharge.
To buy: amazon.com, $165
KuWFi 4G LTE Unlocked Hotspot
This little device is compatible with most providers — including SpeedConnect, U.S. Cellular, AT&T, and Redzone Wireless. It’s also unlocked, meaning you can easily pop out its included SIM and utilize your own. Though you can connect up to 10 devices, the 4G/150 Mbps slows down a tad as you connect more. User reviews say it’s a smart choice for the Caribbean and the Americas, so if your travels often take you to these regions, it’s worth your purchase.
To buy: amazon.com, $80
Reliance Router Hotspot
Another unlocked option that works with most carriers — with the exception of Verizon — is this 4G all-star. It comes with a 4.5-star rating on Amazon, and is ideal for Latin America, Europe, and the Caribbean. Because it uses a SIM card, you’ll need one to get this guy going. Once you’re set up, you can connect up to 31 devices, but again, this group accessibility comes at the cost of speed.
To buy: amazon.com, $49
Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L
Considered the crème de la crème of hotspots, Verizon MiFi is one of the top rated mobile hotspots on the market today. It’s compact and the ratings on internet dependability are high in major cities. You can connect up to 15 devices with a single signal — but it will cost you a pretty penny. The Jetpack itself costs $200 (or $50 if you sign a two-year contract), and then you pay for data every month, starting around $30 for 4GB. It also has up to 24 hours of battery life, which is good news if you’re away from your hotel all day.
To buy: verizonwireless.com, $200