Best portable Wi-Fi hotspots 2019: mobile Wi-Fi for international travel

Use WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram abroad with these global gadgets

Best portable Wi-Fi hotspots 2019: mobile Wi-Fi for international travel

Getting online abroad used to best be avoided. Expensive roaming charges made it uneconomical, and though roaming is presently possible for UK mobile users in the EU, that might soon change.  

Besides, using a laptop usually means finding potentially dodgy Wi-Fi networks, and buying local SIM cards when travelling long-haul is a faff. Cue the mobile Wi-Fi hotspot and global SIM card, which bring convenience and security like never before. 

Literally anywhere there’s a 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G mobile phone network is ripe for getting online thanks to these devices, which attach to a local mobile phone network and create a WiFi network that several devices can then connect to.

Check out our guide below on how to choose the best Wi-Fi hotspots for international travel in 2019. 

How to choose the best WiFi Hotspot for travel

You’ll want a data connection abroad if you want to use WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram abroad, but what you get depends on what you buy. 

The first choice is to buy an off-the-shelf hotspot from the likes of Huawei, TP Link or Netgear for a fixed price, then insert a global SIM card from a different supplier such as Dataroam, WorldSIM or many others. 

The other is to buy an all-in-one mobile WiFi hotspot device that has a built-in eSIM and normally come with some free international data, plus the chance to easily top it up online whenever you run low on data.

The price of data will always be a critical part of your experience, but while all-in-one mobile WiFi hotspots such as Skyroam Solis and Macaroon are tempting, check that they give you data where you want it and allow pay as go data upgrades that suit your purpose. 

Prioritise 4G or 5G data if you want an ultra-quick connection, but plan to buy data in bundles to save money.

The best 5 Wi-Fi Hotspots for Travel

1. Skyroam Solis

A lightweight all-rounder with pay-as-you-go data deals

Specifications
Best for: Frequent travellers
No. of connections: 5
Battery life: 16-20 hours
Weight: 185g
Built-in data: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Includes free 1-day pass+Works as big portable power bank+USB-C
Reasons to avoid
-Only five connections

Fancy continuous global Wi-Fi wherever you go? You can get 4G WiFi in 130+ countries using this orange puck’s patented virtual SIM (vSIM) tech that automatically connects to local carriers. Data is pay as you go and paid-for online: one day costs $9, five days a costs $45, 10 days costs $90, and for 20 days it costs $180, while an unlimited monthly subscription costs $99. It’s easy to use and works for up to five devices with a 6,000 mAh battery inside that doubles as a handy power bank for phones and tablets. It recharges via USB-C and its maximum data speed is 150Mbps.

2. Huawei E5788

This 5G-ready hotspot allows 32 devices to get online

Specifications
Best for: Large groups and 5G
No. of connections: 32
Battery life: 12 hours
Weight: 152g
Built-in data: No
Reasons to buy
+5G-ready+Works as a portable power bank
Reasons to avoid
-Small battery-No data included

If you’re happy to sort out your own data deals and you’re traveling in a large group, the world’s first LTE CAT16 mobile hotspot might suit. Unlocked so you can use any SIM card inside – including any global SIM or a local SIM – the E5788 is 4G and even 5G-ready, and can download at up to 1Gbps. Like the Skyroam Solis, it has a built-in battery that doubles as a power bank, but it’s only 3,000mAh, so only good enough for an emergency recharge of a phone or tablet. Connects to up to 32 phones via NFC tap.

3. TP-Link M7350

Back to basics 4G mobile WiFi hotspot for up to 10 devices

Specifications
Best for: Basic WiFi access
No. of connections: 10
Battery life: 8 hours
Weight: 259g
Built-in data: No
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Micro SD card slot for sharing files
Reasons to avoid
-Small battery

Here’s a back-to-basics mobile WiFi hotspot that will suit anyone wanting to get basic 3G and 4G access for one or two people. Although it creates WiFi for up to 10 devices, its small 2,000mAh battery (good for eight hours) does not double as a portable power bank. However, it’s got a great little LCD display that lets you know what’s going on in terms of signal strength and battery. You’ll have to sort out SIM cards on your own, but there’s a tpMiFi app that lets you set data limits, control which devices can access WiFi, and share photos, music, and videos via the M7350’s micro SD card slot.

4. Macaroon

Say goodbye to SIM cards with this app-based hotspot

Specifications
Best for: Frequent travellers using only a smartphone
No. of connections: 10
Battery life: 12 hours
Weight: 110g
Built-in data: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Includes 1GB global data+Long battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Exclusively app-based

Here’s a hybrid all-in-one that eschews local SIM cards completely and offers online data deals using built-in software. This Wi-Fi hotspot from Hong Kong-based Macaroon has cloud SIM tech, which works via a smartphone app that sells global data deals. That makes it subtly different from the Skyroam Solis, which works through a web interface accessible by any device, though the Macaroon’s data costs are dynamic and only available via the app. Elsewhere it’s standard issue hotspot hardware that can also be used with third-party SIMs. It has a battery life of 3,000mAh.

5. Netgear MR1100-100EUS Nighthawk

Gigabit WiFi and a massive battery make this a 5G future-proofer

Specifications
Best for: 5G future-proofing
No. of connections: 20
Battery life: 24 hours
Weight: 240g
Built-in data: No
Reasons to buy
+5G speeds+Missive battery
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

Tempted by maximum download speeds of 1Gbps? Though 5G will one day dominate, it’s almost non-existent for now, and unless you’re about to buy a 5G phone the Nighthawk is way over-specified for your needs. However, as hotspot hardware goes it’s pretty advanced. Like the Huawei E5788 it’s got LTE CAT16 tech for fast download speeds, as well as a 2.4-inch LCD panel, a microSD card slot for sharing files between up to 20 connected devices, and a monster 5,040mAh battery.

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