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 this year. And, speaking of travel, if you're shortly going to be going off on a trip then be sure to check out T3's ultimate travel guide, as well as best suitcase and best carry-on luggage buying guides.
The best portable Wi-Fi hotspots you can buy today
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.
Compare this portable Wi-Fi hotspot to another top-rated model in T3's Skyroam Solis vs Netgear Nighthawk M1 comparison feature.
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.
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.
To see how this model stacks up against our number one rated portable Wi-Fi hotspot, be sure to check out T3's Skyroam Solis vs TP-Link M7350 comparison feature.
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.
Tempted by maximum download speeds of 1Gbps? Though 5G will one day dominate, it’s almost non-existent for now, and meaning this 4G option actually makes more sense. 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.
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.