Please sir, may I have more” excerpt Oliver Twist… ”more wifi

2017 January 2017 Señior Tech Technology

By Señior Tech from the January 2017 Edition

If you have ever had the occasion to enjoy a cruise experience, you may recall the abundance of wonderful edible delights available. Food is available 24 hours from room service, the buffet stations on the Lido deck, the main dining rooms and the exclusive concierge restaurants. My wife and I recently disembarked from a cruise in the Orient.

Our trek started with a two-night stay in Honk Kong prior to embarking the MS Volendam. Our hotel had a magnificent view of the Hong Kong harbour, and a smartphone was in our room for our use while we were guests of the hotel. Using Google maps on the phone, we could navigate to the interesting sites within the city and easily find our way back to our hotel.

We boarded the ship and our first day was a sea day as we sailed to Halong Bay in Vietnam. The cruise director mentioned that the most-often requested “where is the closest toilet?” has been replaced by “where is the nearest wifi?”. Internet onboard cruise ships is expensive and painfully slow. Uploading a photo to Facebook could cost over $5.00 USD or more depending on the size of the photo.

My wife and I both have unlocked cellphones (not tied a to a cell provider); this allows us to use any SIM cards (these are little circuit cards used by cell providers to communicate with their networks). By the time we reached Danang, Vietnam, my wife was anxious to email our status to friends and family. We made our way past the 50 or so taxi drivers wanting to give us a tour of the local points of interest and dodged the numerous scooters to find a vendor selling cellular data services.

We walked two blocks and there was a small store with an older Vietnamese gentleman. I asked if he had travellers’ SIM cards with data available and he answered to the affirmative. 9 gigabytes of data for $5.00 USD. We had him install one in each of our phones. We then decided to go enjoy a Vietnamese coffee (quite delicious) and update our Facebook pages.

The internet speed was 40 Mbps upload and 40 Mbps Download. I called my sister in Penticton on Skype and the call quality was excellent. We were now able to text, use Google maps, and even use our phones as wifi hotspots to share the data. We then hired a taxi to give us a tour of the ancient city of Hoian which was not affected by the Vietnamese conflict.

I purchased a new SIM card in Cambodia, another in Thailand and one in Singapore. The cost varied by country but they all were under $10.00 USD. The data usually expires within 30 days, but for most people this is fine. You can also top up the data using your credit card.

This is an excellent way to get internet services on your phone travelling to other countries. Most US and Canadian cell providers offer roaming packages, but not as cheaply as what we experienced. If you are considering visiting another country and you wish to swap out your SIM card for one from a local provider; ensure your phone is unlocked (if you are under a con-tract, you may be charged an unlock fee if your contract is fulfilled and you are persuasive, you can have the fee waived).

Installation of a SIM card is usually done by the vendor. They will install the new SIM card and return your original SIM card. Test for service and pay.

This was certainly more economical than the shipboard internet which was $250.00 USD for 1000 minutes or $0.75 USD per minute a la carte.

In Mexico, SIM cards can be purchased at any of the cellular phone stores. Telcel offers SIM cards in the following data configurations; 1gb data $200 pesos, 2gb data $300 pesos and 4gb data for $500 pesos. The data is good for 30 days from activation. 1gb of data should satisfy most users as hotels and restaurants offer free wifi.

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