The biggest challenge for us by far was technology (or in some cases the lack thereof). If you think Telecommunications in Australia is not at an acceptable standard wait till you visit some European countries.
We recommend having your voice and data contracts in place prior to leaving Australia and having a contract which includes unlimited talk time plus a healthy data allowance, or at minimum unlimited talk time but no data.
Australian plans are not exactly cheap however they help to overcome the challenges listed below because the last thing you want is to have a situation develop in a remote area where you need to make phone calls or send important messages and you don’t have any talk time or data allowance left – and these situations will occur if you are away for a while.
Some of our fellow travellers advise buying data SIM cards in each country you are travelling in – we found that too much of a challenge as we intended travelling through about 27 countries.
Some of the challenges with organising SIM cards overseas are as follows:-
Three.Co.UK have some fairly good packages however they seem to want to provide them to you only when you are physically in the UK.
We phoned them from Germany and they refused to send one to us.
We overcame that by going online to Amazon and having Amazon courier a SIM card to us at an address we knew we were going to be at in a few days.
The cards are only valid for 2 months and then your service is terminated.
We had a 5GB card and used the allowance prior to 2 months and wanted to top up online but couldn’t because they wouldn’t accept an Australian credit card online.
There was a company “Mobiletopup.co.uk” who handled international credit cards but Three.Co.UK told us they had closed down.
An alternative could be to have a friend in the UK buy the card for you and then send it to your next known address in Europe but you still may encounter the top up challenges or buy multiple cards and just throw them away when fully utilised.
Buying a SIM card in each country
The smaller towns in many countries do not have phone shops and therefore you could be travelling for several days before coming to a town large enough to have a phone shop.
You need to know what a phone shop “looks and sounds like” in a foreign country in which you probably don’t speak the language and they are not easy to find.
You need to park the motorhome first and then set out on foot to find a phone shop – parking a motorhome in areas designed for small cars is not easy to start with.
Phone shops belonging to the known brands such as Three, Orange, Vodaphone etc are not interested in selling a 5GB card for 1 month – they only want to sell you a phone and a phone plan for 12 months or more.
Your best bet is one of those small dodgy looking phone shops not belonging to any franchise chain who sell everything and anything.
The next challenge is overcoming the language barrier and being able to explain exactly what you want.
It is Imperative that you have the phone shop insert the SIM card in the shop and get it operational before you pay and leave the shop.
Many travellers say don’t worry about SIM cards just drop into a bar or a McDonalds and use their WIFI.
That maybe fine if you travel down Motorways but we travel on the secondary roads and prefer to visit villages rather than major towns and therefore there aren’t any McDonalds etc.
Therefore some help maybe required such as an APP called WIFIMap which will inform you of the WIFI networks in your area and will provide passwords for this networks as well – there are 2 versions as usual a free version and a Pro version for about $8.
Additionally, there is a UK company – www.motorhomewifi.com who can supply “WiFI sniffers” and antennae and dongles which will help.
Telstra currently only provide a max of 2.5GB data/month on personal accounts and 4GB data/month on business accounts whilst overseas.
We have found the following Apps very handy in Europe:-