Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Connecting to the internet while traveling can be difficult, but not insurmountable. Connecting to the internet while traveling will, however, require a few extra precautions.

We are going on a cruise to Europe in October and I want to take my laptop with me to use in the airport and I suspect I can use it on the plane and on the ship to communicate back home, though I am not sure as I am not a traveler. I don't even know if I can use my cell phone in Europe, as I've never gone before. I also know that my battery will only work for about 2 hrs. and then will have to be plugged in somewhere to be able to use it and not sure there are places to do that anywhere but on the ship.

It's been a while since I've gone abroad, and at that time both travel, and connectivity, was provided courtesy of my employer. It's a good work if you can get it, but not an option for everyone.

There are two major issues that need to be thought of before you head out. Let's review them...

Power: your laptop probably came with an external power supply that you connect to periodically to recharge the battery. The "problem", so to speak, is that electricity in Europe is typically provided at 240volts 50hz instead of the 120volts 60hz that we're used to in North America.

The great news here is that your power supply probably doesn't care. Most are now labeled with something along the lines of "Input: 100-240V - 50-60Hz" meaning that they'll take pretty much anything between 100 and 240 volts (and 50 to 60 hz) and "do the right thing."

The only "gotcha" is that power plugs differ in different regions overseas. So you'll want to take with you a plug adapter for the various locales you'll be visiting (not a transformer, it's not needed for this). They're typically small, and very cheap. You can get them at an airport, but probably they'll be cheaper if you get them on-line or beforehand.

"... if your cellphone works as a phone ... I'd expect it to be unlikely that it will work as a modem - even if it does at home"

Connectivity: this is perhaps the bigger issue. We're frequently spoiled in North America because many of our ISPs are either nation-wide, or support some kind of limited dial-up access even when we're away from home. However they rarely support overseas connections directly. Certainly it's worth asking your home ISP if they have any solutions for those who travel - perhaps a partnership with an overseas ISP.

On top of that, if your cellphone works as a phone (providers that support "GSM", the international standard for cellular, may, others will not), I'd expect it to be unlikely that it will work as a modem - even if it does at home. If you do already use your cell phone as a modem with any regularity, I would definitely check with your cellular provider to see what they might have to offer. My biggest concern here is that if they do offer something for overseas travel, it may well be fairly expensive.

If your laptop is wireless-enabled, then finding internet hotspots and connecting therein might be the most practical. I don't know how common "free" WiFi hotspots are across the globe, but even pay-as-you-go solutions might turn out to be fairly economical, in the long run. Airports also frequently have them - some free, some not. Naturally, whenever using any wireless hotspot, be sure to be very aware of the security risks, and take the appropriate steps to stay safe.

Of course it's quite possible that once you're in Europe, your hotels may provide internet access - either free or paid. If you know where you'll be staying, it'd make sense to check out the hotel's web site before you go.

The same applies to your cruise ship. Ask your travel agent or the cruise line directly what forms of internet access they might provide while you're at sea. One warning, though: cruise ship internet can often be both pricey and slow.

The one place I can pretty much guarantee you won't have connectivity is in the air. While you'll be able to use your laptop, there are no provisions widely available for letting you connect to the internet while you're flying. It's coming, but it's still a ways away.

As I said, it's been a while since I've traveled overseas, and the landscape changes often. Perhaps readers will have more suggestions posted in the comments to this article.

And enjoy your trip! Color me jealous :-).

Article C2693 - June 18, 2006 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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16 Comments
Tom
June 21, 2006 1:29 PM

I have had good luck using AOL dial-up when overseas, if broadband is not available.

Mark Tier
June 24, 2006 6:55 PM

For years I've been using attglobal.net. Two reasons: it's cheap (or at least it was when I signed up), and it has great roaming world-wide which is ALSO cheap.

While your current ISP probably has some kind of roaming agreement, you might find you're going to pay per minute while you're online overseas.

With the ATT service, you pay a flat $4.80 per hour. And they have a plan which costs just %$5.95 per month -- with a 30 day free trial up front.

Of course, we're talking dial-up connections, which are always a great backup, even if they're irritatingly slow!

One other thing: phone connectors around the are even more diverse than power sockets. If you'll be staying in 4-5-star hotels, you shouldn't have any problem plugging in the standard US phone connector -- which seems to be the world-wide standard for fax machines.

But if you're travelling on a budget you'll probably need a different phone adaptor for each different country you visit. While I think about three different kinds of electrical power socket adaptors will cover the whole European continent, it seems that each European country has its own way of plugging phones into the network.

The other way, which is pretty universal world-wide, is Internet Cafes. I've had no trouble connecting with my laptop into one of these when I've been staying in a cheap hotel and the only way you can connect to the phone in the room is to pull it apart first!

Of course, on a cruise you probably won't need any of this info, but you never know....

Elinor Garely
June 25, 2006 11:55 AM

Luxury hotels throughout Europe have Internet access - either from the business office or from hotel rooms (if you have your own laptop). This service is usually fee based. Most of the time access (currently) is broadband - so bring the appropriate cable with you. The hotel may have adapters so that you can plug in your laptop - otherwise- pick up an adapter set at the airport or Staples - type store in your locale. You will be able to access HotMail, Yahoo, etc. If you are using a cable connection at home - make sure you have your login code for out-of-residence retrievals.
At the airports (at least domestically) - you may want to check t-mobile hotspots. For $6 per hour (payable with credit cards) - you can access the Internet.
You may have a problem collecting voice mail messages from your cell phone when you are out of the USA. You may also have trouble placing Internet calls. Check with your provider to determine roaming charges and voice mail access when out of the USA. I use t-mobile - and it is terrible!

alan barnett
July 5, 2006 2:25 PM

am taking my laptop to oz and am worried about the rj11 lead which is bt unique in the uk and i will need for dialup, is there a converter so my modem cable can fit into the oz wall socket/phone point, regards alan

Marianne Glen
October 17, 2006 2:29 AM

Leo
Next year my husband and I are setting off on adventure travelling the waterways in France which we expect to last about 2 years. We are an older couple nearing retirement and rely greatly on the internet to keep in touch with friends and family and conduct our personal financial affairs. What do we need to do, and what equipment do we need to access the internet at all times while being on board our boat in France?
Bearing in mind that we are not great with understanding the technicalities could you explain this in as simple terms as possible.
I look forward to your early reply.
Kind regards
Marianne Glen

Felix Ofori-Frempong
December 17, 2006 2:34 AM

I will travel to africa soon, and I wants to know if I can use my laptop in Ghana-Africa

Felix Ofori-Frempong
December 17, 2006 2:39 AM

can i try the 30days trial

Bankim
February 1, 2007 4:17 AM

hi

I will be travelling to paris next week...what do i need to connect through internet to keep in touch with my family..can you pls guide me how can use internet on my laptop when i am travelling...what kinds of socket will i need when i travel & also i need the cheapest option to use net...pls guide me

thanx
banky

Linda
August 2, 2007 10:31 AM

Iam going to stay on a caravan site for about 6 months and want to take my laptop with me cani use it over there.Iam an older person so i am not up to full speed with computing. Please help. Thank you.

Leo A. Notenboom
August 4, 2007 5:07 PM

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You can certainly use your laptop, the question is can you connect to the
internet. That depends on many things, most notably the services provided by
the campground you'll be at. Will you have a phone? Then perhaps you can dial
up. Will the campground provide wireless (and does your laptop have wireless?)
then perhaps you can use that. Do you have a cell phone, and does your cellular
provider have data access? Then perhaps you can use that as a way to connect.

I'm afraid there's no simple answer based on what you've said. There are many
possibilities, but I can't say which one will work for you.

Leo

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polgas
March 25, 2008 7:07 AM

i buy a loptop from japan and using it just plug and play,its working there perfectly,but when i brought it to the philippines it's not connecting to the internet.
any advise?

patricia hughes
April 20, 2008 9:38 AM

im getting a wirless laptop to take to lanzarote we stay over 4 mouths ,i need to get into my email and on the internet, im not tecnical so dont no what i need to take,or what i need. please can you help, we dont stop in a hotel normaly find acomadation ourself. thankyou for any help

ashton
September 1, 2008 6:30 PM

If i take a palm pilot which has wifi, wont i easily be able to connect at the wifi spots in europe???

Help.

Brandy
December 3, 2008 12:31 PM

You may also want to look into www.WifiRents.com because they are a company that rents out mobile broadband cards by the week or the month without making you sign a 2 year contract. (which is perfect if you just need the card while traveling) I'm not sure if they rent them out for international travel or not but feel free to scope their website and see if it will work for you. www.WifiRents.com

Brandy
June 25, 2009 2:31 PM

Just FYI for those of you who may not know, there is a company called www.WifiRents.com that you can rent mobile broadband cards from, you rent by the week or the month witout a 2 year contract (under verizon or att service). I don't recall whether they rent them for international internet access or not. But check them out for yourself, they have always been very helpful to me so I'm sure they will be able to help anyone interested.

dianne
May 11, 2012 7:46 PM

what i have to do to use my laptop ove
rseas??

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