Portable wifi rental in Europe
When Hip Pocket Wifi contacted me and asked if I wanted to trial their wifi device, I jumped at the chance. Access to wifi, good wifi, has become one of the essentials of travelling for us now. When a camp ground, hotel, bar or cafe doesn’t have wifi access it tests my patience. Equally, I hate tracking down someone in an establishment that actually knows the password, or trying to decipher a password scrawled on the bottom of my bar receipt.
From a work perspective, having constant wifi with us is a must have.
On our latest trip, we were travelling to four different countries (two different continents, but four different islands !).
So, was it worthwhile? Read on to see what I thought of our portable wifi rental experience and whether I’d use it again.
What is Hip Pocket Wifi?
“Hippo”, as our hip pocket wifi became affectionately known, is a portable device that provides roaming wifi access. It’s your very own hotspot, allowing connection for up to ten devices at the one time! Connecting to the device is not limited to brand or operating system, so smartphones, iPads, laptops can all access the bandwidth at the same time.
At less than 100g, it’s incredibly lightweight and easy to carry. It’s also very small (about 10cm x 6cm ) meaning it occupied a very inconspicuous part of my handbag.
This device also arrives with a charging cable (both USB and power). It has a European pin so remember to bring an adapter if you are from a non-European country. Two emergency sims are also included along with a brief set of instructions and a pouch to keep everything in. A return postage paid envelope is also included.
Where does it work?
Portable wifi rental with Hip Pocket Wifi works specifically for European countries, with the best coverage offered in France. Coverage maps can be found here, but if you require access in a country that isn’t listed, it’s always best to speak directly with the company. As a specific example, I used this mobile hotspot in Iceland, after communications with Hip Pocket Wifi indicated it would work. It might have been spotty in some more remote places, but it was Iceland after all.
In London, the service was near perfect. In Bologna and in Malta, it was sometimes intermittent, but nothing that would make me think poorly of this device. On these occasions, I would suspect that others using different wifi providers would have had a similar experience.
In terms of speed, nowhere will be as fast as if you are travelling in France where 80% of the French population is covered with a 4G network. Here, speeds of up to 100 Mbps can be achieved. Elsewhere, where 3G is relied upon, the transfer rates are much slower. Whilst I never experienced anything like 100 Mbps, there were only a few times when the speed would drag, or pages failed to load.
How does it work?
This is perhaps the best part of all. It’s super easy to set up and use, and if you are technologically challenged, fear not.
The initial set up is simply a matter of turning the hip pocket wifi on and then looking for the network on your device. The instructions that are included in the pack note the network name and password. They are also written on the back of the device and also on the front screen, meaning you will never be in a position to lose them. A great idea! After entering the password, your device will connect to the roaming wifi. This same process is followed for additional devices you wish to add.
How do I get it?
This is the best part. Hip Pocket Wifi is based in Lyon, France, but ship to anywhere in France, Europe and the USA/Canada. This means you can provide them with the address of your hotel, hostel, Airbnb, a friend’s house, or even your own address (to arrive before you leave the country). We had ours sent to our London base where it was ready and waiting upon our arrival.
Of course, if this doesn’t suit, then you can make arrangements to pick up the device from a range of locations in France and Europe including post offices.
How much does it cost?
Hip Pocket Wifi offers a range of data and country options. Prices start from €4.90 per day for 1GB data in France (14-30 days) through to €8.90 per day for IGB in Europe and unlimited in France (14+ days).
With the ability to connect up to ten devices, this is a great opportunity to use with groups of friends and family and perhaps even share the cost.
Hasn’t Europe removed global roaming charges?
From June 2017, global roaming charges have been removed but only within EU countries. For all other travellers coming to Europe, the ridiculously exorbitant global roaming charges will still apply. Using a portable hotspot will eliminate any chances of bill shock upon your return home.
Where can I check my data usage?
There is an option to check your ongoing data usage on the device itself. Alternatively, you can download the Huawei HiLink (Mobile Wifi) app. This will ensure you are always aware of how much data you are using. There’s no need to worry about going over as you will not be charged any additional fees. The rate of data transfer will just be slowed down.
How do I return it?
If the pickup process wasn’t easy enough, the return process is even easier. A return, postage paid envelope is included in the original package. At the end of the hire period, all components (device, emergency sims, cables) are simply placed back into the protective pouch and inside the envelope. Simply put the envelope in a post box and it will find its way back to Hip Pocket Wifi.
I was mindful to keep telling myself that I had to remember to return it. However, if you forget, and let’s face it, it’s possible when you are just focused on heading home, all is not lost. The device can still be returned but postage will be at the individual’s cost outside of France and Europe.
What did we use it for?
My plan allowed for me to use data up to 1GB a day. When we are working at home, 1GB probably isn’t enough. But, when we’re on the road, 1GB is more than enough. This allows for almost continuous web browsing during the day plus a hefty dose of video streaming, mapping and emails. Of course, if you plan on doing more than this, there are unlimited data plans available.
Mapping apps have become another key part of our travel, especially when we are on road trips. Whilst I did use the wonderful offline maps app Maps.me, with internet access, we found ourselves using Apple Maps and Google Maps a whole lot more.
I am a tech junkie and love reading and searching for stuff online so needless to say, my internet searches were continuous as well. Whether it was for looking for something for our trip, or just using it as a trivia option whilst having a beer in a pub, having the access to the internet was awesome.
Of course, I was also working, so being able to regularly post Insta stories, Instagram images, Facebook and Twitter posts were hugely important to me. It also allowed me to continue to use iMessage, for communicating with various people.
We emailed, downloaded apps, looked up directions, made bookings online, Facetimed and posted our trip on social media all via one simple device.
Portable wifi rental with Hip Pocket Wifi has plenty of benefits.
- I only ever had to put the password in for each device I tethered to the portable hotspot once. One of the most annoying things I find about some hotel wifi, for example, is having to continually put in usernames and passwords. Our “Hippo” remembered us every time, saving the ongoing hassle of re-entering information.
- A few days before the end of the hire period, we received an email reminding us that our time with the “Hippo” was coming to an end and reiterating once more the process for returning it
- The ability to connect multiple devices is really useful. We generally had two iPhones, an iPad and a MacBook connected to the mobile hotspot. Also, whilst I carried the actual hotspot device, other devices we had connected would automatically pick up the signal. We didn’t need to be sitting next to each other to get connectivity.
- Provided the device can find service in your area, constant wifi is possible throughout your trip.
- Because it operates off a standard USB cable, I could recharge the battery via the car charger on our road trips.
- It really is a small, lightweight device making carrying it with you super easy.
- Some technology fails despite its apparent benefits because it is difficult to set up or use. Not so with this device. It’s easy setup and lack of usability issues made this a dream device to work with.
- Having the device sent to me at an overseas location and being able to return it before I came home was easy and saved me having to carry yet another piece of equipment with me during my flights.
- I didn’t realise straight away but Hip Pocket Wifi is also able to deliver to France Motorhome Hire, the motorhome company we use in France. These would be absolutely perfect for road tripping around France as wifi access in campgrounds was something I found really frustrating during our last road trip.
Where could it improve?
To be honest, there’s not much to say here.
- The battery life is meant to offer six hours of constant use, with a standby function to save battery life. I never used anything like six hours a day but would find that I would need to recharge the battery daily as even on standby, the battery would not last two days. There is an option of adding an external battery function but personally, I think the battery life should be able to last a lot longer than this when not being used heavily.
Hip Pocket Wifi offers peace of mind from the beginning of your portable wifi rental period right through until the end of your hire. With easy delivery options, great rates and plans, great speed and coverage, it’s definitely something we would use again on our travels to Europe.
Hip Pocket Wifi provided us with a device to trial during our recent travels in Iceland, UK, Malta and Bologna. All opinions and recommendations are based on our continued use of this product over a 42 day period, allowing us to effectively test serviceability and network coverage over different countries.
We tested this product in large cities like London and Reykjavik, on the island of Malta, and in small regional areas of Italy and remote locations of Iceland. As mentioned, some locations suffered from intermittent service but on the whole, this device worked exceptionally well.
Following our successful trial of Hip Pocket Wifi earlier this year, we once again made it our portable wifi of choice for a trip to France in September/October 2017. The circumstances were slightly different this time, given we wouldn’t be travelling to multiple countries. With the strong assertions made by Hip Pocket Wifi that it had exceptional coverage in France, we were keen to test this out. We were also wanting to test it further under some different travelling conditions, specifically on a barge on the Canal du Midi and in a motorhome. So did it stand up to all the hype?
France is definitely best
The wifi in France has definitely been the best coverage of anywhere we have taken the “Hippo”. It has become our dear friend, always with us making our lives easier when on the road. The 4G coverage was strong and usually only went to 3G in small, rural areas, which I can’t complain about. We travelled approximately 2,500km throughout the south-west of France and always had service. There were no outages at all. This is quite remarkable considering some of the locations we were in. From the canal to very small towns, to farms in the middle of nowhere, the service continued.
On the Savannah barge on the Canal du Midi, service was so great that I allowed other guests travelling with us to access my device as well. The American visitors could not believe how easy it was to use and how great the connection was, given they had tried to connect unsuccessfully into the barge’s wifi many times. Whether we were on the barge or heading off to a city for a day trip, the portable wifi came with us every time.
We also travelled on several trains, both the SNCF regional trains and the high-speed TGV trains. Surprisingly, none of them had wifi on board. With a two hour trip and a 6.5hour trip, the “Hippo” once again came to the rescue.
Onboard the motorhome was when the “Hippo” really excelled. Often in extremely remote locations, where public wifi was not an option, and at times in completely uninhabited areas, the wifi worked, every time. At night, we were both streaming YouTube videos and movies simultaneously, and of course, during the day we were using it constantly for maps, Google and social media.
Because I had used the device before, I was also more aware this time of the need to keep it charged. On the barge we had the usual electrical adaptor and in the motorhome we kept it charged via the 12v charger. Once again, at the end of the trip, we simply placed all the equipment back in the return, postage-paid envelope and placed it in a letterbox at the train station.
I continue to tell everyone that I meet who is travelling to France, or Europe, that this is a wonderful piece of equipment to have. I know it’s certainly my wifi of choice for future travel.
*Updated November 2017.
Hip Pocket Wifi provided us with a mobile device for purposes of trial and review. All editorial content is completely independent and all thoughts and opinions are our own. We just happen to love our Hippo!
Kerri now travels regularly with her husband, Stirling, where eating great food, drinking quality beer and wine, and cooking international foods are integral to their adventures.