(Another rare post from Ted’s pen…..)
So … for the most part, technology on our 3 month sojourn in Europe and England has worked pretty well, but since what I’d aimed for was perfection, I’m feeling a little disappointed.
I am carrying my 13″ Dell notebook, an iPad, iPhone, AppleTV and camera. They keep us amused, entertained, and connected. Rose has her iPad mini and iPhone. (Interjection from Rose: you can take my phone, but don’t you dare touch my iPad!) In order to keep all this technology charged, I have various plug adapters, wires, and chargers. Oh, and an HDMI cable to connect the AppleTV.
In order to be cost effective, I put our cell phone plans with #Fido Canada on “temporary suspension”, which reduces the monthly cost to $14.00CAD for both lines. This means that our phones cannot receive or send calls/SMS and have no data plan. (If we wanted to use our phones in Europe, Fido would have charged us $15.00 per day to a maximum of $150.00 per month each in addition to the regular cost of about $100.00 per month).
Instead, I purchased data only plans which work via eSims that are supported by our iPhones. The company that I purchased the data plans from is called #KnowRoaming. A 90 day, 20GB Europe plan costs $85 US each and “works” in all European countries and the UK. With the money saved on the temporary suspension with Fido, effectively it is not costing us anything over our regular monthly cellular budget. (If you subscribe to notifications from KnowRoaming, they occasionally have 2 for 1 deals!) In order to have a working phone, I am subscribed to a VOIP service: Skype, and have phone number that suggests we are from Niagara Falls New York. (You can’t get a Skype phone number in Canada).
I put the word “works” in quotes above on purpose.
In Germany, there was a really minor annoyance in that our phones occasionally connected to a carrier where the only signal they would pick up was an ‘E’. I got around this problem by turning off “Auto Carrier Connection” in Settings and choosing a network I knew was working.
In Austria, things worked just fine.
Italy, though, was a different story. From one minute to the next, I didn’t know whether I would have a connection or not. When there was a connection, it was only to a 3G network. It was very frustrating. I reached out to KnowRoaming, and – after much back and forth and wasting my time – they admitted that they were having problems with the carrier they use in Italy: #WindTre. As I said, very frustrating.
England has been a whole new story in frustration and anxiety. The connection via KnowRoaming has been great. However, we arrived in London late in the evening and wanted to take an Uber from Stansted Airport to our flat in Greenwich. We were tired and hungry and wanted to get our travel day over. For the first time, we were ready to try #Uber. According to the App it was going to cost about £100 for the trip.
I thought that, being an internet-based company, Uber would work just fine. I had a phone number; I had plenty of data. But, no! Uber did not ‘like’ my phone number. I really didn’t understand why Uber was unhappy with my number. Using Google search, I could see some references to Uber supporting VOIP from around 2018, but after a bit of back and forth with their support… nope, it ain’t going to work.
Finally, in my technology rant, a little about Google maps. If you don’t have a consistent data connection (see Italy above), navigation instructions get a little ‘wonky’. Maps doesn’t seem quite as accurate at placing you at a location without a cellular data connection. Rose finds this VERY frustrating. We’ve learned one very important thing from this though: one should always download an offline version of Google maps when one is in a foreign city. You may not be able to get directions, but it does place you on a map which you can use for your own navigation.
So, mostly our technology is working pretty well.
But, I have learned I don’t know everything, and traveling without a phone number that every company likes can be … problematic.