Episode 326 – Oh, Technology! It mostly works…

(Another rare post from Ted’s pen…..)

There are still lots of these in London, but we’ve yet to see one being used.
I’ll bet they work, though!

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.

8 comments

  1. When I travel I have a dedicated phone to ONESIM in the US which gives me a number in Estonia and I can purchase a local Canadian number called a PEN. I haven’t done this yet but you require a PEN to be able to use VOIP and get very good rates. I take their data plan when going to Europe for instance as they have 30 day plans that are very good. The rub with them is the high cost in the US and it is a cost per minute. The PEN and VOIP may ease this problem. I have had very good results with them. When we travelled to NZ I just bought a plan at the airport and they installed it and it worked well and was really cheap. So check out ONESIM as it may work for you and calls in Europe are very cheap. This is a pay as you go service and you have 10 months to top up if you haven’t used up a min of $25. Cheers and enjoying your Blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a great blog, Ted. Are you guys still in Greece? Seriously, that’s Greek to me! Seriously, I would not manage – this “Smart TV” in our Edmonton condo is even doing me in.

    Understanding your way through all this technology sure helps to ensure that you get the most out of your travels. Well done.
    Barbie

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for all that detail Ted. I have a question about your AppleTV. When connecting abroad, do you still get access to your home (Canada) versions of Netflix and Hulu (for example)? How to you connect your appleTV to a network? Thanks and my wife and I love your blog and have been following since the world cruise. We are US based, a Canadian expat and a NYC/NJ native

    Like

    • CBC Gem app is not happy that I am outside Canada. Even their own content is geo-blocked. Primarily, we are watching AppleTV and Netflix. As far as I know, we are generally watching Apple and NetFlix’s owned content and it is not blocked. So far, if anything is missing, I haven’t noticed and it really doesn’t bother me; there is so much content anyway. What I have noticed is that one of the categories that is showing up in Netflix is Bafta Award winners. I don’t know if that is because we are England, or because we have been watching shows like Peaky Blinders.

      We also listen to a lot of Spotify through the TV speakers for background music. All I have is the free account. If I am missing anything, I haven’t noticed. I think there may be a maximum number of days that you can connect outside your home country with a free account. I got around this by setting up another account under my alternate email address.

      If I wanted to watch something on CBC, I suppose I could install a VPN on my iPad and then cast it to the TV, but so far I haven’t felt the need.

      As far as connecting the AppleTV to the network, it works just like at home. You select the wifi network in settings and enter the password. If the TV and the owner’s router are in the same place, I can hook up via ethernet. Yes, I have an ethernet cable in my technology bag, too. The potential difficulty in connecting is if the TV is wall mounted and I can’t get at the HDMI port on the back. I am not taking the TV off the wall. So far, I haven’t had a problem. In Vienna, I got the host to take the TV off the wall for 5 minutes in order to find and connect to HDMI. Here in England, there was enough space between the wall and the TV to get my phone in to see where the connection was…

      Like

    • GGTIREVITE68,

      My wife and I (from he US) are also traveling the world right now with our Apple TV. Unfortunately, Apple TV does not allow a VPN to be installed and white listing the IP address of the router at our AirBNB/VRBO hasn’t been working to get around the geoblockini Hulu has in place. Our work around has been to use an iPad with a VPN installed so Hulu thinks the iPad is in the US. We can then stream shows from Hulu to the Apple TV+ (I tried this from my MacBook but only an iPad or iPhone seem to work with this method). Hope this helps.

      Rose & Ted,

      Loving the blogs posts. I keep adding locations to our visit list based on your travels.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. TED: Wow! Not being a technofile, something I haven’t thought much about about connectivity.  My requirements are pretty much limited to having wi-fi available.  Once I have that, most of my needs are satisfied.  Of course, no navigation our calling Uber or anyone else when out of wi-fi range.  I am really enjoying your travels and reading about things like technology challenges from country to country. Thanks! Al

    Liked by 1 person

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