Having strong and reliable internet is crucial if you live and work location independent. When traveling Europe in an RV, you’re probably wondering how you can get fast and solid WiFi.
Thank god it’s the 21st century! And woop woop for the new European roam like at home legislation!
As we travel around Europe for some time now (and run an online business), we know how to be connected. And I’m happy to share our insights with you!
First of all, we use multiple methods to stay online. Different situations ask for different approaches. Also, having several ways to be connected increases your chances of actually being and staying online.
In this blog post, I’ll cover the ins and outs of:
- campsites with free and paid WiFi
- WiFi signal boosters
- local SIM
- MiFi in Europe
- mobile plan in a European country
1. Campsite with free and paid WiFi
More and more campsites in Europe keep up with modern technology so there are lots of campgrounds where you have access to the worldwide web. Although the speed and quality of the WiFi spots are sometimes low, it is a perfect way to be connected with little costs.
How to find campsites with WiFi
We are a huge fan of ACSI campsites (see also our tips for budget RVing). With the ACSI CampingCard, the ACSI campings only cost you approximately €15 or €17 per night during off season. To find campsites with WiFi, use their website or app and filter to search for campsites with an 80-100% WiFi coverage and/or WiFi-zone.
Free WiFi on campgrounds
Free WiFi?! Seems too good to be true right?
Yes, it mostly is…
Lots of campsites offer free WiFi in the public buildings, such as the reception and restaurant. When it’s only available in certain areas, you can:
- go and work in those public places
- use a booster to amplify the signal to receive it on your pitch
We use both. With kids, it can be a relief to have some distance when you need to work and concentrate. That’s when I use the public area for working. For example, we stayed two months on campsite Mar Azul, and I worked several hours per day in their restaurant. I did tons of work. But I must say, I can concentrate very well in noisy surroundings, so it’s not for everybody.
Paid WiFi on campsites
The speed and quality of free WiFi can be bad. It goes up and down or is terrible slow. Paid WiFi is mostly better (but not always!). Especially during popular time periods (between 9 and 10 am and 8 and 9 pm), the connection is bad.
When you stay more than a week, you only pay around €1 or €2 per day. This equals €30 to €60 per month, which is not a bad deal if you need to be online frequently.
2. Boosting the WiFi on campsites
For increasing the signal, you need an antenna or so called boosters (or extenders). Invest in one, and it will make your life so so so much better.
We use a long range ALFA network adapter with a 16dbi Yagi antenna.
3. Local SIM card
Another option for getting a signal into your motorhome is by turning your smartphone into a hotspot. You can use a local SIM card. Check this Wiki page that lists local SIM cards by country and international SIM cards.
Do notice that legislation in Europe has changed (since June 2017) to our advantage. Prices mentioned on this Wiki page are not up to date, but you can use the list to browse to the websites of providers easily.
4. MiFi in Europe
Instead of tethering your smartphone, you can also use a MiFi device.
Why would you invest in another device if you can use tethering on your smartphone? I was wondering that as well, but there are several pros (you can read about it here).
For MiFi, you’ll need a SIM card. You can either buy a local SIM card (see the previous paragraph) or subscribe to a European mobile plan:
5. Mobile plan in a European country
If you travel long term through Europe, it might be an option to opt in for a mobile plan in a European country. Due to new changes, roaming is not excessively expensive anymore. Hooray!
This possibility was brought to my attention by Jessica from WorldTowning. For a mobile plan, you need to have an address and a bank account in that particular country. As you can guess, this is not an easy option, but it can give you a massive amount of data for a relatively small price.
For example, in France, you can get 80GB for only €45 per month. Say what?! This is an extreme example, though. In Spain, I see plans of 25GB for €28.
We are Dutch residents, and we pay €42 for 25GB. This is still a decent price compared to paying €10 for 1GB with pay-as-you-go SIM cards, but if you stay in Europe for a reasonable time, it might be worth it to check plans in different countries.
Soon, we need to deregister from the Netherlands (any form of homeschooling is not allowed there), so we’ll have to switch to another country’s plan.
Take note: plan fees constantly change, so it’s not my intention to give a full comparison here. If you consider this, be sure to read the conditions, as there might be different rules regarding using data in other EU countries.
Also, there is a so called fair use policy in place. You can read about it here.
How about satellite internet?
We haven’t tried this option (yet) because it is so damn expensive. For a satellite connection, the initial investment is at least a few k. If you’re serious about getting connected, though, it might be worth it. If you have experience using satellite internet in Europe, please contact me, I would like to know more about it!
Keep off line work available!
So there you have it, five options for getting online while RVing in Europe. As mentioned in the introduction, using a combination of these is best. We use a combination of a monthly plan and (free and paid) WiFi from campsites (with a booster).
I have one more tip though:
If you work location independent, you rely heavily on the quality of internet. But there will be moments when you cannot be online. This sucks.
To make use of this offline time, make sure you keep some offline work as a backup.
I always have offline work on my to-do list like writing draft posts. After some time I noticed that this even increased my productivity. No internet means no distraction from email, Facebook or non-important WhatsApp messages.
I hope you found my tips useful! Let me know if you have any questions or remarks. Happy RVing!