Mobiles and WiFi
These days we want to stay connected while we are on holiday. Gone are the days of sending a picture postcard which would inevitably arrive after we returned. But enough of nostalgia – technology is here to stay and as we use it in our day to day lives, we want to use it on holiday. And with the rise in self-employment, staying connected is vital for some.
So, you will bring your mobile phone, tablet or even your laptop to Scotland. If flying, check the airlines rules on carrying these. They are getting fussier.
And your first option for using your mobile phone here is simply to ensure that international roaming is on – and check out the charges. Consult your own provider : I can’t advise as there are simply too many options but I know that these can be eye wateringly expensive from the US to Europe. They should be Ok within Europe (at least until Brexit). I don’t know the situation from other parts of the world.
If you want to avoid high international charges you have two main options.
1. Have your phone unlocked and put in a locally purchased Pay As You Go SIM card. These are widely available (supermarkets, any high street) and can be as little as £10 including a bundle of data, voice and text allowances. You’ll have a new (UK) number so if you need to be able to accept incoming calls on your regular phone, this isn’t for you – unless you have a dual SIM phone. Info on dual SIMs here https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/best-dual-sim-phones/
2. Buy a ‘burner’ mobile phone and a SIM card here. Again these are readily available in supermarkets and on high streets. You’ll see the kind of prices these start from in one large chain of supermarkets in this image.
In truth there are four mobile phone networks with smaller providers piggybacking on one or others of these. The big four are O2, Vodaphone, Three and EE but you should get the same coverage from the piggybackers so don’t worry too much.
Over most of Scotland they are all as a good or bad as each other. If you are going to a particular place and want to check coverage, look at e.g. https://checker.ofcom.org.uk/mobile-coverage
Or for real world data try https://opensignal.com
Often you will get a better signal up a hill than in the valley bottom so the truth about mobile phone signals is somewhere between the OfCom and OpenSignal data.
(As a kayaker, I love the on sea coverage data although I’ll stick with my marine VHF radio for safety communications)
But if travelling in the Highland or Islands, please don’t think you can rely on having a mobile phone signal for navigation or for communications. Locals know this and will be incredibly helpful at passing on messages and trying to help in case of accident or emergency. Just wave someone down or if there is a nearby house just go and ask for help.
Because owners of cafes, museums, hotels, bec and breakfasts, holiday houses, etc know that people want to stay connected, free WiFi is commonly provided especially where 3G and 4G coverage is poor. You’ll even find free WiFi on trains and buses.
But – and it’s a big but – often in the Highland and Islands the underlying internet broadband speeds are low, often with the best will in the world, maybe only a 6Mb ‘pipe’. So don’t expect fast upload or download speeds and perhaps delay uploading that video until you’ve got home. Be considerate and selective about your usage when speeds appear slow.
But oddly, there are patches that are excellent in the most surprising places. Enjoy hunting th m out.