Traveling abroad on your own can be daunting and confusing, but this problem can be alleviated if you had the Internet at your finger tips. Not sure of anything? Just Google it up. Can’t tell where you are now? Just launch Google Maps. What train should I take to head to my next destination? Go to Hyperdia. It’s really much easier traveling with always-on Internet access and not having to rely on free public or hotel Wi-Fi. Plus, you also get to stay connected with your family and friends back home.
Although data-only pre-paid SIM cards can be purchased easily in Japan, I decided to give Changi Recommends’ overseas Wi-Fi router rental service a shot. Though more costly than buying a pre-paid SIM card, a portable Wi-Fi router lets you share a data connection with multiple devices. So if you are travelling in a group, it could pay itself off.
In addition, renting a portable Wi-Fi router from Changi Recommends also means that you do not need to worry about getting a SIM card and data plan the moment you land in Japan. You simply pick up the router before your flight at the Changi Recommends counter at Changi Airport and you are good to go. Returning is easy too, simply return at any Changi Recommends counter at any of the terminals when you arrive back in Singapore.
For Japan, Changi Recommends’ is providing a Pocket WiFi 303ZT portable Wi-Fi router which allows for a maximum of 10 simultaneous users (great for families) and a maximum data transfer rate of 187.5Mbps (depending on network coverage). Performance was good and battery life was also impressive as I managed to get around 8 to 10 hours out of the tiny unit.
Apart from Japan, Changi Recommends also provides routers to other places like the United States, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and many more. Head over to Changi Recommends to rent a router for your trip.
Note: On my last trip to Japan in February 2017, I was given a Huawei Softbank Pocket WiFi 501HW router. I have no complaints about performance, but I noticed that battery life was considerably better than the Pocket WiFi 303ZT portable Wi-Fi router that I got on my previous trip (March 2016) and could easily last 10 hours or more. In addition, at the time of writing, Changi Recommends has a promotion for router rentals in Japan at only $3 a day. Considering that it offers unlimited data usage, it can be the more savvy option even if you are travelling in smaller groups.
Travelling light is important because you would be doing a lot of walking in Japan and you don’t want to be encumbered by heavy gadgets. As I mentioned earlier, the major train stations are massive and you should be prepared to cover lots of ground as you make your way from one platform to the next. And if you are into history, you would find that the castle grounds are vast and there are many stairs to climb within the compound if you wish to make your way to the top of the castle tower. For more casual travellers, the large cities like Tokyo and Osaka are a visual assault on the senses and there's so much to see, buy and also eat, so again, be prepared to walk.
While a couple of grams here and there don’t sound like much, it all adds up especially if you intend to bring along multiple devices like a notebook, tablet or camera. Thanks to advances in computing, notebooks have never been smaller and more compact. Here are some of my picks.
HP gave its Spectre x360 13 convertible notebook a major update late last year and those updates have made it one of the best 13-inch notebooks around. In fact, we think it's so good that we awarded it the Best Ultraportable Notebook award in the 2020 HWM+HardwareZone.com Tech Awards.
It's versatile, compact, and powerful. And unlike most ultra-thin notebooks, it has both USB-C and USB-A ports, which means you don't have to carry extra dongles. Best of all, it has an incredibly long battery, which is always handy when you are on the road.
The LG gram 14 is an engineering marvel. Despite sporting a Full-HD 14-inch IPS display and a clever assortment of ports, it weighs just 995g! It also has a super long battery life. In our latest battery tests, we found that it could last over 11 hours running productivity workloads and with the screen on full brightness, no less! If portability is your utmost concern, the gram 14 is probably your best bet.
For readers who insist on using macOS, the MacBook Air is Apple’s most compact notebook. It measures just 15.6mm thick at its thickest point and weighs 1.25kg. It's by no means the lightest notebook you can find, but it's still relatively portable. More importantly, it packs a brilliant Retina Display and it has enough computing firepower for tasks like web browsing, email, word processing and even light photo and video editing. It also has a wicked long battery life, which is always handy when you are travelling.
That said, if you don’t need a machine to catch up on work, my personal recommendation would be to travel with just a tablet. Apple’s range of iPad tablets are wonderfully suited for the job. They are powerful and have large enough displays so that you can be comfortably surfing the web on your hotel bed and researching on the next day’s activities without having to strain your eyes. Plus, thanks to the iPad’s Wi-Fi sharing capabilities and long battery life, the cellular versions of the iPads can also double up as portable Wi-Fi routers. Talk about killing two birds with one stone. If your budget allows, the newest iPad Pro tablets are the absolute best in the business but the iPad Air and iPad Mini are really good too.