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Took the iPad 2 for a long road trip overseas.......

Discussion in 'iPad Travel Forum' started by SERT, Apr 27, 2011.

  1. SERT
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    SERT iPF Novice

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    Before I took the plunge to get an iPad 2 I spent some time on this forum and gathered some invaluable information from the forum members, for which I am grateful.

    Now that I've taken the plunge and taken mine for a road trip overseas, I thought some of my experience might be useful info to some of you. So here goes :)............

    I just got back from a 3 week trip to parts of Southeast Asia and suffice to say that the iPad 2 was a godsend. I picked the iPad up literally 2 days before my departure so a crash course was at hand. My last Apple product (apart from the iPod) was some 10 years ago and I was holding out for the Xoom. I'm glad I did not. The model I chose was the 64G Wifi+3G. Stood in line and was lucky to get the last 2 AT&T models.

    I don't have an AT&T account so I was running it thro wifi before my departure. My first destination was Bangkok with a stopover at Narita, Tokyo. I first got it connected using wifi at the Star Alliance lounge. It worked seamlessly.

    THAILAND:
    This, especially Bangkok, is an iPad crazy country. I got stopped so many times from folks inquiring about the new iPad 2. Even got a couple of offers to buy it off my hands. I had this one girl who came by every 5 minutes to ask a question and each time she had a calculator with her, checking and double checking the exchange rate and price.

    Buying a regular SIM card is a breeze here but getting a micro SIM card was a challenge. You can find SIM card vendors in every corner including the local 7-11s but micro SIM cards can only be purchased from the main telcom offices/stores. For this, there is always one place that is guaranteed....Siam Paragon across the street from Siam Square, right smack in the middle of downtown on Sukhumvit. The BTS train stop is 'Siam' and you can get to it from anywhere.

    Siam Paragon is a hallmark of a luxury mall and everything can be found here from SIM cards to Ferraris (I kid you not). The floors are broken up into different categories with Mobile Technology and IT related stuff on the 4th Floor, including a 3rd party Mac store (apparently there are no Apple stores in Thailand). Now you have a choice of carriers to choose from but I went with DTAC since most of the folks I know there who run iPhones are using DTAC.

    Walked in and the first counter on the right is where all the prepaid SIM cards are. Asked for one for the iPad and voila, 30 seconds after it was inserted I was connected. It cost 89 THB for the card ($3) and 100 THB for every 50MB of use. For this you need a top-up or refill card. The girl behind the counter knew what she was doing so she refilled the new SIM immediately, so out the door it was 189 THB. You can easily refill or top this up at ANY 7-11. All I had to do was show them my receipt from DTAC that had the SIM card number and ask them to help refill. They ask you how much and within minutes you are good to go.

    The service worked everywhere that had a DTAC connection including some pretty isolated towns that I visited for work (factories). I commuted to work daily on an express boat on the Chao Phraya river and it worked!

    At the end of my trip I came back to Bangkok for a few more days and the same SIM card worked right out of the airport (in the taxi). There were some expected dropped coverage along the way into the city. The DTAC SIM card has a 90 day period; if you refill it again before the 90 days are over, you can keep using the same card. Someone else from my studio is headed back there next month and I'm sure she can also use this same SIM card.

    MALAYSIA:
    It was more challenging here than I had thought. Some 3 months back I had a friend from Singapore who was using his iPad in Malaysia seamlessly so I thought this was going to be a cinch. Not so. I had thought that he had bought a SIM card locally but found out that he brought his Singapore SIM card along that last trip.

    I went to so many main outlets for the major carriers including Maxis, Celcom and Digi, and none of them had prepaid micro SIM cards. Never quite understood it since there are so many iPhone users around. It wasn't until I got to the Maxis office at Bangsar Shopping Centre did I find out that micro SIM cards are only available to those with subscriptions. The only way to get a prepaid one for the iPad was for them to punch/cut one from a regular prepaid SIM. This was a little tricky to do given the fact that the girl behind the counter had never done one before. She had to go next door to borrow the punch from the folks at Digi who did not make this same recommendation to me.

    Anyway card was punched and it took some reinsertions before I was able to connect. I had to make sure that the SIM was laying flat on the SIM tray. Problem was that the cut SIM was just a hair larger.

    Cost was about RM70 ($24) total and she did ask me to bring it back should I have any problems with it. Connection though was pretty touch and go. In Bangkok, even though the cover on the iPad2 was closed, email was still streaming in. In Kuala Lumpur, half the time when the cover was closed, connection was severed. When I re-opened it I had to go back to Settings and make sure that A) it found Maxis and B) Maxis was selected from all the carriers that were shown. Granted, this is my first iPad so I could have missed something in the manual.

    Gotta run right now but will add a few more bits shortly. Thanks.

    Helm
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2011
  2. Tim SPRACKLEN
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    Tim SPRACKLEN iPad Legend

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    Wow - thanks for this comprehensive and very interesting and informative account of your travels. We get a lot of members enquiring about using their iPads in Asia, so I hope you don't mind if we refer them to your post. Much appreciated

    Tim
  3. Hdchiky
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    Hdchiky iPad Enthusiast

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    WOW Sert, very interesting post. I am sure I will never get to visit those great places, but it was neat to hear from your experience.

    Chiky
  4. SERT
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    SERT iPF Novice

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    You're very welcome Tim and trust me when I say that it is my pleasure to 'give' something back to the forum. And now, it gets even more interesting :)

    I've been traveling internationally for a long time, almost every 3 months due to work and each time I always have a map of the locality to that I can chart out my daily trips. I usually have a local map, my Garmin auto GPS and I never leave home without my handheld which is either a Delorme Earthmate or another Garmin (right now I'm testing out the Dakota).

    Anyway, I decided from day one in Bangkok that I was going to 'wing it' with the iPad's 'Map' without any of the above. That's right, no local maps too. Suffice to say that it got me covered from one end of the city to another.

    I hooked up with an old friend from a regional SWAT team and one of the things we did was map a route from Siam Paragon (did I mention that this mall has the largest basement food court I've ever seen? No? Well it does!) to the end of Yaowarat Road at the edge of Chinatown in the old part of the city. From 'Map' we gathered we had to hit the BTS (sky train) and then switched over to the MRT (underground) before walking the last 2 clicks (km) to where we wanted to be.

    Suffice to say we got there easily but it was just plain cool to whip out the iPad, realign where we where and keep tabbing. Oh trust me when I say that you will get stares not only from the locals but from other tourists too!

    In Kuala Lumpur the iPad came in very handy in 2 particular occasions. The first was a cab ride to work. We got into a cab during rush hour and the driver was just too damn hesitant about going where we needed to be. So out came the iPad and we charted a different route for the cabbie. Saved the day.

    Another time it was our client who was taking us to an older part of town that he was not familiar with. He got off on the wrong exit off the highway and was honest about not knowing how to get there. Out came senor 'Map' and we guided him from there.

    Last but not least is the iPad's role has my family connector. Being a family man it is hard for me to be away from my wife and kids for any period of time. My older one gets pretty upset that daddy is not around. This trip however has been different. Whenever I could I would set the iPad up for a Skype video conference with the family, whether I was at breakfast or having dinner or simply just letting it run in the apartment while I got stuff done. My kids were not there with me but I could hear them screaming at each other as if they were and they could always get me if I had a connection. That said, Thailand does not appear to have 3G, at least not everywhere. It was announced in January that they would but I don't think it's everywhere just yet. So suffice to say that a Skype video connection can be a challenge at times. Malaysia was also good primary for Skype calls.

    So where will we be taking and testing the iPad to next? Vietnam, next month and sometime in the near future I'm going to try to find a good waterproof bag for it when I attempt to circumnavigate Koh Mak in a kayak.

    In the meantime, my only source of frustration was a good iPad travel bag. I tried so many during the course of my trip from Arcteryx backpacks to Osprey messenger bags and I was not happy with any of it. Need something made specially for the iPad with room for magazines, iPhone/iPod/BB/Android, some stationary, charger/cables and travel docs. Something light with easy access but well padded to protect it from a drop, etc. I guess I would have to create one ground up and being a product developer, I'm gonna be turning to you guys for help, ideas, suggestions and feedback ;)

    Well that's about sums up my little adventure with my new iPad. I'm off in a short bit 'cos we need another for the family 'cos my wife and kids have been fighting over Angry Birds since I got back!
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2011
  5. SERT
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    SERT iPF Novice

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    Never say never, mon ami. If you want to, you will find a way ;)

    Helm
  6. shoppingtrolley
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    shoppingtrolley iPF Noob

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    Thanks for the update... I will be very interested in your trip to Vietnam as I will be taking mine there in June.
  7. jdembinski
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    jdembinski iPF Noob

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    Does the iPad 2 require 'jailbreaking' in order to use a pre-paid SIM?
  8. Herrflik
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    Herrflik iPF Novice

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    All iPads come unlocked so prepaid or monthly contract you could insert any microsim into it and as long as it had some credit on it you could use it. Im considering purchasing a Telcel prepaid in Mexico I dont suppose anyone has experience of how easy it is to top one of these up? for my phone i just go into an OXXO or someplace is it the same principle?
  9. idave23
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    idave23 iPad Enthusiast

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    Excellent write-ups. Very interesting to hear about your i-travels. Definitely keep 'em coming. :)
  10. Dee Ashley
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    Dee Ashley iPad Fan

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    This is so interesting. I hope to do some traveling to Asia next year...so this will go into my file. I appreciate all the good information and the travel adventure. And I want to hear about the perfect travel bag because I am always looking for the perfect travel bag for my camera, so now it will be for my ipad2.
  11. ipadtraveler
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    ipadtraveler iPF Noob

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    iPad while traveling

    Earlier this year I was in Egypt during the uprising. Before I left the USA I subscribed to a one month use on Vodafone. My iPad worked great when I was able to get on-line so I was able to let my family know I as okay. My question is, why did the iphone work if the ipad didn't? I'm getting ready to cruise from Istanbul thru the Med. Will a simcard allow me to use iPad on land if not on the ship?
  12. SERT
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    SERT iPF Novice

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    Man, my apologies for the delayed reply. Just got back from Vietnam.

    @jdembinski - no sir, it is good to go out of the box. Nothing needs to be done.

    @shoppingtrolley - I'm happy to report that it works in Vietnam too. A micro SIM card does not come easily in HCMC (Saigon) but these guys are just real savvy. They all have SIM card punches! We got ours from a mobile store just outside of Ben Thanh Market. She re-cut a standard SIM for us, used her earring to pop open the slot and voila! Worked right off the bat. I don't have the exact address but here's what I got....the store has a sign reading 'SIM CARDS' and it is located on the north side of Le Thanh Ton, between Nguyen Trung Truc and Thu Khoa Huan streets.

    @idave23 - Will try Dave. I chalk a lot of miles overseas yearly but mostly Asia. Have a couple of new locations coming up in the next 12 months.

    @Dee Ashley - I'm still working on the basic design. I have looked at a lot of bags in the last month alone. It's about finding a good balance because no matter what one comes out with, you can't satisfy everyone.

    @ipadtraveler - Wow, I wish I was there at Tahrir Square. That was a historic moment in time. I'm glad to hear that you got home safely. FYI, there is no reason that I know of that the iPad should not work where the iPhone does. I could be wrong so someone please chime in if I am.

    That said, I have a single experience with this.....landed back in DC and my BB was out of juice. I had one prepaid Thai SIM card in my travel phone and another in my iPad. I tried to connect and send my wife an email (roaming was on) and but it didn't go through. I could, however, make a call thro my travel phone, long distance as you can imagine.

    Now, on a separate note, I've had several occasions where a prepaid SIM card from one country (especially when I've just landed) works in another - Thai card working in Malaysia.

    Anyway, hope all this info is of some help to you folks. Travel safe.

    Helm
  13. augratin
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    augratin iPF Noob

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    Thanks for the feedback. I wonder why micro-sims are so hard to come by? I think both Viettell and Vinafone sell the iPad now, so it seems to me they should be able to furnish a visitor with a micro-sim card. When I went to Thailand last February, DTAC gave me a sim that worked very well. Even out in the countryside and many floors underground (in the subway) DTAC has a strong 3G signal.
  14. Evelynvdh
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    Evelynvdh iPF Noob

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    Hi there! We've just come back from Indonesia, and we eventually got a card for my iPad2 in a small warung just of Bandung, Lembang, where the main man did a fantastic CUTTING with scissors a test card from a regular sim card, with me practically fainting! it worked so then he again traced my Australian Microsim on the Telkomsel card I was going to buy. my faith was in his hands! very precisely he cut it out and when we put it in to the pad it worked........perfectly!!!!!!!!!
    it truly made life in Indonesia wonderful, as did all the highlights we had over there! we were able to use the GPS to locate exactly where our driver and just us two were in Java. And there were some pretty remote locations!!!!!!! It truly made us feel right there knowing exactly where we, and not relying on our driver.
    Aside from the heart palpitations I had when he was going to cut up a regular card, I have total admiration for the precise and exact way the warung owner made my card.
    We are now off to Vietnam in December so I'm hoping what I read is still current!!!!! A punch eh? The Indo guy used scissors and was spot on, so hopefully it will be the same!
  15. Evelynvdh
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    Evelynvdh iPF Noob

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    Add to last post....we land in Hanoi.....where do we get a card for the pad??????
  16. leelai
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    leelai Administrator Staff Member

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    Brilliant write up Sert. I will be saving this for when I need it. Thank you very much!!
  17. col.bris
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    col.bris Administrator Staff Member

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    Excellent thread many thanks from our team at IPF like to make it a sticky in the international section .


    Now a sticky here love to hear about more of your travels.
  18. augratin
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    Just start asking around to any rodeside shop keepers who sell SIM cards of any type. If they can't cut a micro-sim for you, chances are they will know who to call. This happened to me in Nha Trang. I went to a regular cell phone SIM card seller and he knew what he micro-sim was but he couldn't make one himself. So he made a call and within about 30 minutes some guy arrived on a motorbike and started filing down a regular SIM card for me and it worked like a charm.
  19. Evelynvdh
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    Evelynvdh iPF Noob

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    Thanks so much for your reply and advice! They're a truly resourceful group of people in Asia. And BOY do they LOVE seeing and iPad!!!!!!!! As written earlier in the thread they are amazed at what it can do. The pads are so expensive for the average person to buy.
    We will venture forth in Hanoi and see their resourcefulness! Thanks again! :))))
  20. Evelynvdh
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    Hi there! Our cut down Telkomsel SIM card, with scissors!, worked in Indonesia and also when we got back to Australia!!!!! It accessed Telstra, 3G, Optus, and Vodaphone in different Locations! Interesting!!!!!! ;)

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