How do I work remotely from India and stay connected?

I am going to India for a few months and am planning on going to Kerala, Goa, Varanasi, Dharamshala, Rishikesh. What phone company has the best coverage and data speeds for those places, or India in general?
I also heard of people using a wifi stick to work remotely while traveling in areas where you may not be able to find a coffee shop, hotel, etc, with reliable wifi. What company sells the best one of those and where can you get it?
Thanks!

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In India, if you want connectivity in remote corner including high in the mountain then one should go with State Telecom Provider BSNL. However, the places you are going to visit are widely covered by all Telecom Operator. I would recommend Vodafone.

If you have a 4G handset then you should get a Vodafone Pre-Paid Sim card. For working remotely right now you have 1GB / data plan at 4G speed. 4G network is available in Kerala, Goa, Varanasi and for rest two you have to do with 3G network. If you decide to go for Vodafone then go for FR 445 Plan (INR 445 / 28 days, around $8/28 days).This will give you 1GB data per day for 4G as well as 3G network.

Many thanks! Would you recommend then using my phone as a hotspot for my computer? Or are there reliable options to get a wifi stick you plug into the computer or another type of wifi device so I can work on my computer online?

If you are using iPhone (4G) then you can definitely use as HOT Spot just carry a spare battery pack.
You can also go for this:
https://www.vodafone.in/discover/mobile-internet/4gmi-fi?section=consumer

I do not prefer dongle as that required computer to be power on. With HOTSPOT device you can keep it on in your hang bag and use the wifi, on go for phone.

I’ve been here since '11. The most reliable internet is going to be a fixed line DSL / fiber, but this is likely not an option for you if you’re traveling; no one really wants to do one month installations. This leaves mobile:

Vodafone 4G is great, works most places, but will drop you back to 3G speeds outside major cities / metro areas. It’s uber-reliable in a city like Calcutta or Delhi, but terrible if you’re on the road. A lot of random towns and villages do get some 3G coverage these days, though. It’s enough for email / text work or code, but not enough to stream Netflix easily. Depends on what you need.

In cities, that 4G connection will stream / download movies easily.

BSNL requires far too much paperwork and pain; I’d avoid them if at all possible. Related note: you really, really need to go to one of the large, branded Vodafone stores if you’re a foreigner, and not one of the random little shops. The little ones don’t really know how to use foreign IDs for verification, so your connection will be deactivated (could take a week, could take a month) randomly. The paperwork thing is a big enough pain that now that I have Indian IDs, I just get SIM cards registered to my ID for friends traveling here.

The dongles get better reception than your phone-as-a-hotspot, but then you’re paying for two SIMs and two plans. Not a big deal, since plans are very cheap here compared with the US. Most dongles also come with a plug adapter, so you can use them as a hotspot by just plugging them into the wall instead of directly in your laptop. The Vodafone 4G hotspot device (not the dongle) also has an internal battery, so you can run much longer if you’re working remotely without power for a while.

The only other company I’d look at if Vodafone doesn’t work out well for you is Airtel. The other players in the market have been extremely unreliable for me at best.

Jio is a new mobile network started last year. It’s 4G-only and has been priced so cheaply that all other network providers have been forced to slash their prices too. So while one year ago you would expect to pay 1000Rs for just a few GBs / month, now you can get 1GB / day for 300Rs / month. This finally makes India a realistic place to do remote work :slight_smile:

Last winter I got great Jio 4G coverage in Rishikesh and Goa (Mandrem).

My advice would be get a Jio SIM and only consider getting something else (additional SIM) as and when you need it or if you are about to spend time somewhere particularly remote (in which case get a BSNL SIM). Check that coverage map anyway for your locations.

Regarding iPhone vs. Android - both are capable of being used as a hotspot, although older iPhones have more problems regarding this (in my experience). Just make sure you have a 4G-enabled phone (which almost all sold these days are anyway). However, you also need to check your phone’s 4G bands are compatible with India’s.

Finally, if you get a SIM card legitimately (with your own ID) then it will probably be automatically cut off after 3 months (or when your visa expires, whichever is earlier). A SIM dealer might offer a quicker option to use a local’s ID for a small charge. That one won’t expire (other than if there is an extended period of non-use), and so is generally preferable.

Good luck!

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Thank you for your responses- this is super helpful!
Someone discouraged me from going to Goa because it was very dangerous. If anyone has any input on that, let me know.

I traveled India in 2015 for 6 months and moved around a lot. Coverage was pretty unreliable. I agree with the comments about the following:
1)going to a proper Vodafone/Airtel shop to be registered to ensure your SIM doesnt expire. I’d make the effort to do both as some providers are better in other areas.
2)Streaming/Video calls are going to be a challenge, but you’ll get by with basic things.
3) The Jio option sounds new and interesting, but my experience is new players in a markets usually start off their coverage in big cities, so its possible that outside of them it wont be great.

I lived in Varkala in Kerala for 6 weeks, the wifi at restaurants was hopeless and my own SIMS also didnt well when along the main strips, but a bit further back inland was significantly better, just do your speedtests when deciding on accommodation.

@simon_lawrence - Jio is a subsidiary of Reliance: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jio

In Mandrem (a small place) last winter, Jio had great 4G coverage whereas other networks were stuggling to give even 3G, let alone 4G.

I’ve been to India over 10 times in the past 10 years usually for several months at a time. Jio is a total game-changer.

Varkala was a nightmare for internet when I was there in late 2014. The best I found there was IDEA network. Here is the Jio coverage in Varkala. Compare that to the 4G vodafone coverage.

Goa has its safe and not-so-safe parts. I’ve stayed in Mandrem recently which is very quiet but perfectly safe (although I’ve never tried walking along the beach in the middle of the night). Rishikesh is wonderfully safe. I recommend that as a starting point for just about anyone going to India for the first time.

I’ve got a female friend who rents a lovely 2 bedroom place near Anjuna, and has been living there (alone) for a year now. She’s probably the best person to talk to about security stuff for women; let me know when you’re there and I’ll put you in touch with her. I’ve been to Goa a three times now (most recently last year), and I’d say it’s safe for women as long as you’re careful. Unlike almost all of the rest of India, Goa’s a place where you won’t get as many stares or groping attempts or sniggering comments on the street for being in shorts, though guys will still hit on you. Definitely be careful if you’re into the drugs / partying scene, like you’d be anywhere else in the world. Tourists (including ones from out of state) also get ripped off a lot or get scammed for things (car rentals where the car owner suddenly insists you’ve broken something random in his car and wants an exorbitant amount, for example). But this isn’t specific to Goa.

One of my female friends (Indian) and two of her female friends (Australian) recently spend a few months partying, relaxing, and traveling through Goa and Pushkar, and absolutely loved it. I’m leaning more toward the mountains these days, but Goa’s worth doing.

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I am going to india on Monday - my friend told me it would take 4 days to get a SIM card?? Can I get one at the airport if we’re landing after 10 pm at night?

Hi Dave, I would love to be connected with your friends there, message me if that’s still a possibility. thanks!

Depends on the airport; most places, the SIM card guy will be closed that late. But it doesn’t take four days; you can get a SIM on the spot by walking in to a Vodafone store. You have to go to the big, official, branded ones, not the little random stores with Vodafone banners selling prepaid recharge cards. Or your friend can just get you one ahead of time; that’s what I usually do when someone’s flying in.

Goa airport’s tiny and pretty far from the one major town or the touristy stuff, so if you’re flying in there you might have some challenges finding an official Vodafone store nearby.

Sure, I’ll ping you with Aishwarya’s contact information. Have a good trip!

D.

JIO is the new savior for remote internet.
I have a JIO SIM in Mobile and one JIO FI both as a backup. Even in cities when you get broadband at the stay. Use JIO as a backup. and the prices is very reasonable right now. Rs.399 for 3 months(1GB/day)

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Thank you. I got Vodaphone for now as there wasn’t Jio where I got my SIM. I will pick one up from Jio when I can.
I had another question for anyone working in India. Do you all carry voltage stabilizers when you travel? My friend is letting me use his here but when I leave I won’t have one. It seems necessary with all the outages, although the one I’m using is quite heavy and not good for travel. I have a surge protector but it only works for one surge, is that right? The first time the power went out here, even when using the stabilizer, it messed up my computer. It seems okay now, ish. But now I’m afraid to not use a voltage stabilizer anywhere in India. Thanks for any insights.

Has anyone tried making phone calls to Europe using computer programs in India? Is the connection good enough without interruptions and is there delay in the communication?

@natalie1, I haven’t used one. So far, it hasn’t been a problem, even for the desktop that’s my main work environment. I travel too much (and on a motorcycle some of the time) for a voltage stabilizer to be practical; they tend to be extremely heavy. Even on a flight, weight restrictions would probably rule it out for me for local travel inside India.

@foxy96, Sure, depending on where you are. I use Skype / Hangouts for calls every day, and don’t even stop my torrents while doing it, but that’s on a 100mbps fiber line. Skype also works well on my Vodafone 4G connection in major cities (Calcutta, Delhi, Bangalore), but not at all if I’m up in the mountains in Darjeeling where your connectivity is completely hit or miss. In other words, it’ll really depend on where you are when you need to make the call. If you can get most of your work done in major cities, you’ll be fine (same quality as a phone call, or better, and you can video when you need / want to without any problems), but you could be screwed if you’re out in the middle of nowhere and a client has an emergency. I just use regular international calling on my cell phone in situations like that; it doesn’t happen all that often.