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How To Use eSIMs When Traveling

This post was sponsored by BNESIM who provide eSIMs in over 200 countries. [What is this?]

There is a lot of confusion about eSIMs, what they are, how to use them, and whether or not they’re better than physical SIM cards. The short of it is eSIMs are a very convenient way to get mobile Internet when you’re traveling using a provider like BNESIM.

What Is An eSIM?

Let’s start with physical SIM cards – piece of plastic and gold insert into a smart phone to identify it to a particular mobile network. A valid SIM card gives you access to AT&T, or T-Mobile, or whichever network carrier it’s tied to. So even though there are mobile networks and signals all around you, the SIM in your phone is the key to a particular network. Most newer phones though are capable of using electronic SIMs, or eSIMs.


With a physical SIM card when you want to switch mobile networks you need to get another physical SIM card for that other network – then you have to swap it out with the one you were using before. eSIM essentially fill the same role as SIM cards, except it’s all digital and done right on your phone.

Using BNESIM To Stay Connected

The most straightforward way to use eSIMs when traveling (and avoid expensive international roaming fees) is to download an eSIM provider app. BNESIM is available on iOS as well as Android and essentially is an online store for eSIMs. Before your next trip you would search for the country you’re heading to, let’s say Ireland, and then purchase one of several plans. You can get a 7 or 30 day mobile data package as a one-time purchase or choose a lifetime plan so any unused data doesn’t expire, good if you know you’ll be visiting a particular country again soon.


There’s also the option of a subscription which gives you a discount of around 35% and is useful for countries where you’re going to be staying for longer periods of time.

eSIM And Go

Once you’ve selected a particular plan and purchased it, the BNESIM app makes installing the eSIM very simple. You just need to tap the install eSIM button and after a few minutes of digital magic, your eSIM is installed. This is basically the digital equivalent of swapping out a physical SIM card except you can load multiple eSIMs and don’t have to worry about losing any of them.

After the eSIM has been installed (you can schedule when it is activated, ideally the day you arrive in the country you’re visiting) simply turn it on from your phone settings, make sure data roaming is activated, and if you’re SIM/eSIM from home isn’t needed, disable that line while you’re abroad.

Installation of an eSIM for a foreign country or activation doesn’t have to be done in that country either. I find it’s easier to have things set up beforehand but so long as you have a wifi connection you can get all the eSIMs you like. And that’s pretty much it. For the most part when traveling eSIMs are a much easier, less expensive way to stay connected. You can get the amount of data you need, add more credit if you run out, and do all of this right on your phone without having to go to a physical shop. A service like BNESIM puts the store in your pocket and can keep you connected in the places you’re headed to next, with a lot less hassle, time, and money.

Best Travel Tech Gifts Under $30

organic beanie

Shopping for people who travel frequently can be difficult as they tend to be minimalist, picky, and seem to have everything they already need. As someone who fits into that category, these are some things that have changed how I travel and become useful gear that doesn’t take up a lot of space across various price points.

For The Carry-On Only Warrior: $12

Going through security at airports means having to take out your sprays, gels, and other containers, even if they’re under the weight limits. The Ogato 3 pack of clear, easy-close pouches is perfect for small toiletries.

Tropical Traveler: $14

Small and powerful, Sun Bum makes a vegan, roll-on SPF 50 sunscreen which happens to be under the limit for most carry-on gels.

Romantic Road Writer: $21

A good notebook is the best tool for writing ideas, sketching, and connecting with your thoughts when traveling. Aside from the creative benefits of writing on paper versus digital jotting, the rugged Moleskin notebooks are perfect places to drop in receipts, postcards, and other small physical media.

Fingerprint Fighter: $25

This is the stuff they use in Apple stores to clean products and an iKlear kit will keep your screens and keyboards looking like showroom new too.

Digital Detection: $29

Airtags are incredibly useful for tracking the location of your things. Don’t believe it? You will after experiencing the power of knowing your luggage was actually packed on your plane before every single flight. Thanks Airtag.


Useful and durable don’t have to mean expensive, like the foXnoMad organic beanie, on sale now. For travelers, small gifts are a compliment and hopefully some of the 5 items above will make you their favorite gift giver this year.

Rosetta Stone Is A Good Supplement But Not Primary Way To Learn A New Language

Rosetta Stone is kind of the lumbering dinosaur of online language learning. It’s been around since 1992 and in a lot of ways hasn’t changed much although the interface is a bit clunky, moving slow when comes to language learning, can be effective.

Back To Basics

Rosetta Stone has been used by the US Army, Air Force, State Department, and several universities to provide intensive 16 week language courses. Rosetta Stone covers a number of popular languages and you can sign up for a single language for a 11.99 monthly subscription which is billed once every 3 months, or get access to all of Rosetta Stone’s languages for one lifetime payment of $299.

rosetta stone mobile

Once you sign up, Rosetta will ask you your current level – whether you’re a novice, intermediate, or advanced user but one feature I wish were available here is a test to gauge your abilities. We all know what a complete beginner is but maybe you know a few words or phrases, or have had previous exposure, a comprehension test to place you exactly where you need to be would be great.

Language lessons are broken down into 6 week courses, with a planned 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week. Each daily class is broken down further into 5 and 10 minute reading, speaking, and comprehension lessons. And if you don’t have time to do a full 30 minutes, you can take things at a slower pace, maybe just getting in one 10 minute lesson when you’re busier.

Language Lesson Crafting

There is a lot of repetition, which slows the pace but personally I find helps me to remember what I’m learning even though I sometimes want to speed though some of the lessons I feel are a bit easier. For example, you’re read a word, you match the picture, then Rosetta Stone repeats back the correct response. Both the frequent repetition and the images are useful in creating associations in your brain.

rosetta stone

Whereas comparing this to Duolingo, those are shorter lessons without visual cues so you really need to maintain a high frequency of lessons to make sure you can remember the vocabulary. With Duolingo you’re exposed to a lot of words in a short time, whereas Rosetta is very focused on making sure you learn the fundamentals before moving on.

Getting Scored

There’s also no offline mode although there are some language companions, like simple stories and vocabulary you can download separately, a fully fledged offline mode would be a great feature for long flights or subway commutes. Now, when you finish a lesson, you’re given a score and can go back for shoot for 100% or continue on to the next day’s lesson. There’s no reminders or notifications, Rosetta Stone is like a college class that doesn’t grade on attendance, how much time you decide to dedicate is up to you.

Although Rosetta Stone is not pretty, and the apps aren’t great, and it won’t reminder you to sign on or give you a streak to beat, if you’re a visual learner, it’s a good tool for vocabulary learning and fundamental grammar. Rosetta Stone uses images to guide you through learning a language without using English – which is a good thing – but it requires a lot of self motivation.

Also, being more of a classroom A then B then C structure might not appeal to everyone. I think though if you’re just starting out with a language and want to learn the basics, then Rosetta Stone lays a very good foundation, one that you’ll retain for longer, and can build upon. You’re also forced to speak and evaluated on pronunciation, giving it an interactive edge. A 3 month subscription will give you just enough time to complete two entire lesson plans, which in theory will get you to some intermediate concepts. There’s no doom-scrolling but rather a set goal post you can aim for in your language lessons.

The Fluentalk T1 Mini Translator May Solve All Your Language Problems When Traveling

We all dream of a future shown Star Trek where a tiny device called a universal translator helps alien species all communicate with one another. You speak in your language, they hear in their and vice versa. The T1 Mini isn’t quite that but a solid step in the right direction.


The T1 Mini Translator is a small, rectangular device that comes in white measuring 91 × 55 × 13 mm and weighing 86 grams. Powering the internals are a gigabyte of ram with 8GB of storage and a QuadCore ARM 1.28 Ghz chip. Around the back there’s a 5 megapixel camera used for translating text on things like menus, plus a few buttons for power, volume, and a single translate button. The hardware layout is simple and straightforward and while the software experience isn’t quite as smooth, it works well once you get past the short learning curve.

The specs aren’t anything that will blow you away but you’re not using this screen to watch videos and boot up time is almost painfully slow. Once it does fire up though the T1 Mini has a singular focus, and that is to translate.

Talking Translations

Downloaded on to the device for offline use are 13 languages pairs, including English to Chinese, French, and Spanish. You can download a few more languages like Korean, Japanese, and German for additional offline use.

timekettle t1 mini translator

When the T1 mini is connected to WiFi however, that gives you access to 36 languages with 88 dialects, from Bulgarian to Turkish to Swedish. Embedded in the T1 mini is also a non-removable SIM card and when you buy one of these, you get a year’s worth of free mobile data to support translating, meaning across 84 countries, the T1 Mini will work with build-in cellular connection. When that connection period ends, you can top off for another year through Timekettle for about $45 dollars a year or simply use the device with WiFi only.

Push Of A Button

Setting your two languages, say, English and Spanish, the T1 Mini will automatically detect the language being spoken when you push the translate button. You speak in English and it will spit out Spanish. The other person speaks in Spanish and you get English. The T1 mini does a good job of translating too and from English, which is one of it’s “core” languages. I’m going to guess it’s good translating to and from Chinese as well, between French, Japanese, and German, one of these 13 language pairs it stores offline.

t1 mini translator

But when it comes to translating two non-core languages, like Swedish to Turkish, it falters fairly often. It seems to have trouble translating between Arabic and say, Korean, in my testing, so there is work to be done there.

When it comes to translating languages with the camera, it’s pretty good, even across less common fonts, the kind you’ll find on menus, and cafe signs. The translation is pretty quick, almost always less than a second, both with the visual and written text, so the experience is a smooth one, even if the translation isn’t always perfect.

Alternatives To The T1

You could use your phone and download languages offline using Google Translate or a similar app, but this translator is a lot less expensive than your phone which you might not want to take out everywhere. In a office setup where you’re traveling for business the T1 Mini could come in handy or if your in-laws are visiting from another country, for example. It’s a device you could leave in a room without having to commit your physical smartphone.

Overall, the T1 Mini is a useful tool if you’re traveling somewhere and don’t know the local lingo, so this device can help you bridge the language gap, in some languages better than others. It’s definitely a big jump forward in translating hardware and software which will only get better from here.

Cleer ARC II Sport Earbuds Review: Wireless That Hovers Close To Contactless

The ARC II are the second generation of wireless sports earbuds by Cleer – they’re overall an improvement on the previous version with one flaw they share in common.

Built For The Gym

Competing in the mid-to-premium range the Cleer ARC II come in a fabric charging case that measures approximately 11 x 8 x 2 centimeters and weighs 130 grams with the earbuds inside. The ARC II come in red and black versions, and you get a modest 27 hours of battery life from the case and each earbud has about 8 hours on a full charge.

Inside the case though, just behind the earbuds, Cleer have also added a UV light to kill bacteria and sterilize the earbuds. The light is focused on the back of the earbuds that have the most contact with the inside of your ear – so it’s not sterilizing them completely, but it’s a nice touch, especially for earbuds covered in your sweat.

cleer arc ii

The ARC II are also IPX5 rated, which means they’re waterproof against light splashes of water and sweat, so they should be fine if you go running in light rain.

Open Ear Design

When you put the ARC II on, they distribute all of their 14 grams well. The hook that rests over your ear takes on a lot of the weight but isn’t the most flexible and the back end of it is a bit heavy. Usually earbuds don’t have electronics in this part of the design, it’s just rubber and plastic. But since the ARC II are open – meaning they don’t touch your ear canal, some of that weight has to be distributed in the hook so they balance well on your ear.

Not having earbuds in your actual ears makes for a very comfortable listening experience and a unique one. First, you hear everything around you but the SnapDragon sound, which gives you some spatial audio, does a good job of not making the inside and outside feel jarring.

cleer arc ii

The sound quality is crisp, with impressive bass, and surprisingly good audio quality, considering these earbuds aren’t physically blocking out external sounds. Using the Cleer + app you can also adjust EQ and set the touch pad controls from their defaults, single tap to play and pause, double tap for the next track, or triple to go back. A press and hold on the right increases volume, while a press and hold on the left decreases it.

In the Cleer + app, you can set motion controls, so you can use your head to take and reject calls or scroll through music (a feature that works inconsistently).

The Pain Point

Overall though, the ARC II have made me a fan of the open back earbud design when it comes to sports earbuds. There are advantages of being able to hear the world around you, runners this is great outdoors, and there’s less fatigue on your ears by not having something sticking into them. The ARC II are more comfortable than most sport earbuds but can fatigue your ears quickly after an hour or two, limiting the amount of time you can use them in one go.

The Best VPNs For Travel (Updated: 2023)

Virtual private networks (VPNs) have become essential software, especially for travelers. It’s estimated that in 2022, the VPN market was worth 44 billion dollars, and with the money poured into advertising it can be tricky to decide on the best on for you.

Fortunately, I, someone with a background in cybersecurity and is traveling to every country in the world have used and tested a lot of VPNs. These are some of the best VPNs I can recommend to you based on how fast, secure, versatile, and privacy conscious they are. None of these solutions are perfect and as companies do, they are bound to change. But, you know what to look out for, now, going forward.

1. ExpressVPN


ExpressVPN is a good blend of privacy – they are very clear on the logs they do not keep and do not store connection logs. Independent audits are conducted and published to this effect and in 2017 when Turkish authorities seized ExpressVPN servers, there were no logs, and this includes metadata logs.

ExpressVPN also has the fastest connection speeds I’ve found during my use and works especially well in China.

2. NordVPN


Where ExpressVPN has speed, it is more expensive. NordVPN keeps minimal logs, only maintaining your encrypted login credentials and billing information. Both NordVPN’s desktop and mobile apps are very simple to set up and forget, and if you don’t get the added cloud storage or password manager, is about half the price of ExpressVPN.

NordVPN, in my opinion, is the most user friendly – good for people who are new to VPNs or aren’t going to muck around in the settings.

3. ProtonVPN


Finally, there’s ProtonVPN. It’s a Swiss-based VPN that has a large number of servers, blocks trackers, and has a secure core feature which passes your internet traffic from a VPN server through servers in privacy-friendly countries. ProtonVPN is also a no-logs VPN, confirmed by independent audits they’ve published but it’s not the most user friendly or the fastest and connections can be inconsistent. For tech-inclined people it’s great but ProtonVPN might not be the best for everyone.

Narrowing It Down

I think when given the choice between these three, if you are tech-inclined, you’re probably going to really like ExpressVPN or ProtonVPN. ProtonVPN has additional features for enhanced privacy, if that’s your primary concern. NordVPN is a good choice if you just want the VPN to run, work, then you forget about it.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More

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