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Car Rental: WiFi hot spot?

I've seen recommendations on these forums for getting a WiFi hot spot with rental car, and this would be ideal for us as we'll be driving for 9 days mostly in relatively remote areas of Scotland. However, none of the car rental companies I've tried offer this as an obvious choice on their websites. They have other optional equipment such as child car seats and GPS units, but I have not seen a WiFi hot spot.

How do you request it? Do you have to call them and talk to a person? Are there only certain companies that have it?

Posted by
27720 posts

If you are in rural Scotland it is likely that you will little, none, or sporadic cellular coverage. These gizmos don't manufacture wifi out of thin air, they need a strong 3G or 4G cellular signal.

No cellular - no wifi.

I'd advise you to check the coverage maps of the cellular provider who will be underpinning the wifi before spending the money.

Posted by
2125 posts

which is why you need a road atlas - less than a fiver from from petrol stations, supermarkets or bookshops.

Amazingly they require no power supply!

Posted by
8293 posts

Yup, for generations people travelled with road maps and atlases. However did we manage?

Posted by
2940 posts

Thank you for explaining that "These gizmos don't manufacture wifi out of thin air, they need a strong 3G or 4G cellular signal." I did not know that! That being the case, I'm not sure why people on these forums said they find a hotspot useful.

I wasn't thinking of using the WiFi for navigation. Every rental car company I've looked at offers SatNav (GPS, to Americans) as an available option. I have no problem investing in a printed road atlas.

My idea--obviously erroneous--was that the WiFi would enable me to do things like calling ahead to confirm the night's hotel reservation, or to book entry to an attraction. According to your explanation, that would not be something I could do if I'm in an area without cellular service.

(BTW, in the fairly heavily populated region where I live in the US, we have no-cellular areas not because of remoteness but simply because the residents of certain towns are unwilling to allow a cell tower in their jurisdiction.)

Posted by
2353 posts

Navigation signals are different from wifi/mobile data signals. Sat nav signals cover a much wider area - if you want directional assistance get the GPS unit but carry a map for back up

Posted by
2940 posts

Yes, understood. SatNav, as the name indicates, comes from satellites, doesn't it?

We do plan to carry a map in any case.

Posted by
18 posts

My sister and I used a wifi hotspot in Ireland and loved it. It was offered by our car rental company (Dan Dooley) when we picked up the car. It may have been offered online, but I don't recall seeing the option. If we can get it when we go to Scotland this year, we definitely will. There were areas where we didn't get service, but it wasn't a big problem. We had fun keeping all our friends and family updated with our trip on social media, and the hotspot allowed us to use up to 5 devices at a time (we had 2 phones and an ipad). The navigation continued to work, even when there wasn't enough signal for posting. We even took video of some of the scenic drives and uploaded it directly from the car.

Posted by
2940 posts

@ aggielawyer, OK now I see why people would recommend the hot spot. Sounds like you really enjoyed it.

We wouldn't be doing any of that, so just as well that we not get it. I'm so glad for the information shared on these forums!

Posted by
5669 posts

I'm looking for a response from Unclegus or MC on the cell phone coverage in the highlands. I have friends who live up there and while certainly are dead spots, they use their cell phones quite regularly. :)

Pam

Posted by
1345 posts

Without linking to a very boring Scottish Government report, most of the post codes in the Highland, Argyll and Bute and Western Isles Council areas are in the two lowest categories for coverage.

Coverage is there, but can be patchy and can drop in and out relatively quickly. That said, the residents have mobiles and deal ok with the coverage.

Posted by
2940 posts

By Googling cell phone coverage Scotland I was able to find maps of 5G, 4G, 3G, and 2.5G coverage. Basically it looks like if you're driving on a major highway you're likely to have some coverage. But, it stands to reason you have to consider not only your location but also the location of the party you're trying to reach.

Last year we went to Inveraray and had trouble calling ahead to confirm our booking. From these coverage maps, I can see why: if you zoom in you find that even in "downtown" Inveraray (very small) there are 3 or 4 different coverage spots surrounded by no-coverage voids.