When the hotel wanted to charge S$26.50 ($21 US) per day for Internet, and it sucked, I knew I had to find a better solution. I had my iPad, my netbook and my smartphone to connect, and the hotel would only do one device at a time. Worse, WiFi was flaky in my room. Luckily, I had an unlocked smartphone that allowed tethering. It could turn into its own WiFi hotspot.
Two years ago I scored a killer SIM in London. T-Mobile offered 5 days of unlimited 3G for free in a GBP10 prepaid package. When the five days ran out, a mere GBP2.50 (under $4 US) gave another five days. Now we're talking! Of course, there is a catch: about two minutes on an international call wiped out all the minutes. There are ways to make international calling free over 3G, but that is a topic for another time.
Off I went, in search of a similar deal in Singapore. The concierge was a waste, so I headed down Orchard Street, the main tourist area, clean and well-lit at night.
It was like 7-11's and their clones worldwide. While waiting, I felt an irrational urge to buy a pack of cigarettes like everyone else was doing, and I don't smoke. Ok, maybe chewing gum. For a moment, I forget where I was.
They turned out to be worthless. They sold SIMs, but not the good stuff. Back to the electronics dudes, and they recommended the wireless carrier stores at a new, nearby shopping complex called Ion. They said to go to level B3.
A comment on Orchard Street: it is the shopping center of Singapore, and can get crowded, so they build down below ground for more space, deeper into shopping hell. All very clean and well-lit of course, but the feeding frenzy of shoppers in the heat of discovery can be overwhelming, and it seemed to get worse as I headed downwards. Maybe as a guy, I am more a hunter than a gatherer. Some pop psychologist claims golf is for hunters - you club a defenseless little ball, hunting for it deeper into the forest. Shopping, then, is for gatherers, and the girls were out in full force that day.
The SingTel store was singularly unhelpful. They directed me to the StarHub store, which was closed. Next door the third carrier, M1, communicated TXTing not 3G. I went back to the SingTel guys and asked for a better alternative. They directed me to another nearby shopping haven, the shoppes at the great Japanese department store, Takashimaya.
I wandered back up to the light. Later I found out one could easily stay underground and get to Takashimaya, but I needed air. A short walk up Orchard and into the great edifice of commerce. Down again, deeper and deeper until I came to a shop with a friendly name: Hello!
Almost immediately I knew I had arrived. The busy clerks pointed me to the back, where I saw one of those small half windows like you might see at a post office, with a bunch of phone geeks behind, happily setting up phones. They smiled at my quest and cheerfully offered a killer plan: a cheap S$15 ($12 US) prepaid SIM which included an option to convert S$7 ($5.50 US) to 1G of data for seven days. Now we're talking again!
If you do this when you visit, remember this: you must bring your passport. This deal is for visitors, not residents.
After I put the SIM in, the phone geeks took my Android smartphone and set up the mysterious APNs. Success! The 3G symbol showed proudly in the notification bar. I later found I could connect everything to it via WiFi in my hotel room, or all over the place for that matter, and it blew away the hotel Internet service. With my iPad connected, I completed an email thread in the cab on a way to a meeting. I took pictures from the top of the new hotel/casino and emailed then from my iPad on the spot. Got replies back during lunch. I will be taking videos of an IronMan competition at a park on Sunday, and sending them on pronto. Glorious connectivity!