When travelling, it can be hard to stay in touch with family and friends – especially during the hectic holiday season. And when you’re travelling overseas, you begin to deal with even more complications, such as nasty roaming fees and Wifi fees. But now there are almost too many apps and tools you can use to stay in touch – mostly for free. Here are some of my personal favourites.
I’ve had Skype for quite some time, and now that they have iPad and iPhone apps (as well as the primary desktop app still), I use it almost every day. It’s not supposed to work on my phone while just on 3G, but it often does, though call quality is considerably better on Wifi. Though I burn through 10-20 quid of credit a month, I’m sure it saves me hundreds on phone bills. It’s essential, and what’s nice is the other party doesn’t have to have it to work – though it’s magic when they do, since that means your call is free.
This one is unfortunately only for those of you who have Apple products on both ends, but Facetime – Apple’s “video phone” application – is perhaps one of the best calling experiences. What I like about it is the “immersive” experience – once your call connects, the application fades into the background, leaving you to enjoy your conversation in a clean space. The downside is, of course, that you have to have a Mac or iOS device – on both ends.
If you’ve got an iPhone and looking to stay connected with a friend or family member who also has an iPhone, then Viber is a fantastic option because it offers you free phone calls and text messages. You send them via the app, which takes up some bandwidth itself, so this is best when you’ve got regular Wifi access. The app is free and none of those annoying ads to get in your way, and in my experience, messages are sent very quickly, just as fast as if you were using the regular phone networks.
I’ll be transparent: I’m not a Google+ fan. I don’t like the interface nor are many of my regular contacts there. However, the one Google Hangout – a sort of interactive virtual meeting room – that is actually pretty cool. On your screen you can see everyone on cam, and you can zoom in to someone while they are talking. The hangout does not work on an iPad/Kindle Fire, you’ve got to have a laptop, and in my experience it is very sensitive to poor connection speed, but otherwise it’s a great tool when the occasion suits.
For more tips, check out my previous advice on making phone calls abroad.
Photo by Travis Isaacs
Posted : Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 at 11:00
Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.