Thu, May 5th, 2011 - By

Tips for Making Calls Abroad


Whether it’s to check in with family back home or to stay in touch with issues you might have to deal with while away, in today’s super-interconnected world it seems unconscionable to go away on holiday without having an easy way to get a hold of people back home.  It also seems unconscionable the amount of fees we face when our phones enter the dreaded “roaming” status – internationally the rates vary, but even with legislation changes in the EU in the past few years, roaming can be an easy way to break a tight travel budget.

I don’t like to pay roaming fees, and nor should you.  Here are some tips and suggestions to keep yourself sane and roaming-free.

Get Online

Let’s just be clear: online it is.  The Internet makes it so easy to make free calls home that you can’t overlook it, and given how ubiquitous Wifi and Internet cafes are, this is the perfect solution.

You don’t have to travel with a laptop in order to use the Internet; I can’t remember going anywhere that didn’t have some sort of Internet cafe, and I’ve been to quite a few pretty remote places.  You don’t even have to have a smartphone; you could buy an iPod touch, which is getting less expensive by the day, and this will give you access to apps and other tools to get in touch.

My favourite tools for connecting?  Skype.  (Google Voice is an option in some countries, depending on where you’re based also, but it is fairly limited outside the US.)

Skype is NOT free to make calls, though it is very inexpensive to do so.  However, if you know you’re wanting to call children/grandparents/work colleagues on a regular basis while on the road, you can ask them to get Skype too – Skype to Skype calling is 100% free of charge.

A downloadable program that runs on your phone or desktop, Skype has been around for a number of years, and I’ve found that in the last year or so Skype seems to have mastered operating on a bad connection or weak Wifi signal. Having said that, hiccups still happen, so it isn’t flawless.

Check Your Mobile Company Website BEFORE You Go

You really should read up about your phone plan before you go.  Some things to consider:

  • What are the roaming fees for the country you’re visiting? (Don’t forget transit airports that might be in a different locale – you never know about missed connections and flight hassles.)
  • Do I need to activate roaming on my phone plan? (Some plans come restricted and you won’t be able to activate it while in transit, or you’ll pay for the privilege – even if you don’t think you’ll use it, its an idea to activate it as there is usually no charge.  Set your phone to alert you before allowing roaming charges – most phones come with this feature.)
  • Is your phone setup to allow swapping out the SIM card for a foreign one? (Useful if you’re planning a longer trip or just will need a regular connection.)

Budget Properly

If you don’t plan on having a laptop or smartphone but know you might have a few phone calls to make, armed with the information about charges, spare some budget for your trip.  If you find your hotel has cheaper calls (unlikely), or you end up not needing the phone (hopefully), you’ll have some spare change for souvenirs or farewell drinks at the airport.

What are your tips for making calls abroad?

Photo Credit: Paul Downey, Ed Yourdon

Andy Hayes

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.

Posted : Thursday, May 5th, 2011 at 11:00
Category : Holiday Tips
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One Response to “Tips for Making Calls Abroad”

  1. […] For more tips, check out my previous advice on making phone calls abroad. […]

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