During your travels, you will most likely want to chat to family or friends back home from time to time and share photos with them. And, if you are freelancing as you go, then communication with clients is crucial.
Back in the day, this was usually a costly endeavor. Not anymore, though! The internet revolution has made international communications a lot cheaper—free in many cases!
Using Your mobile phone
Using your mobile phone to make phone calls abroad can be very expensive. If you have a plan, it’s best not to use it to avoid high costs or you might have a very unpleasant phone bill waiting for you when you get back home! The best way to prevent this and still be able to communicate depends on whether you have a locked or unlocked phone.
If you have an unlocked phone
If you have an unlocked phone, I recommend buying a local sim card. A sim card normally costs from $5 to $10, and it will allow you to purchase prepaid credit. You can usually buy data along with your credit so that you can use 3G. Make sure to check which providers are most reliable, this can vary in some countries. If you have local friends, ask them what they use. Often calling someone who uses the same provider is much cheaper.
If your phone is locked, you have two options. Option one is to buy an older model unlocked phone to use with a local sim card. Option two is to use your plan from home. Make sure to check how much your phone company charges you for using your phone abroad.
Using your voicemail when abroad
Turn voicemail off. Some phone companies will charge you for incoming calls, including voicemails! There is nothing worse than getting a $300 phone bill without having made a single call just because a marketing company left you 30 voicemails while you were abroad!
Using data abroad is typically very expensive. It’s best to turn it off and use free WiFi. Nowadays WiFi is available worldwide in most areas in coffee shops, restaurants and hotels. Check online before you go for WiFi availability at your destination.
Using VoIP services
VoIP stand for “Voice over IP” and basically means calling over the internet. Several services are available, such as Skype and Viber. It’s free—all you need is an internet connection. And with free WiFi widely available in most countries you’re never very far away from an internet connection.
Skype has really cheap plans for calling regular phones. It’s often cheaper to call from a Skype number rather than using a local cell. This is especially useful when your phone runs out of credit.
If an internet connection is very important to you, you can consider opening a Boingo account. You pay a small amount per month for access to thousands of hotspots all around the world, especially at places like airports and train stations.
Travels apps for your smartphone
There is an extensive range of apps available that can make travel more convenient.
• Tripadvisor: Check reviews of hotels, things to do, restaurants and more.
• Whatsapp: Message your friends around the world for free
• Foursquare: The best app to find nightlife and dining options
• Kayak: Easily find the cheapest flights from your smartphone
• Booking.com: Check the best hotel rates
• Flashlight: Comes in very handy in remote areas with little street lighting
• Airbnb: The best app for finding short term private accommodation
• Skype: Chat to your friends back home for free
• Viber: Same as Skype
• Airports: All the information you need at the airport
• Docusign: This will save you a ton of time if you need to sign documents during your travels.
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