Don’t Break the Bank: Tips for Calling Abroad

Tips for Calling AbroadHere’s the scenario: You’ve just checked in to your hotel at a luxurious European resort, and you’re looking forward to a fun and exciting vacation. You dump your bags on the bed and pull out your cell, eager to call up that great local restaurant your cab driver recommended…

Hold the phone! Calling from your personal mobile phone while abroad can be very expensive, and sometimes it won’t work at all. We’ve gathered a few tips to help you stay in touch while you’re overseas without breaking the bank — keep these in mind to save your wallet and your sanity.

  • Do the Research: First, you’ll need to find out if your personal cell phone works abroad. Some networks’ phones are more compatible with foreign networks than others. If it will work abroad, make sure to ask your provider about roaming charges and data fees, as these can be very high when overseas. Turn off any automatic downloads or services on your phone that may incur fees, and find out if features besides calling — like text or data — work normally, and ask about your options.
  • Buy A SIM Card: If you have an unlocked cell phone which can work with other carriers’ networks, you can buy a local SIM card. This removable chip determines a phone’s network and number. You buy minutes for the SIM card and temporarily replace the original card in your phone with the new one (your SIM card is probably hiding behind the phone’s battery.) Be careful not to lose the original — they are very small. Prepaid SIM cards offer a cheap and easy solution to calling in the country you’re staying in.
  • Get A Local Phone: If need be, you can buy a new phone to use abroad. Prepaid disposable phones or inexpensive local phones with prepaid SIM cards offer one type of solution. If you’re going to stay for an extended period, you may have to cave and buy a local phone and calling plan. If you’re staying for several months or more, it may be worthwhile. Remember, in some countries texting is cheaper than calling, so find out before you purchase a plan.
  • Skype and Internet Calling: Skype and other internet calling services allow you to make calls wherever you have an internet connection. The call quality can vary, but this method is still by far the cheapest. Both pay-as-you-go and monthly plans are available.
  • Calling Cards: The classic solution! This may seem like an old-fashioned way to make your calls, but it’s still cheap and convenient. Locally-purchased cards typically offer the best call quality and value.
  • Use a Device: Devices like Magic Jack offer another option. This type of device plugs into your computer’s USB port and allows you to make calls over the computer’s Internet connection. Once you’ve paid the monthly fee, your local calls are typically unlimited — for international calls, you’ll likely need to purchase prepaid international minutes.

Keeping these tips in mind should help keep your international calling cheap and painless. Spend less time worrying about your bill, and more time relaxing and enjoying your vacation!

Reprinted from (c) 2011

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