Staying in touch
Keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues while traveling abroad has become so much easier thanks to the internet and social networks.
Travelers logging onto social networks while abroad should ensure that they properly log out before leaving an internet café or similar because in some areas of Africa, East Europe and India it’s not unknown for a watcher to access a tourist’s Facebook (or similar) account after they leave and send a desperate message to family members about an accident/hospitalisation and needing money urgently. Money transferred of course disappears into a mystery account and no one’s the wiser, for the time being.
Best way to communicate while travelling (updated December 2015)
1. Using your own mobile/cell phone
– Check out your provider’s deals for using an extended service outside your registered country and check if your phone works over the network at your destination, as well as the cost.
Turn voicemail off as some companies charge for incoming calls. Also it’s best to switch off the cloud service, mobile data and roaming data as those apps can really rack up the charges. Use free local Wifi instead.
– If your trip is long or you use the phone a lot, the best way to save money is:
If your phone is unlocked, get a local sim card and buy prepaid credit, possibly with data too so that you can use 3G or 4G. The downside of a new sim card means the number will be also new.
If your phone is locked, either get it unlocked or buy a cheapo unlocked local phone.
2. Using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, Google+Hangouts, WhatsApp, Viber, LINE and Tango with your devices.
This involves contact via the internet, though nowadays it’s not only speech or video calls but all sorts of communication ranging from instant messages and chats to sharing images and videos from anywhere worldwide free of charge, so long as each party has access to WiFi.
Although WhatsApp is only free for the first year – with cost of a dollar per year after that – WhatsApp is a brilliant service and currently the most popular app on the planet, with 900 million users worldwide.
LINE has 50 million registered users in Japan and nearly 600 million worldwide.
For a faster and more secure service, the newish Telagram is recommended. It’s a cloud-based messenger with seamless sync, ad free and costs nothing.
3. Sign up with a global WiFi internet service such as Boingo and Fon WiFi.
You pay a small fee per month (from US$4. 98 for the first months then $9. 95; a higher price for laptops) for access to WiFi hotspots such as airports, stations and cafés worldwide.
Alternatively Skype users can use Skype credit to connect to WiFi.
– For those who need to be connected to WiFi or data all the time, you can rent a portable WiFi-enabled device or a pocket WiFi. This is a wireless modem from companies such as XCom Global and Tep wireless that gives have access to high-speed Internet at a flat rate (from €8. 95/$9. 95/£6. 50 a day).
4. Not a cheap options but if your purpose is limited to emergencies, buy or rent a prepaid phone, online or at the airport on your arrival.
5. Old fashioned but check out the new generation phone cards to call just about anywhere, though public pay-phones are disappearing so it’s hard to find one that works properly when you need to make a call! Also others can’t to reach you, unless that is precisely your point!