Keeping in contact with family and friends while traveling isn’t the challenge it used to be. In fact, cell phone plans with T-Mobile and Project Fi even include international data at no extra charge! However, there are times when a Facebook message just isn’t enough and a phone call is necessary.
Dialing international numbers is as simple as putting the country code in front of the number, but costs can add up quickly. When abroad, getting a local SIM card can make calling local tour guides and hotels affordable, but calling home can be expensive from your new service. Regardless, sim cards are typically most useful when staying in a single destination for an extended period of time, so anyone hopping around the world might want another option.
Luckily, technology offers several other options for making international phone calls.
Skype was the original video chat, but it’s broadened its reach beyond Skype-to-Skype calls and video chats. While video chats and messages remain free, Skype also offers the ability to call and text international landlines and mobile phones. That’s perfect for calling the airline to rebook during a flight delay or calling your hotel to get directions.
There are two main options for making international phone calls from Skype:
- Users can choose to load Skype credit to their account for a pay-as-you-go plan or
- Sign up for a monthly international plan.
I’ve done both, with calls costing 2-30 cents per minute depending on country if you buy credit or unlimited plans about $20/monthly (and a lifesaver when I was in Guatemala and wanted to call home). For those who intend to make international calls frequently, monthly plans are the way to go but for just the occasional call abroad, the pay-as-you-go plan offers reasonable prices that can make even $10 stretch for a while.
Google Voice is becoming one of the most popular, innovative ways to stay connected, with features ranging from creating one number to call all devices, voicemail transcription, and free SMS messaging on the Google Voice app.
I love it because you can call U.S. based numbers for free via Wi-Fi calling, regardless of where you’re calling from. When my sister lost her wallet in Mexico City, we called 1-800 numbers to cancel her credit cards easily and totally free using Google Voice.
Like Skype, they also offer a great international phone call plan if you need to call other countries. Many of their other rates are lower than that of other internet telephone providers, just pennies per minute.
Brilliantly, I’ve got a permanent phone number with Google Voice, so my family can even save that number in their own contacts so I show up on caller ID when calling. They can even call me and if I don’t have the app open, they can leave a voicemail or text message for me to check (free!) from anywhere in the world with internet access.
Like Skype, Google Voice offers the option to load the account with credit that is deducted after every call or text.
LetsBrik is a relatively new alternative to services like Skype and Google Voice. Their main advantage is that it doesn’t require a separate app or plug-in and instead works directly from a web browser (Skype & Google Voice have that option too, though the apps always seem to work better for me).
Why does that matter? Well, whenever you’re in an internet cafe or hotel business room, you don’t always have the option to download separate programs. No need to with this option!
LetsBrik has direct relationships with more than 1000 mobile carriers worldwide, allowing for better reception and cheaper calling rates worldwide. Every once in awhile, Google Voice gets a choppy connection, but LetsBrik claims it works around those for a crystal clear call.
Just be careful and compare rates with LetsBrik. While some options were competively priced (e.g. 2 cents per minute), there are a few price options like calling Switzerland cell phones at 50 cents per minute. Ouch!
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Share your recommendations!
How do you choose to stay connected while traveling?
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