Stay Connected When Travelling
Your trip to an International Destination has been finalised. You are equipped with the necessary documents-Passport,Visa,Travel Insurance and required Foreign Exchange.You have followed the steps and procedures of checkin,immigration and arrival and as a result have arrived at your Destination.Great!!!! So Far So Good.But did you factor in this very important aspect?How are you going to keep in touch with your folks/friends back home..?This concern is tad less when you are within the Country on Domestic flights as the national call charges may not be that high and one can easily afford the bills.
Unfortunately this does not apply to International journeys.Just like costly Medical Expenses abroad which exists even today[for which reason we equip ourselves with a good Travel Insurance],cost of calls made by conventional methods also used to be an expensive affair and continue to be so.If we still continue to use the same old traditional methods we will end up with a huge phone bills after our trip.So what does one do on an International Trip…?does not make any calls whatsoever,either home or anywhere else…?
But folks back at home are waiting to know and relieve themselves with the news of your safety and well-being in the Foreign Land. Reciprocally you would also want to be able to reach them whenever and wherever you are.The only way to know this through a call or a message to the loved ones.Then while you are in the Destination Country you would need to make local calls to the airport,railway station,restaurants,tourist centers etc.Having said that I would still say that unless it is absolutely necessary to stay in touch with colleagues/home/friends all time 24X7 using your usual cell number,it is prudent to switch off your cell phone’s international calling functions as soon as you cross the border of your home Country and arrive into a Foreign land.Same goes for data usage.Turn off or disable all automatic updates for your data as International Roaming data charges can be a shock.Instead turn on the Wi-Fi connection to reduce this shock.
INTERNATIONAL CALLS WHEN TRAVELLING
Fortunately today this is much easier than the old days and also a lot much cheaper.With Information and Communication Technology evolving each and every day,you have a range of options to choose from.A Big Thank You to the Internet.Choices for making international calls are many while traveling internationally.Unlike those days where you had to search for a phone booth to call and cautiously keep a tab of the duration of the call to avoid the huge money bill,you can now choose to buy an International Calling Card,carry a mobile phone[renting or using your current phone], renting SIM cards or buying an International SIM Card. There are plenty of VoIP or [Voice Over Internet Protocol] applications which can be used over Smartphones,Tablets and Laptops.All you just need is to have access to the Internet[which is all around without dearth] and so today it is possible to stay connected with any part of the world from any part of the world ant that too at very low rates
PHONE CALLING CARDS-INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC
This was more or less the first option to be introduced to the world to reduce call costs before the advent of cell phones,internet and VoIP apps and are still available today but their usage is not the preferred one as compared to the convenience of a Smartphones and VoIP. Prepaid Phone Calling cards come in denominations of a certain amount of money. You can purchase the card of a certain denomination which you think will best suit your duration of stay and the minutes and seconds you plan to use during this duration.You start the call by dialing a toll free number associated with the card further reducing costs of placing International Calls.The calling card is secured with a PIN,which needs to be dialled before the start of the call. If you do not wish to get hassled with the internet options and are not that “net savvy”,then may be buying these calling cards for outgoing calls is the best option.And you may even come across lower rates by buying local calling cards at your Destination.Incoming calls will be purely at the mercy of the Hotel’s board lines and calls being connected to your room especially in an emergency.
While they may not be the cheapest but they are still preferred by International Travellers who are price conscious and on a budget [and which most of us are].They abolish the need to have any specific International talk plans because all the calls are charged identically.Most of the cards work on pay phones anywhere and you can call from anywhere,and the advantage is others cannot disturb you by calling you anytime but the disadvantage is you are not reachable when family and friends have to speak to you. Phone cards provide with access codes that can be dialled from a cell phone or land/pay phone to make your call.Be aware that some pay phones just charge you even to be used.Similarly some hotel phone lines also charge you to reach your access number.
As in all cases Calling Cards too have some Do’s and Dont’s to be learned and understood before you actually use them
√ Firstly check if your Destination Country accepts and allows Calling Cards.If yes then research and compare prices on all Calling Cards,specially the ones available for your Destination Country. Thoroughly compare prices for different plans.Check if the card is rechargeable[today many of them are] for you to add or top up more amount to the card if required.Check if any fee is being charged for the addition of money
√ Check for the correct price and hidden fees if any.Please go over the rules,terms and conditions carefully before opting for the card.Check for any expiration dates and ensure the validity of the card matches the duration of your trip.If you add money to an expired card,you stand to lose money.
√ Purchase the card from the Company or through its authorised dealers and follow the instructions to activate it correctly before your departure.Keep a check on your completed calls and their duration so that you are not charged by the company for incomplete calls or calls not done by you.Always keep it handy or in an easily accessible place to use it whenever required.
USE YOUR CURRENT CELL PHONE
This perhaps is the most easiest and the most convenient calling option.Reports state that eighty to eighty-five percent of the Cell Phones of the World use the Global System for Mobile Communications or (GSM) technology.A Sim Card in a Cell Phone indicates that it is a GSM Phone.So if your phone also uses GSM technology then it is sure to work on the network in the Destination country.So this way you are connected always anytime anywhere.However it is recommended to use the option very judiciously because Cell Companies charge a hefty Roaming Charge for all communications and data usage even though you may have purchased a International Roaming Package.
Please note that Phones without Sim Card use Code Division Multiple Access or CDMA technology which do not work on Foreign Networks.Ensure to check this part with your Cell Company
The good part about this option is you have your own familiar phone to take alongwith. This option is normally less expensive than renting a cell phone which you may not be familiar with.Most of our GSM phones are “locked”by the provider to avoid portability.The flipside is you need to have a GSM phone and have to get it “unlocked” from your mobile provider to use the rental SIM card.The contacts stored on the SIM Card of your phone may not be accessible with the rental SIM card,so you have an additional task to update your new numbers to all the contacts you need to be in touch with.
SIM CARD FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL
Subscriber Identity Module or[SIM] is that tiny little chip which goes in the GSM phone and connect to a network. GSM phones used in foreign networks will incur more charges for local calls with the Destination.A better idea is to purchase a local cell phone SIM card at each of the Destination Country.This gives you a local number and local benefits and helps reduce the huge expenses incurred for making local calls for important functions like calling the airport,railway stations,restaurants,local shops and,restaurant and tourist centers.This is also less expensive than using your current mobile provider’s international charges. These cards may be Country specific too.While some of the Countries offer you quick solutions and top up options,some of them either do not offer this service or charge highly for such cards and Services. For this to work your GSM phone has to be “unlocked”from the home Country’s carrier network[to which the network is restricted]for it to work on another network.It seems that the new phones manufactured are “unlocked”to facilitate this option.Ensure to check this if you opt to purchase a SIM card
If you do not wish to purchase SIM Cards at each of the Destinations,then the next best choice is to purchase an International SIM Card before your departure.Cell Phone Companies offer their own plans and packages differing from each other,but the card is eligible to be used for calls at local rates.However please do check before opting for this card as this does not work in all the Countries.
CARRYING A SPARE PHONE ALONG WITH YOU
Many a times most of us [if not all of us] do not dispose off our old Mobile Phones at home.We put them away just for keeps and use it many times in contingencies.These can come in handy even on your International trip.Instead of renting a Phone abroad,you can can carry this spare phone along with your own cell phone and purchase a local SIM card and use it for local calls at your Destination.So you can use your normal smartphone and the spare phone.You can also opt for cheap throwaway phones from online dealers selling used phones if you do not have one.It is a good investment as you can carry them for your next International trips too.
RENTING A CELL PHONE
With the Cell phones taking over the land phones and pay phones,it has become the best and the cheapest choice for making calls,texting and using data.So much so that Cell Phone Companies and Service Provides offer you a new Phone which can be rented for a fee till the period of your stay at your Destination.Eighty five percent which is more than 150 Countries] of the world uses a GSM network.So many International Mobile providers offer good rates and packages on prepaid International Mobile rentals eliminating all the hidden fees.The plus side is that renting such GSM cell phone that works at the Destination just makes your life easier.You can make a call as you like and be reachable to all at all times.The minus side is that is more expensive than renting a SIM card and secondly the contacts stored in your SIM card my not show on the new rental phone.So you have an additional task to update your new number to all the contacts you need to be in touch with.You need to familiarise yourself with the working and options provided by the phone as most of these may not have all “your” smartphone functions.
USING VOICE OVER INTERNET PROTOCOL [VoIP] CALLING SERVICES WITH SMARTPHONE APPLICATIONS
Voice Over Internet Protocol or VoIP is a technology which allows you to place telephone calls over the Internet instead of using the standard traditional phone.A good service VoIP transmits voice and multimedia content over Internet.There are many VoIP apps on the Internet which you and your contacts can install and stay connected.App stores offer you many such options which allows you to enjoy voice calls/video calls,chat,landline calls,conference calls and data at very cheap rates across the globe.These apps also offer specific plans/packages at the Destination suitable for you and easily payable over the net.Some of them offer you small free credits which you can use to make outgoing calls.Please remember that the VoIP function requires a sturdy and a reliable internet connection.The best choice would be to use it over Wi-Fi unless your mobile plan has a unlimited data plan.
The good news is that today these VoIP applications can be downloaded and installed for free on the Smartphones and Tablets.Both iOS in Apple Phones and Appstore in Android Phones house hundreds of these Internet based phone applications Research each of them and select the best one suited for you.Choose and install wisely.Using them over a sturdy Wi-Fi connection can be another inexpensive way to make international calls practically free.Please ask all your friends/family and contacts whom you wish to be in touch with to install and download the similar apps and services because only then calls at both ends will be free and you can stay connected on all fronts– text, voice and video totally free anywhere in the world. Wi-Fi networks can be available in Internet cafe’s,Shopping centers and coffee shops and restaurants.This requires you to be physically present at the Wi-Fi available spot or cafe.You can eliminate this hurdle with a portable Wi-Fi[bought or rented] and be accessible anytime anywhere.This is a handheld device which provides you with wireless internet access wherever you go. It works just like any other Wi-Fi hotspot – but it’s personal and fits in your pocket.The small gadget creates a wireless hotspot around an area of 15 metres and one can connect upto five  devices to the network.
SKYPE is the best known user friendly VoIP application worldwide offering instant messaging options and pocket friendly International call packages.It can be installed on Smartphones and Tablets.Easy to sign up and set up the account.They offer free credits on trial for new users and then you can buy small credits which can be used for making calls globally.Skype to Skype calls are free.The other recommended VoIP apps among the many are GOOGLE VOICE,TALK U FREE CALLS,PRIMO,WHATSCALL .WHATSAPP and VIBER calls are also free when used with the same subscribers.FACEBOOK MESSENGER is a very good option for message and can be used via your Facebook Account.These and many more which can be installed on your Smartphone easily and used for free calls
You can also use VoIP on your laptop using prepaid international mobile broadband.In today’s times,majority of standard and moderate hotels in many parts of the world offer free Wi-Fi. Finding Wi-Fi in small inns, B&Bs, vacation rentals, can be a challenge. If you are planning on staying in a place without Wi-Fi, you often have to rely on some other approach to keep in touch.
Hotspot is a good choice for people not needing all time connectivity 24 X 7. If you can stay connected through messages and through social media,all you will need is a Mobile Hotspot or a Wi-Fi Hotspot and it will not cost you any bucks.
MAKING INTERNATIONAL CALLS FROM A LANDLINE [source: United World Telecom]
When making an international call from a landline, the number must be dialed using the standard international calling format as follows :
First dial the International dialing prefix. Then follow up with the Country code followed by the City code or area code and finally the local number which you aim to reach.
So there is every reason to be cheerful and happy and to stay connected even in the mountains and jungles.