Whether you’re living or just traveling abroad, it’s never been easier to stay in touch with friends and family, no matter where they are in the world. Plus, it’s now possible to utilize local and online options so that you can communicate regularly and cheaply both domestically and internationally.
Use your existing phone
If you’ll be traveling for a short time and only plan on using your cell phone when you absolutely need to, this can be a viable option. There’s no reason to look for other methods, especially if you want to “disconnect” from the world for awhile. However, it is important to talk with your phone provider to ensure that your cellular will work at all while abroad. More than likely, the rates will be pretty outrageous (unless you have an international plan), but sufficient for emergencies.
Use your current phone with a local SIM card
For longer trips and living overseas, one of the easiest ways to be able to make local calls is to get an in-country SIM card for your cell, assuming your phone uses one. SIM cards operate on what is called a GSM network (Global System for Mobile Communications) as opposed to a CDMA network (Code Division Multiple Access). However, most phones will need to be ‘unlocked’ from the original service provider’s network in order to work properly internationally.
Use apps on your phone or tablet
If you don’t want to commit to a new number and system or if your phone is on a CDMA network, then with most smart phones it’s still possible to use many of your phone’s functions through a wifi network. However, make sure to turn off the data plan options so that there’s no chance of getting charged.
There are many apps which allow you to communicate for free with others that have an account through the same app. One of the most common ones is Skype. It also has incredibly cheap calling and texting options for phone numbers worldwide. For example, you can have unlimited calls to the United States for about $7 per month.
Use a satellite phone
Standard cell phones and services can be inadequate for the avid traveler or for those in very remote areas. Under these circumstances, buying a satellite phone can be your best option. They are typically much more expensive than a normal phone (somewhere in the neighborhood of $600-$1,700), but they are also the most reliable for obscure parts of the world or in the event of a natural disaster.