So after reading scores of ‘drop-everything-and-just-travel’ blog posts you’ve finally done it. You booked that trip. First off, congrats my friend- a wise choice indeed. Now comes the small matter of staying connected. Whether for business or pleasure, the importance of this cannot be underestimated.
Sure, many of you are probably sitting there scoffing ‘Well I don’t give a shit about Hotmail and facebook when I’m travelling. I do it to unplug and escape my normal life”. Good for you I say. But the thought of being unconnected for just a matter of minutes is, for some, deeply distressing. Alarming, but true. So here are five small words of advice if you fall into that latter category.
One: Google Voice
Often, there will be incurred costs for receiving data on your phone, sometimes even if you haven’t answered. Avoid this by signing up for Google Voice- a service which diverts incoming calls/data and notifies you of all missed calls, texts and new voicemail by e-mail. It’s genius. Users can respond to messages for free (the reply will be sent as a text) and even arrange to have voicemail transcribed by Google!
Two: Get all the Apps
There are loads of them out there. Some of them are free, some you have to pay a small fee for. Viber is a fantastic way of communicating at no cost with other iPhone and Android users, as is Rebtel for making affordable international calling. But the real winner here is the now world-renowned Whatsapp. This service allows users of iPhones, Androids, BB and Nokia to send messages as data to anywhere in the world for absolutely nothing. 250 million are already using it. Get involved.
Three: Buy a local sim
Providing your phone is unlocked, this option may be the most feasible. Often, the cost of calling home from foreign sims is just as much, if not less than using your regular number at a standard roaming cost. They cost next to nothing, and some countries even give them away for free at the airport- with free credit! Well worth the money as you’ll no doubt need to keep in touch with fellow travellers met along the way too.
Four: International Sim Cards
If you’re not smartphone savvy and would rather just keep things incredibly simple, then international sim cards may well be for you. It is essentially just one sim card that is coded to work in any given country, and can be recharged online as you go, though rates are slightly higher than alternative options.
It may not have escaped your notice that so far the small matter of internet connectivity has been entirely ignored. Well, that’s because these days it’s hardly an issue, online phone cards are easy to use and wi-fi is readily available in hotels and cafés almost anywhere in the world, and out in the sticks too if you have a laptop and the right external device. Skype, is still first choice when it comes to video-calling; free, crystal clear quality (most of the time) and super easy to use, you generally can’t go wrong. It also offers excellent premium services for long-term travellers such as ‘Skype Out’ and ‘Skype In’, which allow users to make and receive calls to and from any landline in the world for $30 a year.
There are hundreds of gadgets, apps and superb offers out there for the connectivity-conscious traveller, but remember that there are also just as many bogus or outdated schemes that will quickly eat up your money. So whichever option grabs you, research it carefully first!
by Josh Taylor