Whether you're headed away for a semester abroad, a family cruise, or a long trek into the Himalayas, it's no longer necessary to cut off all contact with the outside world! There are multiple ways to stay in touch with your friends and family back home, while avoiding costly roaming charges and fees.
The following are five options to choose from, whether you want to send an instant text or a snail-mail postcard.
Do you want to send a quick message to your husband or parents to let them know you've arrived at your destination safely? Try downloading WhatsApp or similar services. WhatsApp allows you to send unlimited texts and photos from just about any type of device, and it allows your friends to get in contact with you for free. To use this service, you must register your phone number to give your contacts a point of contact, but you can then use it to send texts anywhere in the world.
2. Calling Cards
If you decide to leave your mobile phone at home, you can use a pay phone at your destination. Most hotels and hostels have phones available for public use, no matter how remote the location. However, the charges can be steep if you use the local rates. One way to lower your rates is by purchasing a calling card at your destination or in advance. These offer competitive per-minute rates and can be used from any pay phone at your destination.
3. International SIM Cards
Another option is to purchase a SIM card and use this in your mobile phone. You can take a look at lebara.co.uk to get an idea of the rates for different international destinations. To use a SIM card, you must have your phone unlocked first. You then have the option of purchasing an international SIM card that will work in several countries, or a local SIM card that will work at your destination. You can pay as you go with Lebara and other providers, allowing you to work the cost of both local and international calls into your budget.
If you have access to a computer on your travels, Skype is a popular option for travellers. You can set up a free account and log in to speak with friend and family. Provided that your contacts use Skype as well, video calls and chatting services are free, even overseas. You can also purchase credit to make regular phone calls as needed, for relatively low per-minute rates. This can be useful not only for dialling your personal contacts, but also for booking hotels or making plans abroad.
Finally, don't forget the power of a good, old-fashioned postcard. Even if you don't have very much free time on your travels, it only takes a minute or two to dash off a message to someone letting them know you're thinking about them. If you preaddress and stamp the postcards during some downtime, this is even easier.