Cheap calls and internet access while traveling abroad.
With a smartphone / tablet / laptop, during your trips you can stay in touch with your friends and family absolutely free of charge. And even the costs of using a conventional mobile phone can be reduced to a rational minimum, if you know about the existence of specific services available for you while abroad.
Thanks to reasonable cell phone (and lately smartphone) plans of local cell phone operators, almost all of us make / receive calls and spend large amounts of data on a daily basis. And when traveling abroad we do not want to part with these useful (or perhaps not especially so) services. Unfortunately, due to the roaming costs, sticking with our domestic mobile carrier while traveling abroad may turn out to be not exactly cheap (and more often than not really expensive). So below I'm trying to summarize all the available options for harnessing the impending costs.
1. Getting online while abroad. A smartphone / tablet / laptop allows you to completely avoid communication expenses while abroad. If you have a smartphone, you can stay in touch whit the rest of the world using free WiFi hotspots only.
You usually get free WiFi access by booking a hotel room (some expensive hotels are still charging for this service an extra fee :( ), making an order in a cafe, buying a train or bus ticket, etc. Thus, these options come to us with some implied costs and are not absolutely free.
Absolutely free WiFi can be usually found in public places (such as parks and public gardens), tourist information centers and of course in public libraries.
The main flaw of these hotspots is the low connection quality (it's either unreliable or extremely limited). Plus you won't be able to haunt a tourist information center for a long time, and in a library you won't be able to speak (but there you can almost infinitely read and write your e-mails, spent time in social networks and so on).
Some local peculiarities must be also take into account. For example, in Germany you'll hardly be able to find a WiFi hotspot. This is due to the fact that according to German laws the owner of the facility where the hotspot is situated is fully liable for the actions of a user carried via this hotspot.
So, we can implement all said above as follows:
- for long conversations with our girlfriend we'll have to take the smartphone, go to the nearest park and turn on skype (let's hope that the connection is good enough, but it'll most unlikely be sufficient for video calls);
- in order to have enough time for social networking, reading and writing e-mails and so on (having a stable though a bit slow connection we can find an occupation for ourselves, can't we?) we'd better take a tablet / laptop and head to the nearest public library.
Especially in already described cases it'll be worth our while to find (with the help of Google Maps for example) the hotspots, which can be of any interest to us: in local cafés, restaurants, libraries, parks, tourist information centers and save their coordinates before the tip.
2. Call cheaply while abroad. If a free Internet access does not satisfy all our needs and we feel the necessity of using our phone / smartphone for calls to landlines / cell phones, then we have three pretty obvious options available to us.
2.1. To research the international rates of our domestic mobile network operators and to chose one with the most suitable international options.
Of course, we can go with the plan that we've already have, but we must keep in mind, that roaming fees will be charged not only for outgoing calls, but for incoming ones also, free of charge will usually remain only incoming text messages :( .
As a rule, you will need to pay for activation of international services and be charged daily a certain amount of money for using it, but incoming calls (or at least their first minutes) will become free again, and the costs of outgoing calls will return into reasonable limits.
2.2 The second option is to purchase a SIM-card of a local mobile operator immediately on arrival at the country of your destination and for calls within this very country.
It's twice as relevant while traveling in a group (especially with teenagers).
Note that in Europe and North America different GSM and UMTS (3G) frequencies are in use (for more info look at Network coverage in different countries on GSMArena).
If your cell-phone uses the appropriate GSM frequencies, you'll probably still need to unlock it (enable it to work with another cellular carrier's network). But at first find out, whether to do it:
A couple of years ago bought by me a clean American AT&T's GoPhone was brought to Europe and unlocked (after numerous unsuccessful attempts to find an appropriate unlock code on internet) by its original operator only to confirm, that 3G in Europe and the US (exactly as GSM) operates on different frequencies. So don't lose your time and, prior to trying to unlock your phone, find out its working frequency bands.
SIM cards can be usually obtained in every supermarket and specialized mobile-phone shop (AT&T, T-Mobile, O2 and so on). For example,
- a pre-paid SIM card just for €6,99 with 50 minutes and / or SMS (after they've been used up 9¢ each) and 50 MB of data is sold now by German O2, free shipping within Germany;
- Pay As You Go sim of British O2 for 10£ with 1GB of data + 100 minutes + 100 SMS or 500MB + 250 mins + 1000 SMS with free shipping within UK;
- and the US' AT&T offers GoPhone for $30 a month (a new phone included) with unlimited calls and SMS messages, but for 100 MB of mobile data you will have to pay another $5.
It must be said, that with 50 or even 100 MB of data you'll (in most cases) only be able to open a couple of pages and nothing more. Usually it won't get even close to covering your basic requirements. Once more, if there is a need for a steady (though slow) Internet connection, go to the library (park, cafe, tourist information center...).
And in both cases you'd better disable automatic updates of your smartphone and its apps (email and so on). Otherwise all your free megabytes will be eaten very quickly and (possibly, if it is allowed by your cell phone plan) they'll continue with their dirty work already on credit.
3. Cheap international calls. So, now it's time to find an inexpensive way for calling our home country. In practice, the cheapest rates for international calls we can get from Skype or through international calling cards, the latter method is now working also without any cards, it's enough to have an access number.
But in order to use Skype you'll need a sufficient amount of cellular data and a decent connection speed, and most likely during our trip we'll have problem with both.
So obviously it's more practical to call via access numbers. Especially from a financial point of view we loose absolutely nothing (or almost nothing, considering how and where we're calling).
It should be mentioned that the usage of access numbers requires a landline phone or a cell phone equipped with a SIM card of a local mobile operator.
- A landline phone is (almost for certain) already present in your hotel room, but whether you'll be able to make free calls to other landline numbers from it - it's a question the answer to which you can get only from the hotel's staff.
- On the other hand, the owner of a B&B or a guesthouse at which you're staying will (as a rule) allow you to use his or her phone for this type of calls, but in this case it'll not necessary be situated in your room.
- Everything is much easier if you've managed to get unlimited (or at least with a sufficient number of minutes for landline calls) SIM-card of a local operator.
You can buy cards for international calls on your arrival (in the nearest supermarket), but it's even better to search for a suitable (in terms of price) service provider, get a certain amount of minutes (pay a certain amount of money) and access numbers online before your planned trip.
You may be able to find better options, but we've already used the two ones below and are entirely satisfied with them both.
Tel3.com. The main drawback: for accounts older than 6 months the prices automatically increase and sometimes even double compared to those during the first 6 months, but we'll be able to find a way around, won't we? Payment methods include Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and also PayPal.
Below you can see Tel3.com prices for international phone calls from Germany, USA and Ukraine (calling from Russia using Tel3.com is not possible for the time being) in the year 2017; only a small number of countries is listed, the prices are in cents/$ per minute to landlines // to mobiles:
|Tel3.com||from Germany||from US||from Ukraine|
|Calls to Australia||2.5 // 4.0||1.5 // 3.0||2.0 // 4.0|
|Calls to Austria||2.5 // 5.5||1.5 // 4.5||2.5 // 5.5|
|Calls to Brazil||2.0 // 3.0||2.0 // 2.0||2.0 // 3.0|
|Calls to Canada||1.8 // 1.8||0.8 // 0.8||1.8 // 1.8|
|Calls to China||1.8 // 1.8||0.8 // 0.8||1.8 // 1.8|
|Calls to France||1.9 // 4.2||0.9 // 3.2||1.9 // 4.2|
|Calls to Germany||2.5 // 6.3||1.5 // 5.3||2.5 // 6.3|
|Calls to Great Britain||2.0 // 4.0||1.0 // 3.0||2.0 // 4.0|
|Calls to India||1.8 // 1.9||0.8 // 0.9||1.8 // 1.9|
|Calls to Indonesia||3,0 // 7.5||2.0 // 4.5||3.0 // 5.5|
|Calls to Israel||2.3 // 3.7||1.3 // 2.7||2.3 // 3.7|
|Calls to Italy||2.5 // 4.0||1.5 // 3.0||2.5 // 4.0|
|Calls to Japan||3.5 // 8.5||2.5 // 7.5||3.5 // 8.5|
|Calls to New Zealand||1.8 // 4.8||0.8 // 3.8||1.8 // 4.8|
|Calls to Norway||2.9 // 3.0||1.9 // 2.0||2.9 // 3.0|
|Calls to Russia||2.5 // 15.5||1.5 // 14.5||2.5 // 15.5|
|Calls to South Africa||2.8 // 2.8||1.8 // 1.8||2.8 // 2.8|
|Calls to South Korea||2.0 // 3.5||1.0 // 2.5||2.0 // 3.5|
|Calls to Spain||2.5 // 8.5||1.5 // 7.5||2.5 // 8.5|
|Calls to Switzerland||2.9 // 2.4||1.9 // 1.4||2.9 // 2.4|
|Calls to Taiwan||2.5 // 7.7||1.5 // 6.7||2.5 // 7.7|
|Calls to Thailand||2.7 // 2.7||1.7 // 1.7||2.7 // 2.7|
|Calls to Turkey||3,5 // 13,8||2.5 // 12.8||3.5 // 13.8|
|Calls to United States||2.0 // 2.0||1.0 // 1.0||2.0 // 2.0|
But keep in mind that under the calls to some countries meant the calls to their capitals, the prices for calling other destinations in those countries may differ and sometimes be even cheaper: for example, calls to St. Petersburg are cheaper than calls to Moscow.
PeterZahlt.de (the page is in German, so use Google translate, if needed). Payment methods: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, PayPal.
PeterZahlt.de prices for international phone calls from Germany, USA and Russia in 2017; only a small number of countries is listed, the prices are in cents/€ per minute to landlines // to mobiles:
|PeterZahlt.de||from Germany||from US||from Russia|
|Calls to Australia||2,6 // 7,1||3,6 // 8,1||4,4 // 8,9|
|Calls to Austria||1,6 // 2,9||2,6 // 3,9||3,4 // 4,7|
|Calls to Brazil||1,7 // 5,9||2,7 // 6,9||3,5 // 7,7|
|Calls to Canada||1,6 // 1,6||2,6 // 2,6||3,4 // 3,4|
|Calls to China||1,2 // 1,2||2,2 // 2,2||3,0 // 3,0|
|Calls to France||1,1 // 4,7||2,1 // 5,7||2,9 // 6,5|
|Calls to Germany||0,0 // 5,9||1,0 // 6,9||1,8 // 7,7|
|Calls to Great Britain||1,1 // 3,5||2,1 // 4,5||2,9 // 5,3|
|Calls to India||2,2 // 3,3||3,2 // 4,3||4,0 // 5,1|
|Calls to Indonesia||7,5 // 7,0||8,5 // 8,0||9,3 // 8,8|
|Calls to Israel||1,5 // 3,9||2,5 // 4,9||3,3 // 5,7|
|Calls to Italy||1,5 // 3,0||2,5 // 4,0||3,3 // 4,8|
|Calls to Japan||3,0 // 9,0||4,0 // 10,0||4,8 // 10,8|
|Calls to New Zealand||1,6 // 5,9||2,6 // 6,9||3,4 // 7,7|
|Calls to Norway||1,6 // 5,9||2,6 // 6,9||3,4 // 7,7|
|Calls to Russia||3,3 // 11,9||4,3 // 12,9||5,1 // 13,7|
|Calls to South Africa||3,5 // 18,0||4,5 // 19,0||5,3 // 19,8|
|Calls to South Korea||1,6 // 3,1||2,6 // 4,1||3,4 // 4,9|
|Calls to Spain||1,6 // 3,9||2,6 // 4,9||9,3 // 8,8|
|Calls to Switzerland||1,7 // 15,5||2,7 // 16,5||3,5 // 17,3|
|Calls to Taiwan||2,3 // 15,6||3,3 // 16,6||4,1 // 17,4|
|Calls to Thailand||1,6 // 1,6||2,6 // 2,6||3,4 // 3,4|
|Calls to Turkey||3,5 // 13,9||4,5 // 14,9||5,3 // 15,7|
|Calls to United States||1,6 // 1,6||2,6 // 2,6||3,4 // 3,4|
Not bad at all, isn't it?
And it's all for now regarding cheap international calls.