JavaScript has been disabled on this browser. For a seamless experience, please enable the option to run JavaScript on this device

You're using an old version of Internet Explorer. Please upgrade to IE 10 or above; or try using a different browser

How to stay in touch while abroad


Whether you've embarked on student travel for the year or have decided to take a lengthy vacation overseas, you'll probably be looking for ways to stay in touch with loved ones at home. Cellphone bills can get extremely high, even if you set up a global plan with your carrier before you leave. Instead of emptying your wallet, rely on advanced technology to communicate with family and friends while backpacking.

There are new smartphone applications and strategies that make it easy and affordable to keep in touch with those at home. Before you settle for that expensive global plan with you phone company, check out these methods of communication.

One of the most popular apps used by travelers overseas is Viber. Essential Travel explained that it allows users to create an account and invite others to join free of charge. Although most coffee shops and accommodations offer WiFi access, if you're planning an outdoors adventure and know that you will be nowhere near WiFi on your trip, you may need to consider another means of communication.

Once you have everyone you want to talk to registered in the app, all you need is WiFi to send messages. You can even call people for free when you're connected to the Internet. It's easy to use and makes staying in touch and sending pictures as easy as possible, and you don't have to spend a dime.

Google+ Hangouts 
According to The Abroad Guide, similar to Skype, Google+ Hangouts is a free mobile app that allows travelers to video chat multiple people at once. If you're living in a foreign country and you're constantly on the go, it can be challenging to plan times to chat with several friends and family. You can use the app on your iPhone or laptop, but like Viber, you have to be connected to the Internet to video chat. You can, however, send pictures and messages with the app when your family isn't online. Calling friends who use the app from anywhere in the world is also free.

Wi-Fi Finder
As the majority of communication apps enable travelers to call, message and video people while using WiFi, having an app that searches for WiFi hotspots in your area will come in handy. The Wi-Fi Finder app has an offline directory of more than 500,000 public places in over 144 countries where you can gain access to the Internet. The app relies on its users who enter their WiFi hotspots into the central Wi-Fi Finder server. Then, instead of simply listing the locations, the app charts each Internet zone, how strong the connection is and the availability of signals. In addition to finding places to connect with people from home, this can be a lifesaver for travelers who need directions.

A local SIM card 
If you'll be staying at your location for more than a month or so, it's worth it to invest in a subscriber identity module card. SIM cards allow you to use your phone without having to deal with sky-high cellphone fees at the end of your trip. You can save up to 80 percent on calls with a local SIM card compared to using your carrier's roaming plan, according to CNET.

Travelers will get a local phone number where people in the area can reach them without paying hefty fines. There are even some companies that offer customers the ability to forward their calls from home to their international cell phone numbers. They then will charge around 70 cents per minute for these calls - savings that will quickly add up if you're making multiple international calls per week.

See also...