Cost Saving Tips
Your first step in saving costs is to find out if you can use your current handset internationally. If so, you can simply purchase either a country specific SIM card (if you are going to only one country) or, the National Geographic Travel SIM for use in multiple destinations. Almost all country specific SIM cards, with very few exceptions, offer unlimited free incoming calls. The National Geographic Travel SIM offers free incoming calls in over 50 countries, the majority of which are the more popular destinations. However, while it may seem logical to take advantage of the free incoming call feature in order to save money, this might not always be the most cost effective solution. Here’s why. Some country specific SIM cards offer exceptional international rates. While every country has, on average, 3 to 4 carriers, Cellular Abroad always tries to offer the SIM card from the carrier that has the best coverage as well as the best rates, particularly for calling internationally. There are currently a few carriers that cater specifically to the tourist or foreign resident calling internationally. Spain, Germany, Switzerland, the UK and to a certain degree, also Italy offer extremely advantageous rates back to the US – rates that are lower than those calling TO those countries. Therefore, if you are paying for the originating call from the United States or Canada (ex a family member calling you on your cell), it might just make sense for you to originate the call from your handset.
Another tip is to leave your new international number on your voicemail. That way, if someone needs to get hold of you, they can do so (be sure to state the full dialing sequence from North America), and, chances are, it will not cost you a dime to receive it.
SMS, or text messaging, is a very convenient, inexpensive yet immediate way of staying in touch. While text messaging has not caught on big in the US or Canada, it is an ideal way to get small tidbits of information across without having to engage in a full conversation. Furthermore, the message is stored on your handset until it is deleted. Therefore, if someone sends you an address or a phone number, it is there for you to access. In fact, we recommend this approach over writing down on a scratch piece of paper. The next time someone wants to give you a phone number or address, ask them to text it to you instead.
If you do not feel comfortable text messaging someone via your handset, Cellular Abroad offers an invaluable solution that lets you send and receive text messages on your computer. To test this service (3 free messages) is free.
While Cellular Abroad does not offer calling cards (we are in the mobile communications field, not landlines), calling cards do offer certain advantages. However, just as there are advantages, it is useful to also point out the disadvantages with calling cards. The main advantage is the savings. There are definite savings using calling cards over simply picking up the phone and making a call. There are numerous companies offering calling rates that vary considerably. This is one area where you really do get what you pay for. Here is why. In essence, there are only a few carriers that actually own the pipeline for international calls. What they do is to lease portions of the pipeline to other companies. These other companies repackage the minutes and resell them to other companies and so on. The problem with this is that at times, there are too many users or callers attempting to make calls to certain countries at one time and you get a busy signal or dead air. This happens at times to the larger carriers so you can imagine how often it occurs to the smaller companies offering particularly low tariffs. Furthermore, some of the traffic of the sub-standard carriers travels over the internet and, while the call might go through, it is not always crystal clear.
Another consideration to be aware of is that many hotels are now barring calls to toll free numbers or, they are charging you to call them. This pretty much eliminates the main purpose of using a calling card to begin with. As for pay phones, they are becoming more and more obsolete – particularly in Western Europe. It is increasingly rare to find a pay phone that works. Most pay phones do not pay for themselves and they have been pulled off the market. Think about it – when was the last time you used a pay phone? In Europe, in some countries, the cell phone to person ratio is about 2:1 so locals are even less likely to use pay phones.
Cellular Abroad highly recommends Skype to make low cost, or even free international calls. However, and again, Skype does have its limitations. First, while it does offer inexpensive calls, having a cell phone is a totally different animal. The same reasons (and more) that you have a cell phone domestically are the same reasons you will want one when traveling internationally, specifically, convenience and safety. When you are overseas, it may not be possible or even feasible to use Skype. First, you have to be in an area where there is internet connection (and usually it is expensive) and second, due to the time difference, when you are in your hotel might not always be the best time to call internationally. A cell phone gives you the flexibility to call when it is convenient.
Communication via email is a great way to keep in touch, particularly if you want to send pictures of your trip. However, computer access is not always available and, like Skype, is certainly not the ideal situation for convenience and security. Cellular Abroad recommends using Email, and possibly Skype, in addition to a cell phone