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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

4 Must-Have Communication Tools When You're Overseas

When we're overseas, there are a few communication tools that we always use to save money.  We're frugal travelers, so if we save $5 here or there, it adds up.  Plus, why would you want to throw money away when you don't have to?  Enough said, I'm sure I don't need to convince you!

This post is not meant to cover every single app on the market.  Why not?  There are more coming to market every day!  So, here I'm sharing just a few common tools I use to stay in touch while overseas.  

These are established companies which offer a good product for a fair price, and if you're not using them you could be throwing your money out the door.  

Sure, you could enable your Telstra or Vodafone phone to receive calls in Bali when you're there.  But you could pay a fortune if you're not extremely careful.

Which of the 4 programs should you use, and when?  I'll cover the pros and cons of each.


If you haven't heard of Skype, this post might not be for you!  Just kidding.  But seriously, it has to be THE best known VOIP (voice over internet protocol) service on the market.  VOIP calls are calls that allow you to communicate using the data on a phone, or data on your laptop to make calls via the internet.  It has about 1 billion users.

It offers free calls, free chat, and free video calls between users; these are the features that made skype famous. (along with great marketing)

Why do we use Skype?   

It's very easy to use, even for folks without much computer skill.  The brand is widely recognised.  And it works with lots of different operating systems and computers.  We set up my mother-in-law's laptop so that when we need to call her, she can skype us, and though she has only basic computer skills she can figure it out, and does well.

How does Skype make money?  

Well, there is some debate of whether it is actually making money, but the way they make money from me is when I use the SkypeOut feature.

SkypeOut is where you purchase credit from Skype, and then use that credit while logged into Skype to call landlines, mobiles, or send texts, to folks who don't use Skype.  Or perhaps they have Skype, but when you need to communicate to them they aren't online to communicate.  Rates are fair, but since Skype is so well-known, and lots of folks couldn't be bothered using alternate methods, Skype tends to charge a bit more than they should.  But then again the higher costs probably go toward development of the very easy to use interface, and advertising, and the brand marketing. 

In recent years, with the increase of included data packages for mobiles, folks are using Skype even more since they do not have to log on to a computer, to either make or receive calls from other users.  With mobiles having data enabled, any person who has their mobile switched on with Skype installed, is essentially online all the time.


Rebtel doesn't have the brand recognition of Skype, and it's missing some major features which Skype offersBut it does have 23 million users and I've had almost no problems using it for over 3 years.

It has an extremely basic but functional interface box.  But perhaps more importantly, its rates and pricing structure are much more competitive. Far, far, more competitive.  But it doesn't offer video calling.  No biggie, I can use Skype for that.

There's even a feature which Skype doesn't have.  When sending a text, the default option is to send a text to your recipient that includes a link, and if they have a smartphone with data, they can click the link and reply back to you for free, using your account balance.

When do I choose Rebtel over Skype?

A. Rebtel: when I need to make a call to a landline, mobile, or send a text, since the rates are so much better than Skype.  Calls and texts can cost as little as 20% of the cost on SkypeOut.

B. Skype: when I need to make free video calls to another Skype user.  

Make a 1 minute call to a US phone using Skype - $0.078
Make a 1 minute call to a US phone using Rebtel - $0.015
10 minute call to US phone using Skype - $0.30
10 minute call to US phone using Rebtel - $0.15
60 minute call to US phone using Skype - $1.55
60 minute call to US phone using Skype - $0.90
1 SMS to US Skype - $.15
1 SMS to US Rebtel - $.01

Make a 1 minute call to a Ireland landline using Skype - $0.078
Make a 1 minute call to a Ireland landline using Rebtel - $0.019
10 minute call to Ireland phone using Skype - $0.30
10 minute call to Ireland phone using Rebtel - $0.19
60 minute call to Ireland phone using Skype - $1.55
60 minute call to Ireland phone using Skype - $1.14
1 SMS to Ireland Skype - $.15
1 SMS to Ireland Rebtel - $.02

3. Viber

About 200 million folks use Viber.  It runs on the phone data.  It's easy to use and install.  

It works with the phone address book to locate and identity other Viber users, so that you can easily determine who you can call or chat to for free.

A recent feature added is ViberOut, similar to SkypeOut, where you buy credit and use to call folks who are not registered on Viber.

Another recent feature added is being able to install the program onto a computer, since it was limited only to phones in the past.  However, you must synchronise your desktop Viber account with your phone contacts, which means that you must have it installed on your phone.  A serious weakness in my opinion, compared to Skype or Rebtel, which do not have that requirement.  

4. Go-Sim

Go-Sim is an international SIM card which generally comes with an Estonian based mobile number. 

Why is it great?  How does it work?  

I spent considerable time researching the best way to save money when using my mobile, when I went to Asia, Europe, the US, and Central America on a trip in late 2011.  I wanted to be able to make calls in any 1 of 10 countries I was visiting, without having to buy a local SIM card in each one.  Plus, I wanted to be able to receive calls, and have a number wherever I went to give to friends, the hotel desk, airlines in case of delays, or whoever so I'd have a single contact number to give out as I traveled. 

From all the time spent I came back with 1 choice over all other similar products on the market: GoSim. And no, they're not paying me a dime to say this!

How does it work?  

You place a call to whatever number, the phone will quickly connect, hangup, and then immediately rings you back.  You then answer.  You'll then hear the phone ringing to the number you originally called.  If the party answers, you and your caller are connected.  Obviously it must be cheaper for them that way.  The whole process probably adds 10 seconds to any call you make, but saves you a bundle.  I ran the numbers and it can save as much as $.50 or even up $1 a minute, so it's worth buying a GoSim and having it ready before you leave for your next multi-country trip.

If I'm in a country long enough to warrant buying a local SIM, I do.  But whenever I'm frequently hopping borders, I stick in the trusty GoSim since I know that rates are good for any important calls I have to make.  You wouldn't want to be on the phone for long, since the rates will still chew up your credit.  Oh, and credit never expires, so no need to worry about losing your credit if you don't use your Go-Sim for awhile.

One other thing, you can receive free text messages via a link on the Go-Sim website.  You can provide this to friends, so that when you're traveling they can always get a hold of you easily and for free.  I've found this useful when border hopping and folks need to find me.

Examples (no connection fees): 
-Make a 1 minute call while in Indonesia, calling Indonesia - $.74,
To receive a call, $.10/minute
-1 minute call while in Italy, calling Italy - $.74, To receive a call, FREE 


Do some homework before you go on your next trip overseas.  You might find that by using the tools above you can come home with a few extra bucks in your pocket, which you'll need after your holiday! 

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