Travelling can present unique challenges for smartphone owners. Service can be spotty in some parts, and outrageous roaming charges can be a nasty surprise at the end of a holiday. Fortunately, there are a number of options for travellers to stay in touch with loved ones back home.
Some choose to rely on services like Skype, which allow them to communicate from internet cafes or hostels at low costs. Others opt to purchase an international SIM card to get the lowest per-minute rates possible. The following apps are further ways to stay connected when travelling abroad. They’re free to download and can save a bundle on communication costs.
Being able to call home is nice, but many travellers just want to chat with their friends and make plans over instant messenger. IM+ is a handy solution that can keep all of your chat programs in one centralized place. It connects your contacts from Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook, AIM, MSN, and most other IM’ing services, allowing you to receive notifications immediately without the need to sign into each account. Every second that you can spare will save you on roaming fees.
Fring Video Calls
This free app also gives you instant messenger access to Twitter, Yahoo, MSN, Google Talk, and Facebook programs. However, it also allows users to make free video calls to any other mobile phone provided there’s a Wi-Fi network to connect to.
Skype is one of the most popular options for travellers, and they also make an app that allows you to place free calls over Wi-Fi to any other connected member of the system. If you’re looking for low per-minute rates, they also offer options comparable to international sim cards with Lebara or other providers. It’s worth comparing these international rates to determine what the best per-minute option will be.
WhatsApp has quickly become one of the most popular options for backpackers, students, and anyone else who needs to text their friends and family while traveling. The Android version of this app has been downloaded over 1.2 million times, topping competitors like Skype or Viber.
This popularity is part of the attraction, because there’s a high likelihood that your contacts will also be on it to text and chat with you. The app is free for the first year of use, but only costs 99 cents after your free trial year has ended. Features include the ability to share your location with others, attach images and videos to your messages, and send you an alert when your contact has received the message.
Another texting app, TextPlus is available throughout North America and provides users with their own unique phone number. This allows other contacts to text you just as they would to a regular mobile phone, no matter what device you’re using. It also enables sending and receiving images and take part in group chats. The app is still free when travelling abroad, provided that you find a Wi-Fi network.
From VoIP services to texting apps, there’s no shortage of options for travellers. International calling cards and SIM cards can still be good options, however, so it’s best to compare all of your choices before leaving the country.