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Communicating Overseas for Less

by guest on August 29, 2011 · 21 comments

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The following is a guest post from Sunil.

My wife and I have family spread all across the world who we often visit.  Due to the nature of what I do and both the need and desire to be connected throughout no matter where I am physically, it is important for me to have a reliable and affordable means of communication.  I will share with you what has worked well for us as we constantly “trot the globe”.

Most of my phone calls while traveling are back to the US. I used to use my cell phone to make these calls but quickly realized there are other options that work just as good for much less.  Using your carrier’s plan is the last thing you want to do unless you want to commit financial suicide.

So here is what I started doing.  I started traveling with an unlocked global phone that is compatible with a removable SIM chip. Removable is the key word here. For example, Sprint phones won’t allow removal of the SIM, while T Mobile phones will.  So you can chose one of the prepaid T-Mobile phones, or you can pick up a device that fits these specs from Ebay or Craigslist for cheap.

Once you have the phone, order the SIM chip needed to use your phone in the destination you plan on being in (yes I have 11 different SIM chips).  To do this, go to SIM chip seller such as www.GoSim.com where you can purchase prepaid minutes for the country or countries you plan on being in.  Once at your destination, simply replace the SIM chip and begin taking.

Now if you are only traveling to one country, it’s best to research the calling rates from that country to your home country.  You can browse any cell phone provider’s site from anywhere in the world.  Tools such as Google translate are helpful in translating foreign -sites to English to ensure you know of the latest and greatest deals. I’ve found some very good deals for calling the US from Europe for as low as 7 cents.

 Better yet, see if you can leverage the internet for calling purposes.  The disadvantage is that with most internet based options, you are tied down to a laptop. However, some modern technology such as the Vonage and Google Voice applications allow you to call directly from your handset through the internet, called voice over IP (VOIP) technology.

If you haven’t heard of MagicJack (www.MagicJack.com), it works! I’ve tried it, and so have my sister and brother in law who travel the world equally as much as us.  For $40 or less you can use it to call long distance over the internet for a full year.  There are no additional fees or charges outside the $40 you pay.

Again there are some disadvantages to going this route.  You will need a landline phone device that you can hook into your MagicJack socket, and then hook that up to your computer’s USB drive.  This also assumes you have high speed internet where you are.  It is really eye opening how much of this world is still “undeveloped”.

Providing internet access is good, you can also consider applications such as Google Voice, which you can download to your smart phone and make calls directly from it to any number in the USA and Canada (assuming one of those is home).  You do have to sign up for Google Voice and get your free number and account before you can do this.

There you have it – at least three different options to communicate for cheap while overseas.

Readers:  Which one(s) have you tried? Which one(s) is/are your favorite options? Why? Any additional tips you can share to help us out?

All the best,

Sunil

Sunil owns over a dozen profitable niche websites and is the author of “How to Go from $0 to $1,000 a month in Passive and Residual Income in Under 180 Days All in Your Spare Time“, a FREE report you can download instantly from his Extra Money Blog, where he discusses how to create multiple streams of passive and residual income, entrepreneurship, internet marketing, blogging and personal finance. In 2007, he sold his ecommerce website for $250,000 to a top Ebay Power Seller and since then has sold several niche sites for five figures each. You can read more about him and his work on his blog.

retirebyforty’s thought: We travel only a few week out of the year and we haven’t had the need to call home that much. Usually, we just buy a calling card when we need to call home. I’ve heard about Majic Jack and that sounds really great, but many places we visit do not have good internet connection. Someday, it’ll be much easier to call home.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Kellen August 29, 2011 at 6:48 am

I generally like to leave my computer and cell phone behind, and just use internet cafes and emails when I’m traveling overseas. Just using the internet at a cafe in Europe can be pricey though.

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retirebyforty August 29, 2011 at 9:27 am

I usually leave them behind too. Internet cafe every few days is good enough during vacation. I don’t want to be on a computer while I’m on vacation anyway. If I’m away longer than 3 weeks, then it’s a different story.

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Sunil from The Extra Money Blog August 29, 2011 at 12:27 pm

internet cafes can be a quick stop for internet usage. I’ve often found them to be real pricey especially in Europe as you mentioned. in other countries like India or United Arab Emirates, they can be tough to come by. internet signals however are predominant, thus making it easy to get connected with a portable device

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SB @ One Cent At A Time August 29, 2011 at 10:30 am

I call my folks and in-laws through Vonage world service. Its a flat fee of (quiet high) $30 with taxes. But the plus is we can talk unlimited. and my wife is learning Indian classical music over phone through a teacher in India, this lesson takes around 10hrs per month. It’s kind of cool for the money we spent.

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retirebyforty August 29, 2011 at 11:05 am

Wow, learning music over the phone! That’s pretty creative. ;)
$30/m is pretty expensive, but if you talk a lot, it’s worth it. I call my parents oversea, but we only talk 5-10 minutes a week so a calling card works pretty well.

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Sunil from The Extra Money Blog August 29, 2011 at 12:29 pm

incredible indeed – never thought about that as such. have heard about guitar lessons through webinars / youtube. vonage worldwide is excellent. i believe there are 90 countries you can call in that $30 plan. can’t beat it. you know you can take vonage with you when you travel right? thus it fits the discussion in this post

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SB @ One Cent At A Time August 30, 2011 at 8:02 am

Absolutely, and my brother in-law is in UK, so the two sisters talk about 1 hr daily. You see why I am paying $30. Getting this much time via calling card would make me bankrupt! :)

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retirebyforty August 30, 2011 at 12:50 pm

1 hr daily would chew up the calling cards and spit it out! :) $30 is cheap!

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MoneyCone August 29, 2011 at 11:40 am

Ooma has been great for us! Not free, but cheaper than the alternatives.

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Sunil from The Extra Money Blog August 29, 2011 at 12:30 pm

have heard about Ooma a bit. have also heard about connectivity/clarity problems. can you share where have you used it mostly? how can it be leveraged when traveling? seems like your experience has been great.

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retirebyforty August 29, 2011 at 1:39 pm

We got Ooma before they started charging so it’s free in the US. ;)
I haven’t used them for international calls.

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Suba August 29, 2011 at 8:08 pm

We use skype pretty extensively. I do the opposite of OCAAT. I teach a few kids in India. As it is more than one, the phone was not effective. So I set up the video chat and connected it to the tv. Talking to my parents and inlaws, I do via calling card. For $20, if I use a coupon code (they usually send one every month), I get ~1500-2000 minutes based on the coupon. I recharge every 4 months or so. So far that has worked well for us.

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SB @ One Cent At A Time August 30, 2011 at 8:05 am

Now I have at least some idea about you. Always wondered…

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Sunil from The Extra Money Blog August 30, 2011 at 11:35 am

That’s good stuff. Using the right tool for the right occasion.

Question for you – is the teaching initiative voluntary/charity or for profit? Just got my wheels turning on potential market gaps/opportunity that may exist for someone who enjoys teaching.

India is predominantly an English speaking country – that is why I ask?

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Suba August 31, 2011 at 9:47 am

Voluntary. But I do enjoy teaching (and my husband does too), email me if you have any opportunities that could be a good fit.

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Sunil from The Extra Money Blog August 31, 2011 at 10:22 am

Just a thought came to mind that why can’t anyone here teach someone in India as a “scaleable” business? The only hurdle in my thought process is why would someone in India would want to pay for those services? Maybe more valuable from an accent/linguistic perspective? not sure….

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Hunter @ Financially Consumed August 30, 2011 at 7:20 pm

My family lives in Australia and we often communicate via Skype. We no longer have a landline so we occasionally send text messages if we feel the need for spontaneous contact. I haven’t called from ‘overseas’ in a looooong time.

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Sunil from The Extra Money Blog August 30, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Hunter – do you do Skype to Skype or Skype to landline/cell? If so, how are you enjoying the rates and quality?

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youngandthrifty August 30, 2011 at 11:20 pm

I always use Skype too :)

I use Skype to Skype and oftentimes I just use Skype to landline. The rates are really good. I was in Vietnam earlier this year and to call home it was only like 2 cents a minute or something cheap like that.

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Sunil from The Extra Money Blog August 31, 2011 at 10:21 am

Skype rates are indeed very good. Curious about your experience with data transmission / quality?

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