6 Cheapest Ways to Communicate Internationally

It is 1995 and I have been away from home for over two months as I backpack my way around Europe, the desire to stay in touch as I travel increases daily.  Whilst I make new friends every day I long for a lengthy conversation with the ones I truly love.  But I have to wait until I arrive at the next town before I can collect mail from home and a $20 international phone card for a five-minute chat is not in the budget.

Just like me all those years ago I am sure you are wanting to keep in touch with your friends and family whilst travelling abroad.

Fortunately today the world is a much different place when it comes to keeping in touch whilst overseas.  No longer do we have to go to such extremes to get a message from home.  Today there are now so many choices that offer simpler and more affordable ways to communicate internationally.

In this Article on the Best Ways to Communicate Overseas You Will Learn:

The cheapest and best ways to communicate internationally when travelling
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6 Ways to Communicate Internationally and Keep in Touch when Overseas

There are so many reasons for needing to be contactable whilst travelling overseas.  Some people need to be in constant contact for business purposes.  Others like to stay in touch with family to help those at home have a little piece of mind that they are safe whilst travelling abroad.  Then others just want to shout from the rooftops about all the wonders they have explored.

No matter your reason for needing to stay in touch with family, friends or business associates whilst your travel there is an affordable international communication option for you.

1. Email

A few years after my initial backpacking trip came the introduction of the internet.  Suddenly writing mail became instantaneous.  You could access your email just about anywhere as long as you could find an Internet cafe.

Today email is still a good way to stay in touch internationally.  It offers you the chance to write lengthy personal messages to friends, and family and even communicate for business.  One of the things I like about email is that it offers the benefit of being able to securely share photos directly without them going online for the world to see.  If like me you have young children and you don’t want your kid’s face plastered all over the internet then this a good option.  Or if you are like my husband who has yet to join any social media you can still share your happy snaps with family and friends.


Top Trip Tip: Another benefit to email is that you don’t have to travel with an electronic device.  You can access computers at your accommodation business centre or find an internet cafe.  There are a few still about just Google (before you leave home) “internet cafe and your destination”.  Your accommodation hopefully will also be able to point you in the right direction.

2. Switch off data roaming

But for many of us though we have become so attached to our personal electronic devices.  We just can’t go anywhere without being able to be in constant contact through our mobile phones.

But logging into the Internet can be expensive.  So the first step in saving money whilst away is to ensure you have your mobile settings set up correctly when overseas.  The best time to switch off your data roaming is at the airport prior to departing your hometown.  This prevents any risk of extra mobile charges to your phone during transit or on arrival at your destination.

To switch off your data roaming for international travel:

  1. Go to settings (gear icon) on your phone
  2. Tap cell or mobile data
  3. Toggle off data roaming (please note if you have already switched off your mobile data then this will already be switched off)

This will save you from any unexpected cost blowouts on your phone after you return home.

Top Trip Tip: Leave the WiFi setting turned on so that you can access free WiFi hotspots.

3. Find free WiFi

The best way to communicate for free is to use WiFi overseas – free Wifi that is.  The easiest way to find free WiFi is to do your research when booking accommodation and choose one that includes free WiFi.  Be aware that free WiFi is never going to be as fast as your home connection, but it gets the job done whilst you are away.  Allowing you to keep up to date on all your social media like Facebook or Instagram and showcasing all those great travel photos.

If you can’t find accommodation with free WiFi perhaps find accommodation near free WiFi.  These days many city centres, shopping centres and McDonald’s offer free WiFi.  Using free Wifi is one of the best ways to use your mobile phone internationally without charges.

Top Trip Tip: Don’t forget there is also Facetime and messenger if you don’t want to go with one of these Apps

4. Free Apps

Besides sending emails and posting on social media through free WiFi the other communicate internationally is to make phone calls.  The cheapest way to use your mobile phone overseas is to utilise free international calling Apps.

My favourite free Apps for international calls are:

To keep in touch when overseas using these free apps you will need to download the App prior to leaving home plus your family and friends will also need to download the App.  Once you both have the App and are logged into WiFi or the Internet through your devices that have the Apps you can chat for as long as you like for free.  WooHoo!

Top Trip Tip: Don’t forget there is also Facetime and messenger if you don’t want to go with one of these Apps

5. Get a set price per day for international roaming

The disadvantage of using free Apps with free WiFi is that you are not constantly available to answer the phone.  Sometimes due to work commitments or other situations back home, you need to have constant access to the phone system.  There is no other way to get around this other than to pay.  But you can keep costs down or at least set yourself a daily budget that is manageable.

To start with you will need to advise your phone carrier company that you are travelling overseas and require international roaming.  International roaming is not cheap, especially for data usage.  However, these days most phone companies can offer a set price (above what you already pay per month) for an international roaming day pass.

For example, my husband’s phone is with an Australian company called Telstra they offer a $10/day international pass that provides unlimited phone calls, SMS and 200MB of data.  Whereas my phone is with Vodafone which offers set prices that include a fixed amount of talk, text and data.  As you can see there are variations between companies so do your homework on the best international roaming package for you.

These options are not necessarily cheap but it does allow you to budget daily for the cost as opposed to coming home to a big unwanted surprise – which has happened to us.  By the way these days mobile phone companies will no longer accept the excuse of “I didn’t know.”

Top Trip Tip: For financial safety’s sake I would still switch off your data roaming whilst you are out as even 200MB isn’t that much, then just switch it on when you need to access it.  Like checking Google Maps.

6. Buy a local SIM card

However, $10/day can become quite a bit if you are travelling internationally for a long period of time.

So another option for communicating internationally is to buy a local SIM card once you arrive at your destination.  This can help keep your costs down if you are travelling to a set international region for a long period of time or frequently returning to that destination.

If you are on vacation for a short period of time (like me these days) it is possibly not the best option, you may spend your first day of travel at the shops purchasing the SIM card and getting it set up.  It is not my ideal way to spend one of my limited holiday days.

Top Trip Tip: Do your research on mobile phone services in your country of travel before you leave home so you don’t waste time looking for the best deal

These days when we travel overseas, my husband needs to stay in constant contact with his business so he arranges an international roaming day pass for his phone calls.  I book accommodation with free WiFi and have free international calling Apps installed on my phone to keep in touch with family.

No longer am I waiting till I get to the designated town to collect my mail from the Poste Restante – now I can call my Dad for free internationally whenever I am in my hotel.

Travel tips on the cheapest and best ways to communicate overseas when you travel on a trip #TravelApps #TravelPlanning
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  1. chickenruby says:

    I ALWAYS PURCHASE A SIM CARD ON ARRIVAL BEFORE LEAVING THE AIRPORT. Quite often when you purchase from elsewhere in certain countries they won’t sell you one without a residence visa, if it’s not the country that issued your passport.

    1. Good tip about not being able to get a local visa if you are not a resident. Must check before you leave home.

  2. So much easier now than 20 years ago. I always forget to buy a local Sim. Thanks for linking up to #MondayEscapes.

    1. Staying in touch is certainly easier today than 20 years ago. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I have never bought a local sim card but it is a great idea. It is so important to have communication access now we have teens, their world could end if there was no wifi Thanks so much for linking up #MondayEscapes

    1. Local SIM’s could be the answer with teens, especially if you want to keep track of them as they become more independent and head out on their whilst you are away.

  4. It is easy to forget how much things have changed. Travelling Europe as a teen I didn’t speak to my parents for the full 3 weeks, there was no obvious way to do so, that was 1984. What a differnece today! MondayEscapes

    1. So true Fiona. Can’t believe your parents let you travel around Europe as a teen, mine were so stressed when I headed off in my mid 20’s.

  5. Our mobile provide offers passports which are very reasonable and offer lots of data so Skype is always available #mondayescapes

    1. Who’s your mobile provider – sounds like a great deal.

  6. So true that it’s so much easier to keep in touch then in the good old days, thank goodness that Poste Restante is a thing if the past, I never managed to keep plans long enough to pick up the post…too busy going with the flow #mondayescapes

    1. I was forever having to redirect my mail Andrea as I had arrived at a destination before I had originally planned.

  7. Great tips! Helpful post! My favorite way to communicate back to loved ones while on vacation is still through letters and postcards. Kind of old-fashioned, I know! Most often, I just use email these days though. #MondayEscapes

    1. I love old school postcards. My grandmother use to keep all the postcards I sent so I could add them to my photo albums as momentos of where I have travelled.

  8. Great tips! I remember hunting down Internet cafes to keep in touch with friends (email, MSN Messenger and ICQ!!) while traveling in the Philippines with my family.

    WhatsApp is what my husband and I usually to keep in touch while one of us is away. I use a Truphone SIM when we travel outside of Europe, particularly in the US, for those times I need to make calls or use data and just top it up when necessary. The service is all right and I can choose a temporary local phone number for people to reach me.

    1. I use WhatsApp as well to keep in contact with my Dad, Cindy.

  9. Great tips, we mostly get a local SIM card, and are always glad we have.

    1. Do you stay in one destination for a long time, Paula? Do you find it takes a small portion of your first day purchasing the SIM card and waiting for it to activate?

  10. I went to Ireland when i was 16 for 5 weeks and I called my parents once. It was no more than a 1-2 minute conversation — over when my pile of coins ran out. Now parents can be in touch as much as they and their kids want via skype, Facebook, email, etc. And it’s probably comforting for them. But there was something to be said for being really off on your own, too.

    1. Modern technology is a bit of a mixed blessing Eileen. I know my parents are comforted knowing they can get in touch easily these days, but it also means you never truly have a break – my husband is still answering business calls throughout our holidays.

  11. These are some good tips Sally-Ann. It has become easier than ever to stay in touch. This just makes it that much more frustrating when you can’t. We usually use free wifi when not traveling in Europe where we have free roaming in our plan. But we have gone with a local sim on a few occasions. Thanks for linking up, see you next weekend! #wkendtravelinspiration

    1. Have you found locating and connecting to the local SIM time consuming Jim or was it a smooth transition?

  12. I remember those times when you had to make a big line and wait to use the only public phone in a hotel. That was not good! I communicate mainly thru e-mail and messages using free w-fi. At the moment, I have not needed to get a data plans for my travels. #TheTravelPostcard

    1. I’m with you, Ruth. I find the hotel WiFi sufficient for catching up on my emails and social media. When I’m out and about I just want to enjoy the experience.

  13. I suppose it is a good thing to be able to stay in touch so easily but there was something really fun and exciting about the old days when you arrived at the Poste Restante with all your expectations of news from friends and family at home.

    1. Yes there was something special about collecting your mail from the Poste Restante. All the travellers would be sitting just outside the post office devouring their mail some with a smile on their face and others with a tear in the eyes as they read about all the happenings back home.

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