This post is in collaboration with our pals at Tep Wireless. We only work with cool brands that we know you’ll love.
When you’re traveling abroad, you’ll want to keep in touch with family and friends back home, as well as your travel buddies and new friends that you’ll meet along the way. Using your phone internationally is WAY too expensive, and decent, secure wifi spots can be few and far between, so here are some cheap and free ways to communicate while you’re traveling abroad.
Get a portable wifi device
Not having data on your phone while you’re out and about on your travels can be a bummer when you’re trying to Snapchat or call your tour guide to let them know you’re running late. Having a portable wifi device with you means you can access the internet from your smartphone whenever you need, letting you communicate with people at home and also abroad just like you would at home.
A wifi keylike Tep Wireless’s also acts as a good backup— even if your hostel or a nearby cafe says it has wifi, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to connect to it or that it will actually work. Having your own device means you can connect securely and whenever and wherever you want to.
If you’re traveling in a group, you can connect up to five devices at one time to the wifi key, so you can split the cost with each other, making it dirt cheap to always have the internet with you. Even if you’re a solo traveler, you can offer your new travel friends the chance to connect in exchange for a bit of cash… or a beer!
Use Facebook for mass family communication while abroad
While I’m not a fan of spamming all of your friends with travel posts and updates, you should totally use social media as a way of letting everyone know that you’re safe and where you are without having to send multiple messages to multiple groups of people.
Facebook is a great tool for this because it’s likely that your older family members are using it, unlike Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat. So to keep everyone updated, get into the routine of posting a couple of photos throughout the day and checking into your hostel once you arrive to a new destination. This will save you having to send an “I’m here” message and also keep the “are you ok honey?” texts from ruining your good time.
Before you go abroad, though, make sure you educate your older family members on how Facebook works. Tell them that they might not see every single post that you publish, show them how to check your profile page, what a check-in means, and how to message you privately. And, if you feel necessary, beg them not to comment with any “mom-type comments” on your posts. Yeah… you know what I’m talking about.
Show your friends what you’re up to with Snapchat and Instagram
If you want to keep your friends back at home updated on your “non-parent-friendly” activities, Snapchat is great for that. Post videos and photos throughout the day showing them what you’re up to and where you are… just try to not drop your phone or wifi device into a stein of beer, ok??
You can also use Instagram to share your photos with everyone back home, and if you’re not much of a Facebook person, you can set up your Instagram to share your new ‘grams to Facebook with just one tap on the Instagram app. Easy and quick, so you can get back to exploring while your family can see that you’re safe and sound.
Use video chat to talk to friends and family back home
Apps and software like Skype and FaceTime make it so easy to speak to your family and friends while traveling, especially if you get a little homesick or have parents that worry just a little too much.
Time differences can make video calls tough to set up, so when you keep missing each other, use the video message feature on Skype to send a fun video message showing that you’re ok and having a great trip abroad. Things like that will make your family and significant others smile, and you’ll love coming back to your hostel after a day of sightseeing to find a video message too 🙂
If you want to speak to more than one person at a time, you can use Skype for that too, for up to five people. Or you hop on the Google Hangouts app.
Hop on Skype to call cell phones and landlines for cheap
When I lived abroad in Italy for a year, my mom hadn’t yet made the switch to a smartphone, so I didn’t have the option of Facetiming or iMessaging her from my iPhone when I wanted to talk to her. But if I wanted to chat, I would use Skype’s international calling service to call her cell phone, and it cost just a few cents a minute. Before you go abroad, buy some Skype credit so you’re ready to go once you want to make a call. It’s also great to use when you want to call to make a reservation at a restaurant, get lost while trying to meet your Airbnb host, etc.
*Tip– some companies that are used to dealing with international travelers will have a Skype name for their business listed on their website. If you need to get in touch, instead of calling their landline, add their business name on Skype and call them that way— it’s free!
Send quick messages via WhatsApp
The beauty of WhatsApp is that even those that are stuck in the dinosaur ages (ahem, Blackberry users) can download and use it, unlike iMessage. Download WhatsApp before you go traveling abroad— it’s used by millions of people around the world, so when you meet new travel friends and need to get in contact with them, you can be pretty sure that you’ll be able to connect with each other on Whatsapp, no matter what type of phone you’re both using.
While I definitely don’t recommend sitting in your hostel connected to the internet all day (unless you’re working of course!) being able to communicate while traveling abroad can make your trip easier, safer, and more fun. The fact that you can make your friends jealous with your Snapchats doesn’t hurt either…
Thanks Tep Wireless for working together with us on this post. Our awesome sponsors help keep The Abroad Guide going!