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Escape Hunter Planning How to Call Home From Abroad?

How to Call Home From Abroad?

July 5, 2015

If roaming doesn't work and you can't connect to internet abroad, it's not the end of the World, you can still call back home.
You can still call your loved ones from abroad, even if you cannot rely on roaming and Skypeing is impossible...

The first thing most of us do is to call back home and let our loved ones know that we're OK.

I've been in situations when that wasn't possible for several days. I was in a big city in Spain and there was no way to connect to the internet, nor to get my cellphone connect.

If you have something important to communicate or an emergency situation, then it can feel paralysing.

Calling home from abroad

Source: © iStock.com/luckyraccoon

Your phone can break down as well or the WiFi signal can be so weak you can barely send out a humble e-mail.

Back in 2008, when I started traveling, there were still very few WiFi connecting possibilities. Even in Western Europe, most hotels were using cable internet and few cafes or restaurants had internet.

In some countries connecting to others' internet signal without their permission is prohibited (a good example is Singapore). Don't sit outside a restaurant or bar, hoping to connect to their signal without their permission.

Back in the "old days" there used to be public phones using coins and/or phone cards.

Later, internet cafes appeared. Back then, there was no WiFi and few people had internet at home. The internet cafes are scarce, but there are specialized calling centres that have internet as well.

In the digital age, we're increasingly dependent upon what we have on ourselves: smartphone, laptop, tablet... even some watches have WiFi compatibility.

What if your laptop breaks down and your forget your phone charger back home?

Besides not having connection, you can merely not have any digital devices to use.

No phone, no computer - how do you call home from abroad?

It's not the end of the World - here are a few things to try...

#1 Buy pre-paid SIM cards

You can obtain pre-paid SIM cards compatible with your phone in almost any country.

In order to be able to do this, you need an unlocked cellphone. Otherwise, it won't work in foreign networks.
In addition, the frequency range you phone operates on will need to be compatible with the respective foreign network's frequency.

There are some rare exceptions: SIM card format might differ and in some countries there might not be SIM cards used in most mobiles (Japan is a good example).

Where to get pre-paid SIM cards?

You'll need to do your own research - options vary from country to country.
You can use the country-specific topics of popular travel forums to find answers.

In some countries you can simply buy a pre-paid SIM card, insert it into your mobile, activate it and you can call home.
But in Cuba, for instance, you only have the possibility to rent a SIM card.

I recommend you check National Geographic's SIM cards - they sell SIM cards for a vast number of countries.

Additionally, you should read Which.co.uk's guide on using mobile phones abroad and Rebtel's international calling guide.

#2 Enter any hotel and offer to pay for an international call

Most hotels have paid phone services. Major hotels quite often charge their own fees.
Expect high prices, but there's a high chance they will allow you to call if you pay.

I'd normally target 3-star to more star hotels. Smaller hotels might not have such a service, but I wouldn't exclude them either (most of them tend to have phones for employees or no possibility for phoning).

#3 Find a calling centre with internet access

There are many of these in Europe and Latin America.
They have their own PCs and usually they have headphones.

Some have cabins with headphones and microphones and you'll need to pay for a certain amount of minutes and they will connect you with the number you request.

Where to find such a calling centre?

They tend to be around train stations, and/or in central areas where there are many hotels. The best option is to look around (and ask) in the proximity of train stations.

#4 Find a post office

These are also good places for buying pre-paid SIM cards, but some may also have paid calling services through their phones.

Ironically, the more less developed a country or region is, the more likely it is to find phones at their postal offices.

The digital age has given us smartphones with GPS and internet, but has taken public phones away from us.

#5 Look around at the airport or train station

Hunt for companies offering calling services.
There will be plenty of car rental booths, tour operators' offices, airport transfer service-providers and you might also come across a phone call service provider.

Sometimes you can buy (or rent) pre-paid SIM cards at the airport.

#6 Calling from airplanes

Large long-range planes often have paid telephone service.

I remember Lufthansa has such an in-flight calling service back in the late 90's (terribly high costs for the caller, of course).

How does in-flight calling work? Check this guide.

Escape Hunter

About the Author:

Escape Hunter, the young solo traveler in his early 30's explores the World driven by curiosity, thirst for adventure, deep passion for beauty, love for freedom and diversity.
With a nuanced, even humorous approach to travel, an obsession for art and design, Escape Hunter prefers to travel slowly, in order to learn and "soak up" the local atmosphere...


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