Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cheap International Calls: Staying Connected

Okay, now that you've finally settled into your new home, here's the next big challenge:  staying connected with the folks back home.  I don't know about you, but the biggest complaint I get from family and friends in my home country is, "You are so far away!"  Back when we first joined the Foreign Service, when the internet was in its toddler years, international calls by landline were both intimidating and expensive.  Cheap international calls was a misnomer.  Facebook wasn't even around.  Email was the sure-fire way to communicate internationally, but my parents, at the time, were far from technologically capable- me too for that matter!  Boy, have we come a long way!  Nowadays, you can make cheap international calls through your computer, cell/smart phone, or landline, and free international calls on  your computer if you don't mind video conferencing.

Oldies, but Goodies

The two oldest and maybe easiest ways to make cheap international calls are through Skype and Vonage.  They are old-school and even though they are cheap compared to traditional ways to call internationally, they are the most expensive compared to the new competition out there.  Believe or not, this is the first country that we have used the computer for cheap international calls.  When I say we are technologically impaired, I mean it!  We had used Skype video conferencing, but then you had to make sure that the people at home had Skype and could navigate through the conferencing, not always a sure thing.  Plus, sometimes I just want to be heard and not seen!

Skype: cheaper, but computer-tied
So, before we came to Belgrade, I set up a Skype phone call account for these cheap international calls.  Through Skype, you get to choose a permanent phone number from where you want to call.  For example, if you want to call the U.S. you get a U.S. phone number.  Therefore, it's a "national" call.  Then, through your computer, you can call anywhere you want with the charges being for a national or local call.  I used Skype because I knew Skype.  New technological stuff makes me break into a cold sweat (Yes, blogging is forcing me to face my fears).  Skype was cheaper than Vonage.  I'm a sucker for bargains.  Also, you don't need anything other than a computer and internet access for your cheap international calls, no extra "box" or new phone.  You can call right away, the same day, the same hour as set-up even.

The only problem is that with Skype cheap international calls you are tied to your computer, like the old-time corded landline.  You can't walk around.  Albeit, you can check your email, but you can't answer the doorbell.  You sometimes get a lag time during conversation and sometimes an alien enters the body of your loved one and speaks for them.  On the other hand, my folks get a U.S. number to call me from their landline or cell phone.  No country code and foreign operator chatting to you in a language you don't understand.  Oh!  Another cool thing about Skype is that you can use it anywhere you have internet.  Say you are on vacation in Finland and your mom wants to call you.  Ring, ring!  There you have them, cheap international calls made easy.

Vonage: clearer, but boxed-in
Some of my friends use Vonage, the grandmother of cheap international phone calls.  I've never used Vonage; I've only been on the receiving end.  The thing I can say about the calls is that they are nice and clear.  I've never noticed a lag time or the alien invasion.  The thing about Vonage is that you need a Vonage Box; they send it to you in the mail.  This could be a problem if you don't have APO or Diplomatic Pouch or if you want to make a phone call right NOW.  Also, the phone plans are more expensive.  You pay for the alien-blocker and the ability to water your grass while you're on the phone.  Unless you take your box and computer with you on vacation, though, you're stuck at home and the, what, 500 ft circumference surrounding your phone.  So, here you have cheap international calls that sound like you're around the corner even if you're at home in Moscow in a bubble bath.

Newbies: cheap, but maybe complicated
Nowadays, there are tons of competitors to our old friends Skype and Vonage.  Rebtel and Evaphone came up on my Google search for cheap international calls.  They seem a bit more complicated to me, the technophobe (which means they probably aren't complicated for people other than my mom and I).  It seems like the person on the other end of your phone line has to sign up to the program too (which isn't the case with Skype and Vonage), but I'm not sure.  Also, you have to assign your contacts a new number and save that number with their name, and extra step that I'm sure I'd screw up.  They are considerably cheaper, though, so the Cheapo in me is viciously poking the Technophobe.  MoneySavingExpert.com outlines a ton of these programs for cheap international calls.  The Expert gives the pros and cons of several programs, including the quality of the call and the price.   You might want to refer to him, if you like to check out your line of options.

If you've found a program you like, please comment below and share your wisdom with the rest of us.

Now, call your mother.

But, wait, don't forget the time difference.  If only they could invent something to circumnavigate that.  H.G. Wells, we need you now.




13 comments:

  1. We use Magicjack. It, a couple times bigger than a USB thumb drive), is plugged into a USB port on our computer and the phone jack is connected to it. We have a US number on the account, so calls to the US and to us are free. I also have the Magicjack app on my smart phone, and the app uses the same US number. So when someone calls, I can answer it on our landline home phone or on my mobile. You have to pay for a several-year subscription, but it is relatively inexpensive. I think I paid $70 for a 5-year subscription.

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    1. Wow! Totally missed this in the network! Thank you so much! This sounds awesome. I have to check it out. It's like a Skype/Vonage Siamese twin! I'm not sure you can do better than that. See, folks, what happens when you comment? Thank you, Sherp!

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  2. This blog provide a amazing facility for the international calls and informing about cheap international calls staying. International Phone Call

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  3. I had to agree that your post is worth reading for. Honestly, after reading your post I got some realization about this kind of issue. Thank you for sharing this informative and educational post. I hope that one day you will have a post discussing about
    free international calls. Thank you and I look forward to have more of your post sooner.

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    1. Thank you for your input. Please let us know what works for you and what doesn't and we'd be happy to include it! Again, thanks!

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  4. i want to know how to make low cost international calls from uk to Canada with best possible calling rates. Can anyone suggest me something?

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  5. I live in Australia but most of my relatives lives in other countries so i wanted to know how to make cheap international calls from London to reduce my call rates.

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  6. I am looking for a reliable connection for International calling which offers Cheap International Calls from Australia.Can anyone suggest me something?

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  7. Hello,
    I am living in India But mostly I used to call Bangladesh for personal as well as business purposes. So can anyone suggest me how to make Cheap international call to Bangladesh, It would be help full for me

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  8. There are many ways you can make calls to abroad

    1.Use smartphone calling apps like Skype,Line etc.
    2.Some specialist internet telephony provider that allows two people with web access to make free calls via landlines. It only works for a limited range of countries, mainly North America, Australasia and Europe, but is a very useful tool for those who prefer the normal phone. You'll have to add some credit to the
    account but can then have unlimited free calls for six weeks.
    3.If both you and the person you're calling have inclusive minutes, of some network provider, will allow you to make free calls. It's slightly more complicated
    than just picking up the phone; while the call is routed through the internet for the main part, it works via a callback system so you're effectively dialing a cheaper
    local rate at both ends.
    4.Use Wi-Fi for calling, messaging, conferencing and accessing the Web.
    5.This is the easiest option ,as long as your cellphone uses the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM),do it will work with any wireless provider. Select a good provider with best international call package.With the better provider, you can call to other country for less than 50 cents per minute—much less, in some cases—plus local calls are less than that..To use another sim card you may need to unlock from current network lock .It is not a big issue to get it unlocked, you may be able to do it by finding the relevant software in the internet or by an online provider like MobileUnlockSolutions.com

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for the extra information!

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