Although T-Mobile’s latest groundbreaking plan change is making it easier (and cheaper) than ever to text and check e-mail on your phone while in a foreign land, staying in touch is still a chore. The simplest way involves roaming with your home carrier, but if you aren’t careful, you could be paying upwards of $1 to $2 per minute when making a simple call. Thankfully, it’s not all that difficult to get around this, and it's becoming easier to find free calling options thanks to the proliferation of smartphone apps. Below, a few current favorites.
Google Hangouts for iPhone: If you’re an iPhone owner, this is a must-download. It’s a free chat app from Google, but the secret sauce lies in the dialer. First, you’ll need to head over to Google Voice and register for a free phone number. Once you’ve secured that, this app will allow you to make and receive calls from U.S. and Canadian phone numbers free of charge. Unlike conventional voice calls, the Hangouts app uses mobile data to send and receive signals. So, as long as you have a local SIM card or you’ve found a Wi-Fi hotspot, you can call as if you were standing in your backyard.
Gmail: While this trick doesn’t yet work on your phone, those who have brought their laptop along for the international ride will be pleased to know that you can make and receive calls from U.S. and Canadian phone numbers right inside one’s Gmail account. You’ll need to secure the Google Voice number that I mentioned above, but if you’ve already accomplished that, you’ll simply need to install ‘Voice and Video Chat’ from Google (available here), ensure that your laptop is connected to Wi-Fi, and dial away.
Facebook Messenger: With nearly one billion people registered on Facebook, there’s a better-than-average chance that a lot of your loved ones are members. If so, the Messenger app (available for iPhone and Android) will allow you to engage in free voice calls with anyone who is linked as your friend within the service. As with the aforementioned Hangouts app, you’ll need only a live data connection, as no voice minutes will be used.
If you’re curious to learn about procuring a local data SIM or other creative ways to secure mobile data at reduced rates while traveling abroad, be sure to visit our prior guide right here.