Budget Travel – Communicating Long Distances by Phone, Internet and Post on the Cheap

Some people go travelling to get away from the normality of a job or family life to experience different things and meet new people but everyone will need to talk to those back home for one reason or another. I phoned home every two weeks to check in and to make sure my bank balance was still health but regular communications with home over long distances, if not handled correctly, can be very expensive. All it takes to keep communication costs low is a bit of knowledge and prior planning. Below is some insight into how the modern traveller can communicate with home from anywhere on the globe.

A few years ago I would have said that the majority of people would have phoned home to communicate while travelling but the trend has significantly turned in recent years due to the Internet. The Internet has become a cheap, universal and powerful tool in communicating with a wide audience of people over incredible distances. Some people take to creating a travel blog to report on what they are doing on a day to day basis and to upload photos. This is undoubtedly the best way to provide a detailed insight into your journeys for those back at home for next to nothing. Many services exist that allow you to create a blog for free but do require other people to sign up to a website to be able to view the blog. Similarly travellers can also create groups on social networking sites such as Facebook which also let you upload photos. If you do decide to create a blog or Facebook group, remember that some of your audience may not have the necessary accounts to view your entries. For example, I doubt that your grandma will have a Facebook account even if she did have a computer with Internet access. To get around this problem there are free services that allow you to create your blog independent of a user login. You will be given a URL which is a sub domain of the. If you create interesting and well written content then you could add advertising on your space and create a little extra money on the side.

For direct conversation over the web, it is common for people to talk via instant messaging services with people from home. All Internet cafes I visited had at either MSN or Yahoo Messenger installed and a fair few also had Skype. If you have not heard of Skype then it is something to look out for in Internet cafes while travelling. This service uses voice over IP technology to allow you to phone home while only charging you the price of the Internet time if your recipient is also using Skype and has a Skype phone. Calls from a Skype phone to a land line and vice versa does have a small fee but is nothing in comparison to the real McCoy. Already you can see the huge saving potential in this method. Try and set up a Skype phone on your home computer before you leave to take full advantage of voice over IP’s savings.

If you would rather have the convenience of talking without finding an Internet Café, you could buy an international phone card. You can get phone cards online or at most travel agents in the high street. Phone cards are compatible with the majority of pay phones around the world and each will normally say if it accepts them. If it is unclear or not marked on the pay phone, try it anyway as you will only be charged if you get through to someone. The calls are charged at a reduced rate and make you substantial savings over using your mobile or ploughing coins into a pay phone. If you plan to stay in an area for a significant amount of time and you plan on working, you may want to buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM card for your handset for local calls. These can usually be acquired cheaply and at a low price.

The last method of communicating with home from your travelling experience is via snail mail. Everyone appreciates a post card and you may need to send more than one if going for several months. When you get home you can collect them up and keep them as a reminder to yourself of where you have been. If you want to send presents home or items of clothing or equipment that are not needed anymore, you can use either air mail or sea freight. Air mail is clearly the quicker option and for that reason the most expensive. If you do not mind if you beat your items home then I recommend using the sea freight option. Be sure to write a return address on the parcel which is another family member in your country of origin. If you do not then there is a chance that an undelivered parcel could be sent back to where it was sent from by default. You could also opt to pay for parcel tracking if the item was of value but be warned that the packages do get scanned so do not attempt to smuggle anything home.

By Alex Williams

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