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Calling home from abroad

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Mar 18th, 2013, 07:05 AM
  #1
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Calling home from abroad

Hi,

I'll be heading to Europe for a few weeks this July, and have been wondering how to call home from there (Hungary, Austria, Czech Rep., Germany). I live in Canada, where cell phone plans are ridiculously expensive and non-competitive, so I just have a pay-as-you-go phone, which will cost me about $4/min abroad, according to Rogers. I'm looking for a simple way to call home, that will preferably not cost me the moon! Any advice?

Thanks,
Daphne
dls_canada is offline  
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Mar 18th, 2013, 08:15 AM
  #2
 
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Will you be taking a laptop, tablet or iPod Touch? Skype or FaceTime would be great if you have wifi access where you're staying and just need to check in occasionally. Not so great for emergency access. FaceTime is only for Apple-to-Apple connections, but it's free. Skype can be used with lots of devices, and is free as long as you're Skyping to another Skype account. I believe they charge if you connect to a "regular" phone number, but the price is quite reasonable.
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Mar 18th, 2013, 08:49 AM
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I second jent103's Skype idea. We had our iPads with us this week when we went to the Czech Republic, Spain and Italy, and we were able to use the Skype phone call function for free. I had problems with my flights, so I called American Airlines, for free with this function. It was great.
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Mar 18th, 2013, 09:24 AM
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Buy a prepaid international calling card from most kiosks or tobacco stands and follow the instructions on it for international usage.
Relatively cheap in Switzerland "Flash card" (one of the few things in Switzerland that are!)
I do this every time from Germany and Switzerland--beats $4/minute!
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Mar 18th, 2013, 09:33 AM
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I have the Skype app on my iPhone and agree it is a great way to stay in touch. You can also purchase an inexpensive phone number from Skype to give to family at home so they can call you. Wifi is necessary but if you miss a call you will get a message and can call back when you have wifi again.
www.skype.com
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Mar 18th, 2013, 04:38 PM
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I don't have a laptop/iPad/iPhone, so the prepaid international calling card sounds good. Do you have to buy one for each country, or can they be used for all? Thanks!
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Mar 18th, 2013, 05:01 PM
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I second the calling card option - they're cheap and readily available. I THINK you need one for each country, but since those aren't countries I regularly visit can't say, but they come in different denominations, so it won't be expensive if you pick up one for say 5 or 10 euros in each.
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Mar 18th, 2013, 05:52 PM
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Be sure and check with your hotel before using the room phone. Hotel policies differ greatly. You don't want to discover at checkout you were being charged exorbitant fees. We found pay phones to be an endangered species in several places we visited.
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Mar 18th, 2013, 06:50 PM
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Calling cards are easy and cheap, but as violetduck points out, depend on your access to a land line. Depending on where you're staying, that may or may not be an issue (if you're staying in hostels, probably no access to a phone unless they have a pay phone in the public space). You could do a calling card and/or try to Skype at internet cafes.

When I bought calling cards in the UK, they were UK-specific. You can get them at places in the US (I would imagine in Canada as well), and you might be able to use those in multiple countries, but they might not be as cheap. My calling card experience is about a decade old, though, so I'm not 100% sure.
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Mar 18th, 2013, 08:10 PM
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Another cheap option is to just go to an internet cafe and they should let you make a VOIP call for pennies a minute.
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Mar 18th, 2013, 08:54 PM
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www.ricksteves.com has a lot of helpful information about calling. Click on Plan your Trip, then Travel Tips and go down the page to Communicating.
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Mar 19th, 2013, 04:06 AM
  #12
 
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Calling cards must be purchased in each country.
Payphones are usually easily found inside train stations or other larger transportation stations.
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Jan 4th, 2014, 04:44 AM
  #13
 
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If you just want to make calls home, international calling cards are your best option, even though you'd have to get one for each country you want to call from. I used to use these (in Italy) before I got Skype. Your can get them for as little as 5 euros, and that would usually be enough to make numerous calls. However, you get many more minutes from a land-line phone than from a pay phone. For four countries, you'd pay €20, and I don't think there's any option that would cost less.

The cards in Italy, and probably in the other countries, have a toll-free number you can use to make the call; I don't know about the other countries, but in Italy, hotels aren't allowed to charge you for calling a toll-free number. Then you enter your PIN (found on the card) and dial the number you want to call. The cards normally give you the option of the language you want to use, and they have cards for calling to different continents, so that you get the lowest rates available. In Italy, there are special cards for calling the "USA and Europe", which also include Canada even if they don't say so.

To dial the USA or Canada from Europe, you have to put either +1 or 001 in front of the area code.

If you want family members to be able to contact you in an emergency, you'd have to find another option. If you'll have access to computers from time to time, you might want to open a Skype account and get an American Skype number; the last time I checked, Canada didn't allow virtual numbers, so unless something changed, I don't think you could get a Canadian number. Still, a number in the US should be easy for friends and family to call, as the country code is the same and it would just be a different area code. The last time I checked you could open a Skype account for as little as $10, and an American Skype number was perhaps $15 a month, so you'd need to put at least that amount on the account. People who call the Skype number can leave a voice message if you don't answer the phone (which you won't be able to if you don't have a computer, tablet, or smart phone). As long as you can check your messages fairly often from a hotel computer or internet café, this might be enough to allow family members to keep in touch. You should tell your family that in case of a real emergency, they should call your cell phone, because in that situation the $4 wouldn't be important. However, first make sure your phone will work in Europe. It has to be a triband or quad-band phone to be able to work here.

You could also get a cheap phone here in Europe; most countries have pay-as-you-go calling plans that work throughout Europe, and there are often cheap plans for calling other countries. Or you could buy a cheap phone from Amazon or EBay; to use it with a European calling plan it should be an "unlocked quad-band GSM phone". Triband would also work, but with less coverage; triband phones are getting rare, though.
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Feb 14th, 2014, 05:40 AM
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I think you have a lot of options.

Question: I know you don't have an iphone. Do you by any chance have any type of smartphone (Android, etc)? It's possible you could still use Skype.

We have Androids, and we use them only in WiFi over there for email capacities, but we could use Skype on them.

We also have cheapie GSM (Europe-ready) phones. Often, we've picked these phones up as soon as we arrive with time credit on them for 15 Euros or less. You certainly can use an international calling credit with them.
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Jul 30th, 2014, 08:28 PM
  #15
 
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A few years ago my brother and his wife needed to call home frequently to check on her mother. We would check at the tourist office (Germany) and they would refer us to an internet cafe where calls could be made very cheaply via the internet. The places that we visited had decent privacy and the cost was very low.
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Jul 30th, 2014, 10:23 PM
  #16
 
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Here is a long shot thought: If the people that you want to call have iphones/ipads/ipods, then you can buy a used 4th/5th generation ipod (the music device) for under $100 on ebay. Then get FaceTime for it and you will have unlimited, free calls so long as you have wifi. Plus free text messaging with IMessage. Not to mention, internet browsing... for free.

Sell the device on ebay when you get back and the whole thing costs, maybe, $15 of ebay fees (and, of course, more time on the front end than many people would be willing to spend).
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Jul 30th, 2014, 10:27 PM
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.... oh, wow, sorry, I didn't see that this was a zombie thread revived from 5 months ago.
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