International Calling: Ways To Get In Touch While Abroad

Whether you’re leaving the kids behind for the first time or you’re an independent world traveler, its a good idea to know your resources for getting in touch once in country.

First and foremost, international calls follow a set pattern:

International calling prefix or exit code (to establish an international connection) + country code + city code + number

For example, if calling from the United States to Cusco, Peru and vice versa:

011 (exit code in the U.S.) + 51 (Peru country code) + 84 (Cusco city code) + number

00 (exit code for Peru) + 1 (U.S. country code) + 312 (Chicago city code) + number

Tons of websites exist with information on how to call from here to there. I found www.howtocallabroad.com to be very user friendly, allowing you to choose the country you are calling from and where you want to call — with city codes to follow. The site countrycode.org allows you to choose a country and then view all city codes. The sites are endless.

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Internet connection provides a very convenient and inexpensive way to touch base with not-so-pressing updates or concerns. And internet cafes are all over the place in many cities. For those that really get into planning, www.cybercafes.com provides a database of cafes in well over 100 countries.

For the internet savvy, get you and those you can’t live without a Skype account. You can make free Skype-to-Skype calls and pretty cheap international calls to landlines and cellphones. For about $13 a month you can make unlimited international calls to landlines in up to 40 countries. Connection to cellphones comes at an additional fee, but you could always opt for a pay as you go plan. Definitely a cheep and accessible way for travelers to connect with those at home.

Calling cards work nicely if you know you will have ready access to a phone and/or prefer the telephone to the computer. Plus, you can nab a card almost anywhere. It is a good idea to buy your card in the country you will be making your calls from because there can be issues… with, say, a U.S. international calling card making international calls from Ecuador — or so we’ve been told.

You can purchase the card ahead of time on sites like cheapcard.org or www.callingcards.com. Click where you will be calling from and where you want to call and voila! you have a list of  cards to choose from. There are downsides to using a card, such as certain hotels will charge a connection fee even if you are using a card and often the cards themselves have hidden “connection fees.” Still, they’re cheaper than a direct long-distance call.

For the cellphone dependent and those that need to be able to be reached at any given time, there are options. You can actually rent-a-phone, buy a country-specific or international sim card, or — if you travel a lot — buy an international phone plan. A cellphone, while spendy, provides access for both parties and is the most instant source of communication. You could check with your phone provider to see what international calling plans they have or www.cellularabroad.com offers a variety of different options (as listed above) for international cellphone use.

On the flip side, if you doubt you’ll need immediate phone use, many cities do have calling stations, similar and at times included with internet cafes, where you can go to make a long distance call if something comes up.

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It’s also good sense for folks back home to know how to get a hold of you if need be. Make a list of the hotels you will be staying at with their contact information. If you’re traveling with a specific tour operator, be sure to get an emergency contact number or email so that family members can get directly to someone that knows about your trip and how to get a message to you. And, finally, this is going to kill me to say, but… occasionally check your email. Literally, less than a minute and you’ll know all is well.

For many, part of the novelty of traveling lies in getting away from the constant contact of everyday life. I get that. Nonetheless, things come up and sometimes you do need to maintain contact. It’s good to know your options.

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