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How To Text and Make Internet Calls for Free When You Travel

07.08.2019 0 Leila Berney
How To Text and Make Internet Calls for Free When You Travel

If you’re used to spending a small fortune on calls and limiting your text messaging whilst on holidays, the good news is that times have changed!  

With the Internet at our disposal, it’s actually gotten really easy to bypass “ye old and expensive mobile network”, and make use of handy apps to stay in touch with family and friends instead. 

Not only is communicating through these apps much cheaper and often free, they also offer a stack of extra features that don’t exist with the more traditional telephone service option. 

All you need is a working Internet or 3G connection, and you’re good to go!

 

So, how does making calls over the Internet work? 

Without getting too technical here, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communication works by converting phonecalls into data. 

Instead of being restricted by physical cable lines, this data zips around through high-speed internet. It’s fast, reliable, and generally sounds as clear and crisp as a landline call.

This might sound complicated, but it's actually pretty simple to talk and text over the Internet if you’ve got the right apps!

Generally, you’re limited to only contacting other app users, but the perks are that anyone with a smartphone can use them, it’s really easy to sign up, and totally free. 

However, there are some apps that also support calling landlines or mobile numbers, which makes things even easier. 

Here are our top picks:

 

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is one of our top 7 travel apps. It uses very little data to work its magic, and you can get in touch with people on any type of device, so long as they also have an account. You sign up by confirming your mobile number, then everything works over WiFi or cellular data. 

If you click to start a new chat, you can clearly see which of your contacts are also on WhatsApp. From there, you can send text messages, photos, videos, share your location and call for free, no matter where you are in the world.

There’s also a web and desktop version of Whastapp, which is really useful if you don’t have access to your phone for whatever reason.

The only catch with this one is you can’t make calls to landline phones or non-users, and you need an existing phone number to create an account.

  • Uses your real phone number
  • Free calls, texts, photos, videos with other users
  • Works on mobile, desktop and web
  • Can’t call non-users or landlines 

 

Viber

Pretty similar to WhatsApp, Viber is another option for app to app communication. It can be used on both mobile and desktop devices.

After signing up with your number, the app scopes out your contact list to find other Viber users, and from there everything is managed within the app. And yes, everything you send or receive from other Viber accounts is absolutely free. Photos, videos, you name it. 

If you need to send & receive calls and texts from non-users, you can opt to sign up for a local number in certain countries, but that does incur a fee.

  • Is activated via your real phone number
  • Free calls, texts, photos, videos with other users
  • Works on mobile and desktop
  • Can sign up for a local number, for a fee.

 

Skype

Primarily known as a platform for Internet phone and video calls, Skype allows pretty much any variation of communication.

Yes, app to app calls and texts are totally free, but that isn’t what you’re limited to. Skype actually has a feature that enables calling and receiving calls from non-Skype phone numbers - for a small fee. Very useful if you’re on the road and need to make a quick call to a landline. 

The app works well on both mobile and desktop devices; you just need to sign up for an account and connect with other users, either by using the public Skype directory or by adding people via their username.

Though it also supports text messaging, this is one we moreso rate on its phone and video call capacity. 

  • Doesn’t use a real phone number
  • Free calls, texts, photos, videos with other users
  • Works on mobile and desktop
  • Can call landlines and non-users, for a fee.

 

Facebook Messenger

Though limited to Facebook users, Facebook Messenger is worth a mention as so many of us already have accounts. It’s a no-brainer in terms of convenience. 

This messaging service supports texts, GIFs, photos, videos, and also offers both video and phone calls. All you need is to be “friends” on Facebook, find the person in your contact list and start chatting. 

Facebook Messenger works online as well as via the mobile app. Unfortunately you can’t call landlines or “real” phone numbers, but chances are the people you want to stay in touch with on this more personal platform will also have the app. 

  • Works from you Facebook account = all your contacts.
  • Free calls, texts, photos, videos with other users
  • Works on mobile and desktop
  • Can’t call landlines and non-users

 

FaceTime & iMessage

This one is specific to Apple iOS users, so apologies to any Android people out there. 

Perhaps an obvious one, arguably the easiest way to save money on calls and texts while you travel is just to use the iOS services iMessage and FaceTime with other Apple users. 

iMessage is just a better version of normal SMS. You can send links, images, videos, group messages and even voice recordings using the little microphone icon.

You might’ve noticed that when you iPhone, iPad and Mac users, the messages show up as blue. That basically means they’re being sent via the Internet and not costing you mobile network texting fees. This is good. Use this. 

FaceTime is another Apple iOS app that you might not have used before. It’s already installed on every iOS device and is super convenient for making calls. All you need to do is start a new FaceTime and choose audio or video. 

If you’re using an iPhone, you can actually see little FaceTime video and telephone widgets when you click on a contact. Super easy. 

  • Works from your iPhone or Mac
  • Free calls, texts, photos, videos with other Apple iOS users
  • Works on mobile and desktop
  • Doesn’t work for landlines or Android users

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