While living or traveling abroad everyone wants to enjoy the same level of connectivity and convenience provided by today’s technology, but choosing an affordable way to stay in touch can be quite complicated, since the best method often depends on the situation at hand.
For example, options include calling from an old-school landline phone, using an international cell phone roaming plan (offered by most major carriers), hot spot passes, SIM cards with local pre-paid minutes, VoIP services, phone cards, phone rentals and WiFi calling, along with a staggering variety of Internet-based, software and app solutions.
“Each method has its pros and cons,” writes the New York Times. “Just be sure to choose before you travel.”
Since Mexico’s telephone network is among the most well developed in all of Latin America, it offers a wide variety of options, including simple landlines, high-speed Internet (ADSL) services and the latest in mobile technologies. As in all developed nations, the advent of Internet-based telephone services and state-of-the-art mobile networks have made a significant impact on the way people communicate and stay in touch with others who are located both in and out of Mexico, in part by reducing the need to rely on high-cost long distance landline connections.
In fact, VoIP services like Skype and Vonage are available throughout the country’s major cities and towns at Internet cafes, many of which which have the service installed on available devices with headsets ready to go, or patrons can opt to use their own devices. These services cost just pennies per minute from a preloaded account and Skype-to-Skype calls are free. Affordable VoIP plans are also available that will allow you to set up call forwarding and use a voice mailbox with your choice of area codes. Tip: Combine this service with a cheap cell phone package while abroad to save even more.
If the Internet is not available, it’s often more affordable to use a calling card from a payphone or landline to call destinations outside of Mexico, since calling without a prepaid card can be as high as .50 cents per minute or more to the U.S. Also, keep in mind that using a cell phone from a major carrier outside of Mexico without a special international plan can cost up to three times that much for coverage that may be spotty.
SIM Card Swap
If you must use a cell phone and need to make and/or receive a bunch of calls while in Mexico, consider opting for an unlocked international tri-bandor quad-band phone, such as the one offered by Telestial. Upon arrival at your destination of choice, simply switch out the SIM card with a local one from any phone shop and pay local rates thereafter. After the minutes expire, you can reload the card almost anywhere, including airports and convenience stores. One big upside to this option is that you get to keep the phone and use in whenever – and wherever – you travel.
For short trips, it can make sense to rent a phone from companies like Mobal or Travelcell, which offer a unique service that only requires you to pay for the minutes you actually use. Incoming calls are even free in some areas, while outgoing calls are generally lower than what most major carriers will demand. Phone rental service is also “carrier neutral” which allows the phone to roam on whatever local network is strongest, which typically results in better call quality.
WiFi & Hotspot
Most new smartphones are capable of making calls whenever they are connected to a WiFi network. While traveling outside of your normal coverage area, simply adjust the settings so the only time you will use the data function abroad is when a hotspot is available. This allows you to surf the web for free or for the cost you are paying for the WiFi connection – just don’t expect the sound quality to be perfect, especially if there are a bunch of users online.
Finally, consider installing a software application on your smartphone, which allows you to make calls via the app’s conditions. Just be sure to look at things like data usage, roaming and other potential charges before making a selection. Although this method can add another layer of hassle to the process, with the right app for your situation it can also be well worth it in savings and convenience.
“With a little planning, you can stay in touch and on budget,” writes the New York Times.