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Savvy World Travelers Saving Thousands With SIM Cards, Skype, and Smartphones

by Carol Barron

Source: International Living

Checking emails, making phone calls, texting friends, and surfing the web with your mobile phone overseas can be a pricey proposition.

But it’s easy to stay in touch from abroad – on the cheap – if you know how best to use the technology available to you these days. International Living magazine provides an excellent guide in its May 2011 issue.

“It’s never been easier to save money with your mobile phone abroad,” says Darius Fisher, contributing editor. “All you need to do is follow a few simple guidelines, and you can stay connected no matter where you are… without breaking the bank. In fact, if you’re smart about it, you can stay connected for just a few dollars per month.”

Fisher’s article reveals several simple money-saving tricks anyone can follow – regardless of budget – to help avoid massive overseas roaming charges.

One money-saving trick is to leave your regular mobile phone at home… and pick up a new or used mobile phone once you reach your destination.

“You can buy a new or used phone for as little as $25 these days,” says Fisher. “And then, you can buy a local ‘SIM’ card for as little as $10. Sometimes even cheaper than that. And once you’ve got those two sorted out, you’re good to go.”

One thing he strongly recommends is that the phone be “unlocked.” This way, you can use local SIM cards in multiple countries… and pay local rates when making calls instead of incurring roaming charges. This can be a huge money saver.

But what if you want to make a call overseas to friends and family back home while you’re abroad?

IL recommends signing up for a “Skype” account. This way, you can make computer-to-computer calls over the internet using “VoIP” technology to other Skype users for free… no matter where they are in the world. And with Skype, you don’t even need a traditional “phone” to make calls! A computer, an internet connection, a Skype account, and a headset with microphone is all you need. (Most business centers and internet cafes provide headsets and microphones now… and many already have Skype pre-installed on their computers.)

What’s more, if you want to use Skype to call someone who doesn’t have a Skype account, you can still wind up saving a lot of money. That’s because Skype rates to “landlines” run as low as a few pennies a minute.

But what if, like many people, you’re hopelessly addicted to your smartphone, and you absolutely insist on bringing it with you abroad? Are you destined to pay through the nose for roaming fees? Not necessarily.

“If your smartphone has Wi-Fi and Skype installed on it – which many smartphones do these days,” says Fisher, “you can use your smartphone to make calls and surf the web just like you would back home. To do it, you simply have to find a reliable Wi-Fi signal. That’s easier than ever to do these days – even in some of the world’s most remote places. Just make sure you turn ‘data roaming’ off before you leave… so you don’t get blindsided by a huge bill at the end of the month.”

Follow International Living’s editors and correspondents around the world on Facebook.

Editor’s Note: For the past 30 years, InternationalLiving.com has been the leading authority for anyone looking for global retirement or relocation opportunities. Through its monthly magazine and related e-letters, extensive website, podcasts, online bookstore, and events held around the world, InternationalLiving.com provides information and services to help its readers live better, travel farther, have more fun, save more money, and find better business opportunities when they expand their world beyond their own shores. InternationalLiving.com has more than 200 correspondents traveling the globe, investigating the best opportunities for real estate, travel, retirement, and investment.