Many people have asked me how I could just leave my job and seemingly travel perpetually. How can I afford it? How do you find places to stay for free all the time? How do you find places to volunteer? All questions I’ve received by email, and now I’m sharing the secrets in a series of posts about how The Happy Nomad Tour Rolls and what things are like behind the scenes.
Communication can be expensive on the road. Depending how long you will be traveling for, you have different telephony options.
If you’ll be in one country for a while, it makes sense to get a local chip/sim card. But you’ll need an unlocked phone for this to work. In most countries, there are people who will unlock your phone for a fee, but why take a chance of them messing things up and you having trouble when you return home?
For your travels, grab an old phone that is no longer on contract. Call the company or go to a local store and ask them to unlock the phone. Then when you get to wherever you are going, buy a local chip and you can call locally (and back to your home country) much more cheaply.
You can also unlock a phone on contract, but it’s risky. Do it at your own risk.
In my case, I hop from country to country. Still, it almost always has made more sense to buy a local chip. I have a sim card from Mexico that allows me to top-up/recharge online. So that is an option I always have. Similarly, I have my sim card from Denmark that is directly connected to my bank account eliminating the need to top up. The Danish sim card is my emergency backup and the one I use when I first arrive in a country if I need to make a call before I can buy a local sim card.
So far a local sim card has never cost more than $5 and often comes pre-loaded with calling credit.
If you have a smart phone, be careful with data usage. If you get a local sim card, check and see what the policies are as it probably won’t be an all you can eat data package like you’re used to. If you are roaming with a phone from home, then turn off data or you’ll get a nasty bill when you get home.
In the history of round-the-world travelers, perhaps none has called home as frequently as I do. I hope my parents appreciate it…
Luckily, calling the U.S. is very cheap in general. Still, it’s much cheaper to do so via the internet. I use Google Chat to call the U.S. for $0.01 per minute. The downside is that I have to be online, sometimes the connection isn’t great, and sometimes where I get online is noisy.
Still, using your cell phone to call home will probably be very, very expensive. If using Google Chat or Skype isn’t an option, check into buying a phone card and calling from a land line.
How To Call Internationally
If you are just getting started in traveling, this part is for you. Generally, the way to dial out of a country is to start the call with 00, but some countries differ. The U.S. is 011, Japan is 010, etc. So when in doubt, check this website.
Similarly, if you are calling from your cell phone, just put a + in front of the country code and dial the number. So calling someone in Denmark, for example, where the country code is 45, just dial +45 and then the number. The plus will get your call outside the country without having to know the dial out code.
When in doubt, search on the internet for these things. They are well covered.
If you have any more questions, put it in the comments below and I’ll either answer your question there or write a new post covering it.