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Best Ways to Call Home From Europe


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Friday, December 3, 2010 — (ABC News: Travel) –



By ED PERKINS
SmarterTravel Contributing Editor


Dec. 3, 2010





Over the years, I’ve developed sort of a “school solution” to the question of the best way to keep in touch while you’re overseas: Have or get a wireless phone that uses the GSM system, get a local-country or local-region SIM card for that phone, and use it for incoming and outgoing calls. But a reader recently questioned that recommendation:




“In the smartphone age, is getting a local SIM card still the best way to keep in touch?”



The short answer is, “Yes, it still is for many people, but you now have more alternatives.” Since our last review, communication has changed in two important ways: Smartphones have become a big factor among wireless users, and texting has supplanted voice for many travelers.



The Starting Point—What to Avoid



All the fuss about making special arrangements for phone communications to/from Europe is because the default approaches can result in gouges:


The worst way to phone home is to pick up the hotel room phone and use its “convenient” direct-dial system. A three-minute call can set you back $10 or $15, and many hotels charge $1 or more for each incoming call as well.

Although your regular AT&T and T-Mobile wireless phones—and a few others—work in Europe, you’ll pay anywhere from 99 cents to $2.49 per minute for each call or 50 cents for each message And most older Verizon and Sprint Nextel phones don’t work at all.

If you just want to be able to report occasionally, you can also use a phone card from a local pay phone—that’s cheap, but a long way from 24/7 availability.


The bottom line is that for a combination of 24/7 availability and low cost, you have to use a wireless service—either your regular service, if it works, or a special service for your trip.



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