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

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

With the Internet at our disposal, it’s simple to bypass mobile networks by utilizing handy applications on your mobile device. Whilst some apps use your existing number to contact existing contacts, other applications host their own messaging service so you can keep in touch with your friends, family, and other people you meet.

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 WIFI or alternately 3G, 4G or 5G connection, and you’re good to go! 

How does making calls over the Internet work? 

Put simply, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communication works by converting phone calls into data. 

Instead of being restricted by physical cable lines, your data is transferred 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 simple to use your mobile data connection to message, call and video-chat to anyone with a smartphone or laptop/desktop.

Here are our top picks:

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is one of our top 7 travel apps, and is one of the most popular messaging services in the world. Whatsapp uses very little data to work and you can get in touch with people on any type of device, so long as they also have an account and an existing phone number. You sign up by confirming your mobile number, and from there 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 useful if you don’t have access to your phone for whatever reason.

The downside to Whatsapp 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

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. Everything you send or receive from other Viber accounts is absolutely free. 

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 most forms of communication.

App to app calls and texts are free, but that isn’t what you’re limited to. Skype 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, Skype is primarily used for video and voice calls.

  •  - 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 and is one of the largest app-to-app messaging services available.

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 most people have a Facebook account which makes this app convenient.

Facebook Messenger's 'Group Chat' feature allows you to add any of your contacts to a single group which is highly convenient for organising events or messaging large groups of people at once.

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

FaceTime

These only apply to Apple (iOS) users.

The easiest way to save money on calls and texts while you travel is to use the iOS services iMessage and FaceTime with other Apple users. 

iMessage works similarly to normal SMS. You can send links, images, videos, group messages and even voice recordings using the little microphone icon.

You might have noticed that when you use iPhone, iPad and Macbooks, the messages show up as blue. That means they’re being sent via the Internet and does not cost you mobile network fees. 

FaceTime is another Apple iOS app that you might not have used before. It comes pre-installed on every iOS device and is convenient for making video and audio calls.

  •  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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