Information for All Students Traveling Abroad
- International Calls
- Cell Phones
- Computer-to-Computer Voice and Video Chat
- Time Zones
- Snail Mail
You will probably have Internet access abroad, but it is worth asking before you go. It is important not to overdo e-mail and other online communication with friends and family at home. Online communication can become a crutch, interfering with immersion in the host culture.
To make a direct international phone call, you need:
- The international direct dialing number/code for the country from which you are calling. For example, the international direct dialing number/code to call from the U.S. to another country is 011. In the U.K. and many other countries, it is 00. Some countries may offer more than one number depending on the carrier and type of service.
- The country code of the country you are calling. For example, the country code for the U.S. is 1. The country code is dialed after the international direct dialing number/code and before the city/area code. Country and city codes can be obtained from any overseas operator or at www.countrycallingcodes.com.
- The city/area code (if any) for the number you are dialing.
- The local number. You may find it useful to use an international telephone card, available through most long distance phone companies. Since charges are based on U.S. rates, are more economical. Phone cards are also useful since many pay phones do not accept cash (cards can be used at regular landlines as well).
Cell phones are increasingly used in most countries to call overseas and communicate within the country. Keep in mind that most U.S. cell phones do not work abroad. We recommend that you learn about international cell phones generally and cell phone use in your destination country, before you leave. Be forewarned: Cell phone charges abroad can be more expensive than in the U.S. Use your phone wisely, or be prepared to pay!
Many travelers find that the best option is to buy an inexpensive phone upon arrival abroad. These typically operate on a pay-as-you-go system and can be a convenient and economical choice.
Inserting a SIM card from a local carrier into an unlocked handset will also provide inexpensive phoning and texting to cell phones in the same country. Check with your provider to see whether you have an internationally-compatible device and how to unlock it. Some carriers also offer “world phones” (however, world phones have their own drawbacks).
Another option is to check with your current cell phone provider to see if you can upgrade your service so it works abroad, allowing you to use your current phone number. This option is usually only cost-effective if you will be traveling to multiple countries and would have to purchase a new phone in each country. If you decide to pursue this option, be sure to discuss rates and fees for voice, data, and texting, as they are likely to be higher than what you pay for domestic service and have more restrictions. Remember to enable any new services before you leave the country. Your device may work abroad, but the rates may be much higher than you would expect.
Text, Voice, and Video Chat
If you do not have a Skype account, you may find it useful to establish one for making free calls over the Internet to anyone else who also uses Skype. Gmail also offers free voice or video chat, and you can make and receive landline or wireless phone calls in Gmail. You can also pay for a Skype plan for calls to landlines and cell phones. If you plan to Skype or use Gmail chat/calling with your parents, you may want to confirm that they have set up an account before you leave and know how to use it. You should also download any necessary plug-ins before leaving. Apple offers FaceTime, another one-on-one video calling feature, and iMessage, a free text messaging feature between iOS devices. If you own an iPhone you can connect to FaceTime and iMessage via WiFi without having a data plan abroad.
When making phone calls to or from the U.S., keep the time difference in mind, and be sure to remind friends and relatives! Should your friends, for example, call you in France at 10 p.m. EST, they should be aware that you have probably long since gone to bed. The time zone of every country in the world can be found at www.worldtimezone.com or www.thetimenow.com.
Surface mail can be slow, but airmail is usually fast. You may need to send and/ or receive packages, so make sure you know where the nearest post office is and how it operates. You may also want to find out the rates of services such as FedEx, DHL, and UPS. They are usually more expensive for small items, but often competitive for larger ones.