Inexpensive ways to stay connected

Take your pick from these options to stay in touch while globe-trotting.



Suitcases neatly packed, travel documents, foreign currency, cheques and travel cards tucked carefully into your handbag – you are all set for that trip abroad. But, oh! What are you going to do in order to stay in touch with your family and friends back home ?

Whether it's a quick visit on work or a short vacation or a longer stay abroad, a few innocent phone calls to and fro could end up bringing huge bills. Here are some options to prevent the proverbial hole in you wallet.

Roaming : Simple, but expensive



The simplest thing to do would be to activate international roaming from your service provider. The biggest advantage of this is that you can be reached at the same number no matter where you are. The biggest disadvantage of this option is the exorbitant charges. For example, calling your wife while admiring the tulip gardens of Netherlands on Vodafone pre-paidwould cost Rs 150 per minute! And if she's called you, you'll still be charged Rs 75 per minute! An SMS would cost Rs 15. Post-paid charges fall in the same range too. Besides such high tariffs, activating international roaming involves paying a security deposit of anywhere between Rs 1,500-5,000 and monthly rentals of between Rs 99-450 across operators. But , if you are roaming on a pre-paid account, you get to cap the amount you want to spend. Even if you are a post-paid subscriber, your usage will vary according to your credit limit. A lower credit limit will help keep a check on the amount you spend with roaming activated.

It would suit those who use their mobiles to make one or two quick calls on short trips abroad. By setting a readily available caller tune, you can dissuade the caller as he would know that you are on international roaming. Besides, incoming messages are generally not charged. So, if any information has to be passed on, you could perhaps tell your contacts to message you. Also, if you keep making these short trips frequently and wish not to permanently disconnect the service, operators like Reliance give you the opportunity to temporarily deactivate the service. By doing so, you can save on monthly rentals for the time period during which you don't use this facility.

Global SIM cards: Superior

Companies such as Matrix offer country-specific SIM cards with post-paid connections with a pre-activated mobile number. These country-specific SIM cards also come at charges which are lower than roaming rates and offer free incoming calls in some routes. However, those who travel frequently on work could consider the world/global SIM cards. For example, a call from the US to India from the Airtel World SIM (pre-paid) would roughly cost only $0.87 i.e. about Rs 40 per minute. The same call from a mobile on international roaming would cost about Rs 150 per minute. Apart from similar lower rates, the Reliance global SIM (pre-paid and post-paid) also offers free incoming calls in over 30 countries. What's more, the prepaid cards can conveniently be topped-up online and there are no rentals either.

Like the Matrix cards, these special SIM cards require you to use a different number. However, these SIM cards would suit those who visit several countries on work because they can retain the same international contact number for any number of trips. The global SIM would also suit those who plan to visit different countries as part of their vacation.

Calling cards: Sensible

Those of you don't cling on to their mobiles day in day out, should go for calling cards. Mobile networks across the world operate on different frequencies and sometimes, you will figure that your mobile phone may not actually be compatible. You will never face this problem if you use a calling card. These pre-paid calling cards can be used to call home from any landline, pay phones or local mobile phones from the country in which you are travelling. And, they are really cheap! A call using Tata Indicom's global calling card from the UK to India, for instance, works out Rs 5 per minute. With no security deposit or processing fees, these cards are available for denominations as low as Rs 250. But using calling cards mean a cumbersome process of entering a long PIN number and equally long country access number every time before you dial the actual phone number. You need to remember or keep these numbers carefully. Also, if anyone from home wants to contact you in case of need, you may not be accessible.

With Web sites to guide you, you can also opt for calling cards from the country you are visiting if they are cheaper than the ones available in India.

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