Travel Tips

Traveling Phone Advice

Phones are a constant, annoying, frustrating uphill battle when travelling – I find myself wasting days in internet cafes sending emails and social-media-ing when I really don’t need to be, just because my phone isn’t doing what I want it to do. And even if it did do what I wanted it to do, I’d be charged through the nose for it.

I remember I was once in Istanbul when my Blackberry, unsurprisingly in hindsight, broke completely. At the time I was in negotiations with my bank attempting to explain to them that when I said I was going travelling I did, indeed, mean travelling to more than one country. Fortunately, there’s a road in Istanbul for everything, and I picked up a lovely, hardy Nokia for about $40 (phones haven’t had time to depreciate much there) which worked pretty well for the rest of the trip. That didn’t stop me being charged a painful amount every time I made a phone call or sent a text, and God help you if you accidentally click the “internet” icon (that’s what was particularly so good about the Nokia).

The best deal I’ve managed to find so far as far as a contract goes is Vodafone’s “Eurotraveller” deal – $6 a day plus normal network fees and you can call and text from the rest of Europe as much as you like. It’s not ideal though – $6 a day still makes me wince a little, and I haven’t dared to use the internet. As far as the rest of the world goes, I just try to turn my phone off and keep it off as much as possible – I just assumed that was the way it would have to go every time I travelled.

But I forgot! We live in the modern world, with technology and smartphones and apps and clever, helpful stuff round every corner. This week’s clever, helpful stuff that I’ve stumbled upon is a couple of clever apps from a company called Rebtel. The Rebtel app gives users a fighting chance against international phones bills by working through a web or SMS-based app. There’s a few different ways to do it, but as far as texting goes, you want to have a look at their international texting page.

Texting’s not the only thing they’re good for either – their calling system works much the same way and again saves me a hell of a lot of money when I’m travelling. Rebtel’s call app is available for the Android (I have an Android, so I know that one) and, after a quick Google… yes! it’s available for the iPhone, iPad, Windows phone and various other platforms too. You can download a free calling app here.

I wouldn’t like to estimate how much money Rebtel’s saved me because it’ll sound sensationalist – I am a travel writer, after all – but it will save anyone who’s hoping to go travelling and stay in contact with people back home (or perhaps more importantly, people they’re travelling with). Rebtel comes very, very highly recommended. Get it.