I’m taking a two-month trip to New Zealand soon. What’s the cheapest way to keep in touch by phone with family and friends back home? Baljit, Leicester
The internet and mobile phones have completely changed the way we communicate with people on the other side of the world. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune anymore and in theory, you can do all the things you would do at home, like sending messages and photos, without a massive bill at the end. But it’s important to do your homework beforehand.
Using online video and voice chat programmes like Skype won’t cost anything if you use free Wi-Fi access at a hotel or café to call someone else’s computer or iPad back home. And for a relatively modest extra cost, you can call landlines from your computer using Skype.
If you think you might need your phone to make calls or access online services while you’re abroad, then check whether your service provider will allow you to take your calling plan with you. Usually there’s a charge for this and it’s restricted to certain countries, but it can be quite reasonable.
For example Vodafone will let their pay monthly and contract customers use their UK voice, text and data plan in most European countries for £3 a day. The charge only kicks in on the days you use it. Always remember to switch off data roaming on your phone if you don’t want to be charged while abroad.
If you can’t do that, or it’s too expensive, then look at getting a SIM card when you arrive at your destination. For example, in New Zealand, the national phone operator Spark offers a pay-as-you-go SIM card for around £22 and you don’t need to be a resident to get one. It gives you 1GB 4G data, free access to a huge Wi-Fi network across the country and some local minutes and texts. However, you’ll be charged for international calls so use your data allowance to make Skype calls.