I'm about to go on a very long holiday that involves travelling across quite a few different countries. What's the best and cheapest way to keep in touch with home?
There are three main ways of calling home while on holiday or travelling. You can use a landline payphone, make VoIP calls over the Internet or use a mobile phone. Depending on which parts of the world you travel to, these three options will vary and you'll probably end up using them all.
If you're going to take a UK mobile phone with you, make sure it supports the right bands. Different countries use different GSM frequency bands and different phones support different bands. You can find out what bands a particular country uses by visiting the GSM association Web site, and what bands your phone supports by checking the specs section in our reviews.
Taking a phone that will work is only one part of the equation, because you'll need to use either your own UK SIM card, which is usually, or you can buy a pay as you go SIM card in the country you're visiting. If you're using your own SIM you need to check that it has roaming enabled and if you're going to use another country's SIM, you need to make sure your phone will support it.
Another alternative is to buy an international SIM card from a company such as 0044, which you can buy over here and will let you make and receive calls in several countries for a reduced price. Keep in mind though that your phone will still need to support the right bands, otherwise it won't work at all. If this all sounds too complicated, buying a calling card in the country you're visiting and making calls from a landline is usually a cheap and easy option.
If you find an Internet café, or if you're taking a laptop with you, then you could also potentially make VoIP calls with a program such as Skype. This option sounds good in theory and works for the most part, but keep in mind that VoIP can be very unreliable, particularly if the connection is slow. Open Wi-Fi hotspots are also rather difficult to find, so we don't recommend this option as much as the others.