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How to Make Cheap Phone Calls on Vacation

Tired of coming home to phone bills that cost more than your overseas vacation? Here are some ways to call home from abroad without breaking the bank.


  • TIP: You'll also need instructions on how to unlock your phone so it works with a new SIM card, and you’ll have a different phone number while you use it.
  • Step 1: Try an internet-based voice and video service like Skype to make phone calls from a computer or your smartphone.
  • Step 2: Feeling a little low-tech? Buy discounted international calling cards used with a landline phone. Available at local cafes, convenience stores, and kiosks, they're still one of the cheapest options around.
  • FACT: According to a Travelocity poll, 33 percent of American travelers take their cellphones on vacation to stay in touch with their boss, employees, or clients.
  • Step 3: If your cellphone uses a SIM card, consider swapping it for one you buy in the country you're visiting; you can pick one up at the airport when you arrive. Before you go, check with your cellphone provider that your phone is compatible with the wireless service in that country.
  • Step 4: Before you go, research buying an inexpensive cellphone with a prepaid calling card once you arrive; if you're staying a few weeks, it can be less expensive than paying roaming charges on your own phone.
  • TIP: Cellphones often need to have their international capability turned on by the provider, so check in before you leave.
  • Step 5: Don't forget about international charges for data services, like using the internet; they can be exorbitant -- especially if your phone is set to update data automatically, like refreshing your e-mail. Turn auto updates off and ask your carrier about international data roaming plans.
  • TIP: It's cheaper for smartphone users to use Wi-Fi instead of their phone's other services to check e-mail and use the Web.
  • Step 6: Contact your cellphone provider to see if your phone works in the places you'll be visiting. If it does, sign up for an international roaming plan so you can make calls on vacation. If it doesn't, ask about a loaner; some companies rent or even lend their customers a global phone. Sign up for whatever international plan makes most economic sense for your calling needs.

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