While Martha and I were on our trip around Europe last summer, one of our concerns was how to call home to our parents during the month. We considered using phone cards or buying a cell phone, but our decision was made easier when I learned that I could use just use Skype abroad!
Skype is one of the more popular Voice Over IP (VOIP) telephone applications available. It turns your computer into a phone, as long as you have an internet connection and your computer, usually your laptop, has a decent microphone. I use it on a fairly routine basis for work reasons and I never thought to use it internationally.
While we were on our trip, we found that almost every Bed & Breakfast offered complimentary internet service, which is all we needed for Skype. We only experienced difficulty while we were in Switzerland and in Cinque Terre, Italy (Vernazza); though we were able to find Internet cafes to tide us over.
Skype is absolutely free if you’re calling other Skype users. If you’re calling a regular telephone line, their rates are a la carte and very competitive. They also have unlimited plans. Unlimited calling to US and Canada numbers is only $2.95 a month. Unlimited World calling is only $12.95 a month or you can pay $5.95 per country for unlimited calling. All rates are based on the country you’re calling, so if you call from Europe to the United States, you can sign up for the $2.95 Unlimited US plan and call all you want (that’s the plan I was already on).
Since we already had an Apple iTouch, which has wireless capability, we installed the Skype app and used that as our phone. It’s far more convenient than a larger laptop and all we needed was to buy a earpiece/mic in one combination headset (where the two are integrated into one headphone jack) and we were in business.
So the next time you’re on vacation, consider how ubiquitous internet access may be in that area and consider using Skype to call home.