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Posted: 5:03 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010

Communicating Overseas

How to set up your cell phone for overseas use

I encourage everyone traveling abroad to have a plan on how to call home. Whatever you do, please don't take your cell phone and think you can use it overseas with your standard U.S. carrier's plan. Your wallet will be eaten alive!

Instead, I recommend you get an unlocked world phone and a SIM chip before you leave for your destination. Look on eBay or elsewhere for unlocked world phones. As for the SIM chips, there are two strategies depending on where your travels will take you.

If you're traveling to multiple countries…

Buy the necessary SIM chips from either GoSIM.com or Telestial.com. You'll get pre-paid minutes for the countries in which you are traveling and you'll be sent a SIM card that you replaces the current SIM inside your phone once you get to your destination.

If you're traveling to a single country…

Research calling rates online from home before you get to your destination. By doing that, I've discovered companies like the Carphone Warehouse chain in England. There I was able to buy an unlocked phone for $14 and a chip to go in the phone that let me call back to the United States for 6 cents/minute. Google will translate web pages that are in other languages so you don't have to miss out on any deals!

VoIP calling options

You also have the option of using the Internet to route your calls for free or cheap.

With MagicJack.com, a scant $40 buys you 1 year of unlimited local/long distance Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone service. There are no additional fees for any calls you make.

You take the MagicJack, plug a landline phone into and then plug the whole thing into a computer's USB port. Call quality can be sketchy depending on your Internet connection, but I've used MagicJack on four continents to call back home.

Other VoIP alternatives include Skype and Google Chat (a feature of Google Voice.)