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Best Way to Communicate Internationally: Top 7
While it is certainly nice to get away, it’s also nice to stay in touch with family and friends along the way. Whether you want to share your stories and pictures of your travels, or send SMS messages to simply say, “I’m okay,” it’s necessary to maintain contact with those you love. And even though it sounds like something that should be rather easy, it can actually be daunting to figure out how to receive text messages overseas without roaming or find the best communications apps to stay in touch.
You can’t necessarily just pick up your phone and call (especially if you are travelling overseas) and some of your “normal” communication methods aren’t available when you’re out of your service area. So, what are you to do to stay in touch?
Thankfully, cell phone plans now often have an international plan that covers international texting and offers mobile data roaming. Most major carriers, such as T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint, provide a few different options that enable you to seamlessly turn on your phone the minute you hit the ground and be able to communicate in multiple countries. No need for those old Internet cafes!
Downloading a good travel or communication app is a great first step. And, since I’ve been shopping for the best way to keep international communication channels open with my loved ones, I’d like to share with you the top communication apps that I’ve found to help you communicate while traveling abroad.
If you’re looking for business communication, then your international plans and mileage may vary with some of these apps as most were designed with personal communication in mind. However, depending on your job, you may still get some use out of these.
Now, if you’re eager to make sure you don’t lose touch with friends and family while you travel abroad, here are 7 apps to stay connected via your phone abroad.
Best App for International Calls & Messaging: Best Choices
Let’s start with the big one. A few years ago, Zoom was something you might have used for work. Fast forward to life post-2020, and it’s a household name thanks to remote workers. You might have even heard grandma say something like “Do you want to Zoom this weekend?” (Who would have thought that would happen!). But it’s hardly surprising since it is no doubt one of the best ways to communicate internationally.
The best part is you only need 4mb of download speed to access Zoom! Maintaining a good wi fi connection on a video app is so much easier than it was in years past.
You can see other important speed requirements for your remote work lifestyle here.
Zoom has a chat function, where users can keep receiving messages and sending messages both within and outside of actual calls. But, it’s primarily a video conferencing platform. Of all the options on this list, this is the one with the most crossover between personal life and work. For example – ever had a virtual Zoom happy hour? Cheers!
You can host multiple people on the same call, much like Skype. Beware that the free app or the free version will limit your call length to 45 minutes if you have more than two people on at once (but there’s nothing stopping you from ending the call and immediately redialing to reset your time limit). Zoom is a great way to stay in touch with multiple family / friends / colleagues all at once whether you’re in the same home country or other countries.
It’s a good way to keep in touch, receive messages, and reconnect with your community as traveling overseas can sometimes be lonely. Plans start at just $15/month if you want unlimited time and people on the call.
2. Facebook Messenger (and Facebook)
You can use the Facebook Messenger app to have instant access to conversations with family and friends. You can send multimedia messages instantly over your phone’s data and make video calls to loved ones overseas or even just within the local country area, making Facebook Messenger one of the best ways to communicate internationally.
Of course, you can use the Facebook app to get an update on everyone’s lives or give your own update and feel as connected as you would if you were right there next to your people. You can even share your travel photos on your Facebook page as you take them, which helps you keep track of what you did and when.
3. WhatsApp (now owned by Facebook)
WhatsApp is a popular messaging app for travelers, the only hitch being that your friends have to also have the app to receive messages and send messages with you. So, if you do plan on using this free international texting option when traveling overseas, you’re better off asking the people you intend to contact to download it on their mobile device before you go. Other than this minor inconvenience, Whatsapp is no doubt one of the best free app for international texting to date.
It is connected by using your phone numbers, except you won’t get charged cell phone rates or data roaming fees when using Whatsapp. Now part of Facebook’s family of apps, this messaging app functions similar to Facebook Messenger and is great for sending messages, multimedia messages, and virtually unlimited texting particularly with those who don’t have a Facebook account.
WhatsApp gained a lot of popularity by travelers and anyone without the same cell phone plan or international plans on their mobile devices or sim cards but need to stay connected. As data increased and cell phone SMS messaging was too expensive, WhatsApp gained a lot of traction and is still widely used today worldwide. It also is known for being somewhat of a replacement for GroupMe and other group messaging chats, as you can quickly and easily form groups. Like Messenger, you can also do calls and video calls.
4. Instagram (now owned by Facebook)
Another best way to communicate internationally is in the Facebook family, Instagram is primarily a social media platform for sharing photos, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming one of the go-to ways to send unlimited texts with people across the world both for work and for pleasure.
Like the other apps, you have access to data or Wi-Fi, then your Instagram is good to go. You can go live on Instagram to communicate with a lot of people at once, or you can stick to the private messaging app function. It’s a lot like Facebook’s messenger app, except that it is not a separate app; it’s baked into the app proper.
Facebook has made it even easier to communicate between apps as they now allow you to cross-post and cross-message on the two platforms, Instagram (IG) and Facebook Messenger. Instagram users can send messages (yes, even international messages) to contacts on Facebook Messenger without leaving the app and vice versa. That way, it somehow makes international texting free for anyone who has an account.
Instagram doesn’t work very well on a desktop, it’s meant to be used on your phone. And like WhatsApp and Facebook, you can only reliably communicate with people who also have the app. So download it before your next travel date and make sure your important contacts are in your friends list.
5. iMessage and FaceTime
My friends and family have long been giving me a hard time about having limited contact when traveling in other countries. Typically, I was on my computer using Skype or Google Voice, but now, with unlimited mobile data, 5G, and nearly ubiquitous Wi-Fi on my mobile device, I typically communicate in real-time via a messaging app called iMessage. That is, I can now iMessage free internationally as long as I have an internet connection or cellular data.
FaceTime is also a must-have messaging app. It rings on the receiver’s phone as though it’s a normal call, making it ‘seamless’ on the caller’s end. That’s what it’s all about anyway, right? Never missing a beat and being able to travel full time and still earn a living?
No travel app list would be complete without including Skype. It’s the one communication app that has been around the longest and it likely still has the highest adoption rate worldwide when compared to any of the other apps available for overseas communications.
If you don’t have Skype installed or if you want to be able to call your computer, you can get a Skype To Go number. This includes an answering service for when you’re away and you can even send texts from your purchased number in a manner similar to Google Voice.
People who choose to use Skype regularly can easily send international messages or instant message (IM), voice call, or video call others within their timezone or colleagues in other countries. Skype is like the older sibling to Zoom. It’s now owned by Microsoft but still widely used worldwide and often a household term for those who use it to say “Skype me” – undoubtedly one of the best ways to communicate internationally.
7. Google Hangout
Calling all Google fans! Now that Skype is part of Microsoft (and many of us would not survive without our Google Apps suite), we’ll probably all use Google Hangout at some point.
You have to have a Google+ account to use Hangouts, so that is something to keep in mind. Also, I find that the bandwidth needed is more than that of Skype, so it’s already a little more clunky to get started.
Another consideration for this particular travel app is that you have to have it in another Google window versus open in another app. This is an advantage for some, but I personally love having the ability to switch to another app quickly.
So all things considered, it may not offer the best way to communicate internationally. However, despite any shortcomings that Google Hangout has, your family and friends will love the animated faces and hats you can wear while talking face-to-face!
Here are a few extra apps that didn’t quite make the list, but which are also worth a look.
1. Google Voice
Google Voice allows you to forward your calls and also lets you answer them from your computer. So it’s arguably one of the best ways to communicate internationally. I used to forward my local number to my computer and it was completely seamless, nobody knew if I was in the office or on the beach. Google voice routes your call to any number you set up.
While I’m still a fan of Google Voice, you don’t really need it anymore if you have a comprehensive phone plan. With companies like T-Mobile are offering cell phone plans with coverage in as many as 152 countries, you may not have a need for Google Voice.
If you work remotely you and your team most likely have used Slack at some point. Slack modernized communication for teams,particularly remote teams looking for the best way to communicate internationally. So though we’ve talked mostly about family and friends, it’s no secret that remote work is growing in a post-Covid world, and Slack is one of those apps you’ll be referencing often from your app library to communicate with work or with online communities.
I honestly haven’t used this particular travel app much, but an Australian venture capitalist that I met at a Women 2.0 conference was telling me about it and I’ve heard nothing but good things since. It’s also quickly growing in popularity, so if you’re looking for something that you’ll be able to use with many friends, Viber is becoming a communication app option that you’ll want to consider. Who knows? You may even find it to be the best way to communicate internationally as you might be very satisfied with it.
Viber allows users to call and receive SMS messages via Wi-Fi free of cost. So, Viber to Viber international calls are of course free. However, for calling unregistered landlines or mobile numbers, users are required to pay – but thankfully the rates are quite low. It’s also a great way to share media such as, images, audio, and files. For making calls to numbers that lie outside of the Viber network, you can opt for a subscription or pay-as-you-go approach.
If you need to make an enormous number of calls abroad, we recommend going for the subscription option, which turns out to be cost-effective for high volumes.
Another best way to communicate internationally is through Webex – a communication app for travel and a business conference platform. Use it to connect with colleagues abroad or make calls internationally. It’s in fact one of the oldest communication apps that leverages a solid data exchange method. One of its remarkable advantages is that it requires a low bandwidth while offering great security.
Best Communication Apps: Conclusion
Really there’s no way NOT to communicate anymore while being remote, thanks to the availability of some of the best ways to communicate internationally. Social media apps like Snapchat and TikTok or gaming apps like Roblox and Discord allow you to be connected anywhere to your community.
There you have it. These are the top seven apps available for people who travel overseas or even those who venture out domestically.
What apps do you use to keep in touch while traveling?