Stuck overseas? 5 tips to help stay connected for less

Millions of people around the world have been stranded overseas by the coronavirus and the various related travel bans and flight cancellations. For some (looking at you if you’re stuck on a deserted tropical island), you’ve hunkered down and are exactly where you want to be. But for most travellers grounded abroad, it’s a really scary time. Particularly if you’re struggling to stay in contact with your loved ones back home.

Depending on where you are in the world, staying connected can be stressful and expensive – data roaming isn’t cheap and in this time of social distancing and lockdown, accessing and topping up local SIM cards can also be challenging.

But have no fear, the connectivity gurus behind eSIM.net, an online eSIM store, share their five tips to help stay in touch (for less) with your loved ones back home. 

Check in with your network mobile provider

First things first, check in with your mobile network provider or operator. If they’re anything like EE in the UK or Bell Mobility in Canada, they’ll have made special amendments and provisions for their customers during this time. While many of these changes are focused on helping their customers at home, some have gone as far as to waive roaming charges for those stuck overseas – a huge weight off your shoulders if you’ve been trying to message home.

If your mobile operator hasn’t officially scrapped roaming charges, it’s still worth getting in touch with them if you’re concerned about your mobile phone fees while overseas. It could save you a nasty surprise when that bill rolls in at the end of the month. 

Using a local SIM? Top up your credit online

If you travel frequently, it’s likely that you’re familiar with the irritating, but money-saving process of swapping your regular SIM card for local SIM cards. More often than not, local SIM plans can offer you cheaper data rates than your domestic provider. However, it’s not always easy to top-up these SIMs, especially if you’re stuck in lockdown and can’t leave the house. So, what is the solution?

Introducing mobile phone recharge websites – platforms where individuals (or friends and family) can send credit to a ‘Pay As You Go’ local SIM card. A really simple, but genius idea – all you need is your local phone number and a bank card. It’s worth checking out a few of these websites (Ezetop, Recharge, or Ding, just to name a few) to make sure your exact local network is available before purchasing.

Make use of your phone’s eSIM

If you have one of the latest iPhones or Google Pixel smartphones, it might be time to set up the eSIM that comes fitted in your device. An eSIM is essentially a virtual SIM card that is embedded inside your phone and can be activated with voice, SMS and data services. More often than not, these eSIM mobile services are cheaper than traditional roaming plans and can be purchased from anywhere in the world. As an eSIM works simultaneously with a physical SIM card, you don’t even have to remove your SIM card or lose your number to make use of one. 

eSIM.net, one of a small handful of online eSIM stores, suggest that eSIM data bundles might be the answer for those stuck overseas. Customers can buy it themselves, or have friends or family purchase it on their behalf. All you – or they – need to do is visit an online store, select where you are in the world, pick a data bundle and pay online. A QR code will be sent to you via email with instructions on how to scan and activate your eSIM plan. It’s as easy as that.

For international dialling – Skype

There’s a reason Skype is still making the cut on lists like these – and it’s not just because your grandparents might finally know how to use it. Outside of the normal video call, Skype has so many features that can help you stay connected and save money if you’re stuck abroad.

The first: Skype credit. If you have access to decent WiFi but need to make a phone call that can’t be facilitated through WhatsApp or another mobile data connection, Skype credit is for you. You can top-up online using your bank card and access affordable rates for international calls. Ideal if you need to contact landline numbers, or if you need to get hold of your work and tell them you aren’t coming in next week. 

The second: Skype number. If you don’t have a local SIM card, receiving incoming calls from your home country could cost you a small fortune. Skype has a very cool feature allowing you to purchase a local number and pay one flat fee for all incoming calls to that number. Simply tell Skype where you are in the world, buy your number and then share it with your loved ones. 

Find free video call apps

Now that you’ve got your mobile data and international dialling connection sorted (and feel confident that it isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg), it’s time to explore the various free platforms online where you can video call and message. It’s not just Skype – there are so many other cool apps and software available to help you keep in contact with family and friends. Here’s just a few suggestions where you can host video calls and chat for free: 

  • WhatsApp
  • Google Hangouts
  • Facebook Messenger
  • FaceTime
  • Viber
  • Line
  • Marco Polo

As you can see, there are a whole host of ways for you to stay connected for less if you’ve been stranded overseas. And what’s better? None of them require you having to leave the house – making sure that you are doing part during the coronavirus pandemic and keeping yourself (and others) safe. 

Victoria Brewood
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Hi I'm Victoria, a British girl from Manchester. After graduating from university I decided there was more to life than the hours between 9 and 5, so I packed my journalism degree into my suitcase to travel the world and find a way to make money at the same time. I now call London home, although I still travel whenever I can. I hope to inspire you to be your own boss, live life and see the world.

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