Overseas Phone Service

Recently, a user here (RamChop) posted a comment in the HELP column (here) asking about the best & least expensive phone services during his upcoming trip to New Zealand.  I posted a reply but rather than have this info disappear into the OLD comments, I decided to place the significant responses here in an ARTICLE instead….

New ZealandI hear ya! I spent 4 weeks in Kenya and then moved to Uganda for another 2 weeks back in 2004. I returned to Uganda and D.R. Congo in 2006 and would love to go back again. I have never been to NZ but I suspect that it would be one of the best places in the world to visit!! Congratulations.

Your comment presents 3 issues:

  1. Outbound calls – calls you make from NZ
  2. Inbound calls – to you while in country
  3. Local access to services – Internet, cable & phone.

All of which are variable from one country to another. Since I have not been to NZ, I will just offer general advice.

Outbound calls:

I HIGHLY recommend that you buy a local (NZ) SIM and use a pay-as-you-go plan for your mobile phone while you are there. Be sure to check the unlock on your phone BEFORE you leave. Just place a friend’s AT&T sim in the phone and you should immediately begin receiving / making calls with his/her number. Roaming (on your existing TMobile account) can be VERY expensive. Call TMobile and discuss it with them if you don’t believe me.

Inbound calls:

There are several solutions but all that (IMHO) are feasible relate to VOIP. Check my page (http://bishoptec.com/2009/08/free-telephone-service/) for a comparison of the most popular plans.

With the VOIP solution, you will continue to have a LOCAL (US) number that friends and family can call without additional charges. And, very likely, you will not be charged extra for the calls either. As an added benefit, you will be able to make OUTBOUND calls at no charge.

However, all of these plans may or may not work in a particular country. Some countries severely restrict the use of VOIP because it is a direct competitor to the local phone companies. They may block it via the Internet or it may even be illegal.

Best idea: check with someone in the location where you will be staying to see if you can BRING your own VOIP solution to NZ. Be sure to buy it here and get a number where it will be local for the most of your friends/family.

There are other ways to accomplish low-cost calling to other countries but they generally are limited to a single (US) phone line making the call. If others wish to use the plan, they will be required to know and use some very complicated dialing sequence. Google for such plans if VOIP is not available in NZ.

Local Access to Services:

This is something that I cannot know. Your best idea is (again), contact someone in the area where you will be staying and ask them.

Remember, in order to use VOIP, you must have BROADBAND Internet access. It may work on less but you probably you will need at least a 3meg/1meg ISP account for best quality.

It may be necessary to visit a cyber cafe to get Internet. This would not necessarily prohibit the use of VOIP but it would make it more difficult – you would have to make an agreement with the operator of the cafe; you would have to schedule in/out calling (with friends/family) and if there is a prohibition to VOIP, it would probably forbid your use at a cafe also.

Well, that is about all I can tell you. Note – I would really like to know how this works out for you. It could help others with similar issues.

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