How did I ever live without Skype? It's hard to cast back in distant memory to the day when I didn't have and love Skype, the way to make phone calls for this traveler. I've just made a call to the US from the Mexico cafe where I'm having early morning coffee and watching the clean up of last night's fiesta in the zocalo, and it cost me about 63 cents (and perhaps a positive sanity judgment from the few passersby: just another American talking to her computer). And had I been talking to someone else with Skype, the call would have been free. If you´re unfamiliar with it, Skype is a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) application, of which a few exist. Download it to your computer, buy some credit, and you´re good to go with phone calls from pretty much anywhere to pretty much anywhere. Since I lug my laptop, not to mention a headphone-mike (I can be such a geek), everywhere, actually talking on my computer is no problem, silly though it may seem... hey, I´ll do a lot to save a buck. And major bucks are what international cell phone calls can cost me. (Major disclaimer: this may be completely incorrect, but it's my understanding and I'm sticking to it.) The problems with using a US cell phone abroad are these:
- GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) phones work on international bands.
- Most US cell phones are either not GSM (quad band is best) phones, or they are locked GSM phones.
- If you've got a locked GSM phone contracted with a US company (like Verizon), making phone calls overseas on your cell phone can be done but may be horrendously expensive because you're roaming from the US, basically (and because you're at the monetary mercy of your mercenary US cell phone company).
- US cell phone carriers tend to lock GSM phones so that you cannot use other companies' SIM cards (Subscriber Information Module chips).
- What's a SIM card? Where can I buy?
- What's a GSM phone? Where can I buy?
- Where to Rent GSM and Satellite Phones