Internet calling, calling cards and cell phones are affordable and convenient options for making international phone calls while you're abroad.
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is a service that allows you to make phone calls with a web service provider using a computer with an internet connection. Skype, Vonage and Viber are companies that are popular and easy to use. It is typically free to sign up and use if you're speaking with someone using the same VoIP service accounts. You can also call regular land lines and cell phones for a reasonable per minute charge. If you use this type of service, you'll want to set up your account before you leave.
You have the option of purchasing calling cards prior to departure or you may purchase them once abroad. If you purchase them prior to departure, be sure to check the rates offered in the country of your program site. All calling cards offer different rates to different countries, as well as for different phones. Calling cards are widely available at stores and newspaper stands abroad and may offer better rates for that particular country. You may have to compare a few to find the best one for your needs.
Check with your carrier to see if your phone will work at your program site and/or anywhere you plan to travel. You may be able to activate the international roaming service that would allow you to receive and send calls while abroad. Also, some companies are now offering plans specifically tailored to studying abroad, so speak with your provider about similar options.
Generally students purchase cell phones locally after they have arrived at their program site, or they get their phones unlocked and buy a local SIM card. This allows them to have a local phone number to communicate with friends and host families.
Often the most affordable way to communicate with the US is through calling cards or internet calling.
There are many communication options for students studying abroad, and new ones are always being developed. While USAC does not endorse any specific company or app, and we recommend that you do some research before making a decision, we want to keep you informed about some of your options.
Email is probably the least expensive and easiest method of communication while abroad. You may find internet availability on your host university’s campus. Program specific information regarding email is given to each participant at the on-site orientation. Make sure to take the email address of your advisor(s) and financial aid office at your home university in addition to the email addresses of your friends and family in order to contact them from your program site.
Internet café locator: Cyber Cafes
Before you go abroad, make sure you have the contact information for your home university study abroad and/or academic advisor, as well as your USAC advisor in case any questions come up, you need to change courses, etc. In addition, stay connected with USAC while you are abroad! We are always interested in hearing your stories, and receiving any photos to share your experiences abroad to inspire other students. You could even submit them for potential use for our promotional and marketing efforts. If you are keeping a blog while abroad, please share it with us too. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and take a look at our You Tube videos!
Most program offices have a place in which your mail or other information can be received. This is the safest place to receive your mail or small packages. Specific information regarding mailing addresses for programs is provided in the USAC Arrival Guide shortly before departure.
International mail can take anywhere from one to three weeks to deliver. For those documents that need to be received in a timely manner, there are many companies that provide fast international mail delivery (e.g. FedEx, UPS, DHL), though this is expensive. The national mail system of your host country may not be as fast as your home country, so allow for extra time when mailing from abroad. Shipping large packages may take up to 3 months for arrival in the US and may be very expensive.
Make sure you check current customs regulations when you are considering sending mail. Most prescriptions, medications and electronics may be questioned, confiscated, or taxed at customs. Charges may apply when receiving packages in some countries. Check with your on-site staff about this once you arrive at your program site.
Pre-Paid Phone Cards