As many of you know, I am a part-time expat with a husband in Colombia and family in the USA. No matter which American continent I am on, I need to stay in touch with the other one. So finding ways to contact those I love without breaking my budget, is imperative. So, ‘How can I stay in touch while I’m traveling, and with my loved one’s overseas, Dani?’.
Let me tell you.
Everyone knows Skype. Whether you love it or hate it, its been a major player for a while, though the problems with Skype are well-known. At least one person needs internet. I can call Diego’s phones if the internet on his end is down, but I have to pay per minute, or pay per month for a rate plan. On top of me having to already pay another rate plan to be able to have unlimited calls back to the USA (because credit cards, bill people, and many of my family, don’t have Skype). Yes, even if you are from the USA, you still need a USA rate plan or it costs to call even local numbers. Plus I have to pay for a USA-based number so my family can call me too. And I have to pay for voice mail so they can actually leave me one. And none of that matters unless I keep Skype’s battery-life sucking program running on my laptop at all times. Which I don’t. So I pretty much have to call my family and they just have to wait, or they send messages to call them through my sister on Facebook. Basically it’s a very one-sided relationship.
If my internet goes down (very common when in hostels or non-major cities) I can’t call anyone, because Skype works over internet only (even on your smartphone, it works over the WiFi connection). If the internet connection is slow, video turns into a game of “decipher the pre-Atari-ish pixels”, and the sound sometimes decides to add this ridiculously annoying reverb-disco effect-ct-ct-ct-ct; sometimes to the point only the first syllable is audible and conversation is beyond impossible to continue. Plus calls get dropped all the time. I once dropped a call 7 times in 20 minutes talking with Diego. Although Skype is great in theory, in practice I usually end up yelling up a curse-filled storm at it.
This is a somewhat better alternative to Skype, if you can get it to work. Only one person has to have a Google+ account (and can invite others through email), but this also makes you have to pre-plan when to hangout before you can actually hangout. You can video or voice chat with multiple people at the same time for no extra cost, which is cool, but everyone has to have the correct programs installed on their cpu/phone/pad for Google Hangouts to work.
And again, Hangouts runs on internet. So if anyone’s internet goes down, they get dropped. If your internet goes down, you can’t call anyone. Plus I don’t find the video or sound quality all that good. It’s like Skype 2, but on a platform that much fewer people use. For conference business meetings it can be good, but if I just want to talk to Diego or a family member, it’s still a very frustrating platform. If you are already paying for Skype, there is no point in Google Hangouts.
Rebtel is a great alternative to both of these. Like Skype and Hangouts, you can call over the internet. But UNLIKE the other 2, if your internet sucks, you can use your mobile network to place calls!
When you start a call, Rebtel asks you what to use. You download the app to any computer, tablet, or smartphone (and yes, they have apps for both Androiders and iPeople). If you are calling by a landline or mobile phone, you tell Rebtel the number you want to call, and they give you a local number to you, then re-route the number. So it looks like you are calling locally instead of internationally.
On my smartphone, they send me a Pin number through SMS. It sometimes takes a while to get this, so while you are waiting you can study Spanish!
When you are calling other Rebtel users, it is free. If you call over the mobile network, you will use your provider minutes the same as making any other phone call. Have great internet? A call over the internet to another Rebtel user is always 100% free. And since pretty much everyone has smartphones nowadays, you can do most calls for free.
If you want to call a landline or mobile of someone who is not a Rebtel user, you pay much smaller rates than a regular international phone call, or even Skype. Rates to call Colombia over Skype are 3-5¢ a minute (for landlines. It’s surprisingly hard to find the exact cost of minutes to mobile unless you buy a subscription). Texting Colombia on Skype is 9.7cents each! (and really… 9.7 cents? Why even bother with the points-of-cents Skype. You aren’t a gas station)
Let’s compare that to Rebtel’s easy to decipher: 1.5¢ to landlines AND mobile phones, and only 1¢ per SMS/text message. A one hour phone call to a landline would cost me $2.40 cents with Skype (using the mid-price of 4¢ a minute), and only 90 cents with Rebtel! Go Rebtel!
You can’t do video with Rebtel yet, but half the time video with Skype or Google Hangouts is a joke (and literally a headache) that I tend to ignore or just get mad at. Since hearing Diego’s (or my mom, or my dad’s) voice is what is really important, Rebtel is great. And it is a lot easier to walk around the house on a phone than on a laptop.
Rebtel is a great and cheap way to stay connected intercontinentally, and when I bring Diego my extra smart phone in a few weeks, we can call each other whenever we want for free!
About Dani Blanchette
I am a freelance travel and music photographer and creator of GoingNomadic.com.
I love music, food, and exploring cities without guidebooks. I’ve flown a helicopter, hitchhiked down the east coast USA, and once snuck into the back of a zoo (in Serbia) and pet a lion.
I am always up for an adventure, and sometimes I videotape them.