Miss the sound of mum’s voice nagging at you? Secretly can’t wait to hear what Uncle Mick had for dinner? Go on, admit it. Sometimes you do just miss home and there’s nothing you want to hear more than what your Gran accidentally called her dog last week (it was your name by the way). Finding a time when you can speak, however, is not easy given the time difference – and the extortionate prices. Here is a round-up of some of the cheapest, most convenient ways to stay in touch across hemispheres. Uncle Mick’s digestive problems will never be a mystery again
Online phone calls are the saviour of long-distance relationships and the friend of nagging mums the world over. There are hundreds of options out there, but not all oft hem boast crystal-clear connections. Here are some sites worth signing up to if you haven’t already.
Skype: This well-known internet phone service offers free international calls between users. Given that both parties must have an account and be signed on to speak, it never has jibed well with grans. To solve this, though, you can also call mobiles and landlines for a small fee. You can top-up credit online or now you can buy vouchers at PayPoint counters in most local shops. skype.com/en/
Viber: This online phone service is similar to Skype, although it does not yet have a system for dialling numbers with credit. What it can offer, however, is portability – originally designed as mobile app, it works very smoothly on-the-go, and requires less memory than Skype to make a call which means it won’t eat up your mobile Internet allowance (if you have an iPhone, Face Time is basically the same thing). viber.com
Localphone: A call from your online Localphone account to Australia costs 0.9p per minute, compared to 1.4p a minute as charged by Skype. However, the site is not as streamlined and slick and the connection is not as localphone.com
Talk of SIM cards may sound outdated, but there’s something to be said for dialling your mate directly to cry ‘I love you sooooo much’ when you’re out on the piss and can’t be dealing with temperamental 3G. We do, however, recommend against this option if you have a penchant for drunk-dialling your ex. Not cool; especially when you’re 10,000 miles away and they’re at work.
Pay-as-you-go: Great for when you first land and you haven’t got a fancy phone yet, you can simply pop these special SIMs in your mobile and call home for a decent rate. Telecom cards offer good deals on calls to New Zealand and can be purchased online. NobelCom cards, which can be bought in the UK, offers the same rates as Skype but you can only pick one destination.
Monthly Plan: If you call home often and you have a monthly contract with a UK phone company it may be worth including international calls in your rate. Although it’s slightly pricier than pay-as-you-go, it eliminates the need for top-ups and having to change SIM card and number every time you dial your mum. Ask your contract provider for more information as some have deals on specific destinations.
Swanky apps are where it’s at these days and they do far more than merely call. As well as downloading the standards (Skype and Viber or FaceTime apps to use on the move) you can also send postcards, videos – and even a card with your own handwritten message inside! That will get you brownie points for staying in touch and for being thoughtful. Bonus.
Postagram: Send a postcard directly from your phone with this nifty little app – just upload a photo and a message and have it transformed into a postcard that will be mailed anywhere in the world – for free! No more will your folks have to strain to read your scribbled-on-the-back-of-a-postcard handwriting.
Vsnap: Just hearing your family’s voices not enough? Send a video message instead. This is a great way to really make them feel like part of the action. This app also makes it super easy to send video messages to groups and there’s an option for sharing to Twitter or Facebook, if you think your creation deserves to go viral.
Inkly: This app sends greeting cards to your folks in your own handwriting. Take a snap of your handwritten message with the app, choose which card you want and, for a small fee, they’ll print it out and it send it on. No more post office queues for you.