Phoning home from abroad can be expensive and challenging to set up. However, if you have online access—be it at an Internet cafe, or at your hotel or B&B—you can make calls for free using an online calling service. Skype is the most well known provider, but there are also newer services including Jajah, Yahoo! Voice, and Google Talk (beta).
Simply register with a service provider, download the software to the computer you’ll be using, and have your friends and family do the same with their personal computers. (When I was in Poland last fall, nearly every Internet cafe I visited already had Skype on each computer.) Check your buddy list (similar to instant messaging programs), and double-click on the friend you wish to call. Plug a headset into the computer and you’ll then be able to talk with them, for free.
Make sure you have a service-friendly headset—a friend says her cell phone headset works just fine—or purchase an official one. Prices start under $10. I’ve also seen them in person at big-box retailers such as Target.
Remember, calls are free only when made online (PC-to-PC), between users of the same service. If you’re calling a landline or cell phone, you’ll be charged a fee. So make sure both of you are on the same page (or service, as it were) before getting in touch.
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