Frugal Traveler: how to stay in touch on the road

The New York Times‘s Matt Gross, aka the Frugal Traveler (whose work I’ve praised in the past), has a good post about how to stay in touch cheaply when you’re traveling abroad.

He discusses SIM cards (so you can get a local number), Skype (to make voice calls via the Web), and Fring (a service that allows you to, among other things, use Skype from your mobile phone).

Related posts:


Calling from Thailand to the US

Calling from Thailand to the US

I make a lot of phone calls to the US to keep in touch with colleagues, friends, and family. You’ll remember, as I mentioned in last year’s Skype tutorial, that I suggest taking advantage of the service. (Despite the occasionally comedic aspects involved in international call forwarding, that is.)

But sometimes it’s best to use a fixed line or a mobile phone — whether you’re away from your computer or simply can’t be bothered to don a dorky headset. After experimenting with dialing directly via land lines and cell phones, and after checking the rates on calling cards, here’s what I’ve come up with. None of this is revolutionary, but I figured it might be helpful to others to have all of these details in one place.

From a land line or a mobile phone, if you dial…

001, and then the country code (i.e. 001-1-123-123-1234): you’re connected via CAT, a Thai state-owned telecom. The call quality is good — it’s a standard fixed-line call — and the cost is 9 baht/min. to the US. (US $.27 cents/min.).

009, and then the country code: you’re connected via CAT’s VoIP service (that’s voice over internet, just like Skype). Call quality can vary, but it’s just 5 baht/min. (US $.15/min.)

008, and then the country code: you’re connected via TOT‘s VoIP service. (TOT is another state-owned Thai telecom.) Call quality also varies, and it’s 5 baht/min. (US $.15/min.)

007, and then the country code: you’ll connect via TOT’s standard fixed-line service and pay 9 baht/min. (US $.27 cents/min.)

There are other three-digit prefixes to use, but these are most common.

I’ve also experimented with CAT’s PhoneNet card — these are international calling cards and can be purchased at one of the Kingdom’s many 7-Elevens. These cards cost 300 baht (US $9), 500 baht (US $15), or 1000 baht (US $30), and rates to the US are 4 baht/min. (US $.12/min.)

This is the most economical option, but it involves dialing an 800 number and entering a code each time you want to make a call.

By comparison, if you don’t want to dial 001 and use a standard land line, simply dialing 009 or 008 before the country code offers substantial savings and costs just one more cent per minute than using a calling card.