Staying in Touch While Abroad

I have an upcoming trip to St. Kitts and Puerto Rico. I’ll be there for about a week – and while I am visiting a friend in St. Kitts, she is in vet school so I’ll probably spend much of my time by myself. Since it is my first solo trip to a foreign country, I wanted to be sure that I’d be able to get in touch with people in case of an emergency. My friend has a local cell phone, and uses Skype to talk to family back in the US – she offered to let me use her computer while I’m down there when she isn’t in class. Since I don’t plan on bringing my laptop with me, my current cell phone is through my job (and locked down tighter than Guantanamo – i.e. I can’t just switch out the sim card), and I dont’ want to hog her computer, I needed to come up with an alternative method of staying in touch.

My friend said I should get a quad-band international phone with a local sim card. I enlisted my tech-savvy brother in the search, and we came up with Telestial.com as the best option. After doing some research (and wrapping my head around the confusing variety of charges, package options, etc), I decided to purchase the Pack Lite (which is a quad-band phone that comes with a sim card and $5 calling credit). The sheer number of Telestial reviews from reputable sources (nytimes, cnet, frommer’s, etc) was overwhelming, and helped me to feel better about handing my money over to a company I only recently discovered.

The Pack Light phone supposedly works in over 185 countries. It provides you with two phone numbers – a US version and a Global/UK version. The fees/cost per call are not small – if I call my husband while I’m in St. Kitts I’ll have to spend $2.39 per minute. If he calls me, it drops to $1.99 per minute. Texts are a little less painful, but not by much – if I receive a text on the UK number it is free, to receive it on the US number costs $0.10, and to send a text costs $0.79.

Not great, but at least it provides that added bit of comfort in case I get in some sort of emergency. Also, it will help to coordinate with my husband so that we can skype at a convenient time. I was still a little hesitant to make the purchase, but I did some research and finally went for it after recognizing I could use it (much more cheaply) when we go to Europe next year as well.

I started to check out and decided to throw in a universal adapter as well. I don’t know if I’ll need it in St. Kitts, but it’ll be better to have it and not need it than the other way around.

Before I checked out for good, of course I did a quick search for coupon codes. Using code “frommers01” I was able to get 15% off. Total after (very expensive) shipping came to $42.79. Not too bad for added functionality and peace of mind! I’ll be sure to test out the phone before I leave the US though, to make sure I understand how it works and how to reload the call credits from the phone.

How do you stay connected when you’re in a foreign country? Are you ever concerned about the ability to get help in an emergency?

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Categories: Planning, Review: Tech, Technology

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