Tips on Staying in Contact with Loved Ones
Staying in touch with family and friends is important while visiting the United States. Before you go, research all your options and establish a communications plan that is practical and affordable.
Cell Phones, Pay Phones, and Calling Cards
Some cell phone companies allow you to rent or buy a temporary international cell phone; or you can use an international phone plan from your current carrier.
Pre-paid phone cards also allow you to make international phone calls for a flat fee. The internet is also a great way to keep in touch.
International Phone Card: Getting an international phone card is beneficial because you do not have to be concerned with bad reception or lack of signal inherent in many cell phones. The cards can be recharged and can be purchased in the United States or abroad.
Many pay phones these days do not accept cash. Instead, the phone cards can be swiped at the pay phone to make a call. Ask your current long distance provider if they are able to give you discounted rates for international calls. A monthly fee will apply, and your phone company can send you an international calling card with a special access number. However, you will be billed the usual United States long distance rates. The cards can be used at regular landlines as well.
ISIConnect Card: The ISIConnect card is a prepaid, rechargeable phone card offered by the International Student Travel Confederation (ISTC). ISTC also provides the International Student Identity Card (ISIC). Students studying abroad can get a card and save up to 70 percent on calls in more than 150 countries. It can be recharged over the Internet or by phone, and the voicemail it provides costs family and friends nothing to leave a message for the student.
Internet & Email
Find out if you will have access to the internet in your area. The internet is the most cost-effective way to communicate while in the U.S. Instant messengers, email, Skype, and Google Hangouts are great ways to communicate. Wi-fi and internet are abundant in most major cities. Your host university and community library should have computers connected to the internet available for use free of charge.
If you will be abroad for an extended period, you may want to arrange for the delivery of your mail. Some banks and international credit card companies handle mail for customers at their U.S. branches. In addition, post offices in many countries will hold mail for travelers under their General Delivery (Poste Restante) services. Check with your embassy to see if that will be possible there. Foreign embassy and consulate contact information can also be found on the Country Specific Information for each country.
Create a Schedule
Discuss what time of day you can be reached by family and friends before you leave. Contact your phone service provider to discuss best plans for international calling. To save on telephone communication, set up a regular schedule for e-mailing, instant messaging or talking via Skype.