With the EU removing roaming costs within the EU, staying in touch with your loved ones while you are they are abroad has become a bit less expensive. However, if you are they are outside of the EU, the costs to call and texts soar once again. Luckily, there are now a bunch of apps that allow you to text over WiFi for free and did you know that some of them even allow you to make free phone calls?
Below, I've listed a bunch of services and apps that allow you to make free or cheap international calls from your phone, tablet or laptop. Some only allow you to make free international calls using WiFi while others also have the option to buy some sort of credit to call landlines and mobile phones internationally at low rates. Lastly, I know that using WiFi abroad isn't always possible and so I've also listed a few apps that function without WiFi.
- Apps and services that allow you to make free or cheap international calls from your phone or laptop
- A. Free VoIP Calling Apps
- B. Using local sim cards
- C. Using a mobile wifi device
- So, what's the cheapest way to make international calls?
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Apps and services that allow you to make free or cheap international calls from your phone or laptop
A. Free VoIP Calling Apps
One great way to keep in touch with others while abroad is through a free VoIP caller app. VoIP stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol” and simply refers to the call happening over the internet instead of via a traditional phone plan provider.
There are a number of apps that allow you to make free internet calls for mobile devices, tablets, and computers. Many of these apps for calling abroad will work without WiFi as well. In those cases, the call won't actually be for free as the app will use your data allowance over 3G and 4G connections, so make sure to check your plan to know how much that'll cost you before you make the call!
Apple's audio and video calling service, FaceTime, is built into every iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and Mac. With Facetime, you can call any other Mac or iOS user and talk for free using WiFi. And if you don't have WiFi, you can talk with them using your data allowance (which does cost money), making it easy to speak and video chat with the people you love.
Wondering how to FaceTime internationally? Exactly the same way you do at home! If you're on WiFi, the app treats your call in exactly the same way no matter where you are.
So is FaceTime free internationally? It is but… FaceTime is only available for use on most generations of iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Unfortunately, it is not available to anyone using an Android device or PC. And while you can use FaceTime abroad to keep in touch from just about anywhere you can find a WiFi connection, it's not available in the United Arab Emirates or Pakistan. And in Saudi Arabia, it is only available with iOS 11.3 or later.
The FaceTime App is built-in to Apple devices and you can also download it from the Mac App Store for free.
Although most people know WhatsApp as a free online texting app, it is also an excellent free online calling app. Available for Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone, WhatsApp allows you to stay in touch with your loved ones (or colleagues) while they or you are abroad.
Wondering how to use WhatsApp internationally? All you need is a WiFi connection to make a free voice call, and if that is not available, WhatsApp can use your data allowance instead.
Again: if you call using your data, it will be included in your data plan when your calling from your home country (or the EU, if you're from the EU) but otherwise, it'll cost you extra. That makes calling over data an okay solution if you're calling someone who is traveling but not that much when you're the one traveling.
At one time, WhatsApp was free for the first year and ninety-nine cents ($.99) a year after that. However, Facebook purchased WhatsApp in February 2014 and there is no longer any charge to use it. As long as you are connected through a free WiFi connection, WhatsApp is free. Otherwise, you may be charged for data used during your call.
The iOS version of the WhatsApp online free calling app is only available through the App Store for iOS. You can find more information about it here.
To download WhatsApp for Android OS 2.3.3 or above, Click here.
WhatsApp for Windows phones can be found here.
To download WhatsApp for your Mac or Windows PC, click here.
With Viber, you can make an online phone call, message, and make video calls with other Viber users, using any available WiFi connection around. When WiFi isn't available, Viber uses your 3G or 4G data connection, so data charges may apply.
Viber is available to use with your Android, iPhone, Tablet, Mac, or Windows PC and as long as you're on WiFi, it's free to make a call online to any other Viber user.
However, if Viber is not available to someone you know, you can use Viber Out to call their landline or mobile phone even if they don't have Viber. In that case, you do need to buy credit or sign up for a calling plan which allows you to save quite a bit of money over traditional phone rates. Call rates vary by location, and you can check the rates for your locations <here.
Viber for iPhone is only available at the App Store for iOS devices. For more information, click here.
Download Viber for your Android device at the Google Play store here.
You can download Viber for Windows or Mac here. You will need to start your Viber account through your mobile device first, and then you can sync your computer to your mobile account.
With Skype, you can make free calls online to other Skype users around the world by using WiFi. Free to download, the Skype software works through your mobile device, tablet, or computer. It's not only a free voice call app either. Aside from making Skype to Skype calls, you can also use it to share files, join multiple users in voice chats and conferences, and as a free texting app, as well.
It's free to make a Skype voice call as long as you're calling another Skype user and you're doing it over WiFi. If you don't have WiFi and the other person does have Skype, you can use your data and in that case data charges may apply.
If you do have WiFi but the other person doesn't have Skype or can't access their account right now, Skype also offers a way to make cheap overseas calls to landlines and mobile phones all around the world by adding credit to your Skype account or signing up for a subscription. It's an easy way to save money on phone rates when you are calling home from abroad and even to make national calls.
Another option is to have the other person use Skype for Web. All they need to do to use Skype Web is to go to the Skype site and click “meet now”. They can then enter their name and click “start a conversation” to start the Skype call. If they have a Skype login but are on someone else's computer, for example, they can temporarily login to the web application for the call.
Skype is available for computers, mobile phones, tablets, and Xbox. To download Skype for Windows, Mac OS X or Linux, go to the Skype download page. You can also download the Skype app there or find it in the Google Play Store and on iTunes by searching for “Skype”.
5. Google Hangouts and Google Voice
The Google Hangouts voice calling app is a communications platform for voice and video chat, using your Google account. With Google Hangouts, you can easily video chat, individually or in groups, with any other Google users through your WiFi connection. This means you can make free international calls online to anyone with a Google account, as long as you have WiFi.
If you don't have WiFi, you can still chat through 3G or 4G networks, although data charges may in that case apply and almost certainly will when you're abroad.
Google Hangouts syncs up with any device you have it loaded on. So, even if you start your Hangout voice chat on your computer, you can switch to your tablet or mobile phone and continue your chat there.
Google Voice is another free calling app that is integrated to work along with Google Hangouts. Unfortunately, it's only available in the US. So how does it work?
You can use Google Voice to obtain a phone number in the area code of your choice within the United States and Canada and then use that phone number to call any phone number (landline or mobile) in the United States for free. It basically allows you to make a phone, tablet or pc to phone call for free – given that you're in the US.
Is Google Hangouts free internationally?
Unfortunately, it is not, but the rates to call internationally using Google Hangouts are very low.
Google Hangouts for Android can be found here.
To download Google Voice for Android, head to the Google Play Store here.
For Apple, Google Hangouts is available through the iOS App Store here.
Google Voice for iOS is also available through the iOS App Store, here.
Google Hangouts for your computer can be downloaded here.
Google Voice for the Web can be found here.
Although primarily intended for team collaboration in business, Appear.in is a tool that allows you to have video conversations with others from all around the globe. Chat with up to four people at a time for free. (Or upgrade to the PRO version and talk to up to 12 people at once).
The Appear.in works through your Mac or PC computer, iOS or Android mobile phones, and iOS or Android tablets. It works differently from the Apps discussed so far in that this free calling app won't help you call someone on their landline or through their mobile phone number and you do have to be connected to the internet to use it. But if the people you wish to contact have access to the web, Appear.in is an easy way to see and talk to them in real time.
Create a special permanent room in the system and share the URL with the people you love. Then all you have to do is decide when to meet up for a chat, click the URL, and chat!
No download is required for Android or PC users. If you wish to use Appear.in for your iOS, it is available through the App Store here.
Slack is an online platform primarily meant for business. The interface, accessible from your computer, iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone, allows you to set up a “workspace” link to share with others. Anyone with Internet access can use the link to meet up with you for a one-on-one voice or video call for free. Slack cannot be used to call landlines or mobile phones directly, but it is a great way to connect with people through WiFi from just about anywhere in the world.
The basic plan is free and allows you one-on-one voice and video chat. If you would like to be able to talk with several people at once, there are two different paid plans to choose from, each allowing you to converse with up to 15 people at a time in a large group chat.
To download Slack to your Windows computer, click here.
Slack is available for iPhone from the App Store, which you can access here.
For Android, you can download Slack at the Google Play store. Find it here.
To download Slack for windows phone, click here.
Line is a freeware VOIP Client for Android, iOS and Mac and PC computers. It is a free texting app that also offers a way for you to make free online phone calls, too, in exchange for watching an ad.
Phone calls are limited to three to five minutes, depending on where you are calling from – perfect for quickly letting someone know you arrived safely or when you'll be available for a longer conversation. And if you want to talk longer, Line offers low priced and competitive rates and a handy way to buy credit for the time you need.
To download the Line App for Android, go to the Google Play Store here.
For Apple, Line is available for download from the App Store here.
For Mac OS or Windows, you can download Line here.
9. VoIPStunt and VoIPBuster
VoIPStunt is a program for your iPhone, Android, Mac, or PC computer, which allows you to make international free phone calls – or call at low rates. Calls to landlines and mobile phones are free in many areas – for a limited time – and once you run out of free calls over WiFi, you can buy credits for more calls at a good price.
Calls to other VoIPStunt users are always and unlimitedly free.
VoIPBuster is a very similar program to VoipStunt. But VoIPBuster allows you to make calls directly from your web browser, so you can connect with others PC-to-PC. Calls are free in certain areas of the world for a limited time – and credits are available at low prices for calls beyond that.
To download VoIPStunt to your Mobile Phone or Tablet, check this page.
VoIPBuster for Windows or Mac can be downloaded here.
For your mobile phone or Tablet, download VoIPBuster here.
The Whatscall app is a rather different kind of free calling app. When you sign up, you are given a free phone number local to the US or Canada. You can then your app and number to make free calls to over 230 countries with the call coins you win. There are many ways to win coins through offers available daily.
Your calls to other Whatscall App users are free, and your call coin credits can be used for calls to landlines and mobile phones, as well. And if you find you aren't earning coins fast enough, you can also buy call coins at a great rate.
Based on the reviews, it seems to work on and off depending on where you're based, though.
Available for Android and iOS.
Ringo is an international calling app for Android and iOS, created to make high-quality overseas phone calls for a low price. It works through existing telephone networks in addition to the Internet, making it easy for you to connect with your loved ones whether you (or they) have Internet access or not. Adding credits to your account is easy and you can even earn free credits by inviting friends and accepting other special offers that appeal to you. When you download Ringo, you get a first free call.
Ringo is available at the App Store for your iOS device here.
To download Ringo for your Android, go to the Google Play Store here.
With the Rebtel Calling app, you can make unlimited cheap international phone calls to landlines in 56 different countries. And if you are calling another Rebtel customer, you can make free phone calls without WiFi when you call app-to-app.
Rather than relying on WiFi, Rebtel uses local phone lines to make your calls, as well as 3G and 4G data connections, making it a free calling app without internet necessity.
There are several options available based on your needs. You can pay for unlimited calls to a specific country for a month, or choose an international plan if you are going to be traveling to several places. If you want to know more, just head to their official site to check out the rates. You also get a first three-minute free call without Internet necessity too.
To download Rebtel for iOs, head to the App Store here.
Rebtel for Android can be downloaded from the Google Play Store here.
With the Primo communications app, any call to another Primo user is free – no matter where they are in the world. Primo gives you a unique US phone number that you use with the app, in addition to the actual phone number of your device. Incoming calls and texts are free.
You can make international free calls without WiFi by earning Primo Free Minutes. You earn some Primo Free Minutes each month on the anniversary of your sign-up day, and you earn more by referring Primo to your friends. If you don't feel that you are earning enough Primo Free minutes for your calling needs, you may find that one of their calling plans is a better fit.
There are several calling plans to choose from and you can pay for your membership monthly – or for several months at a time. By using your minutes, Primo allows you to make calls without using WiFi or a data connection.
Available for iOS and Android.
B. Using local sim cards
Using your smartphone while traveling can get expensive. Even if you buy an international package from your carrier, you may find that you are spending far too much money and while there are ways to call loved ones for free using WiFi, it isn't always an available option.
One clever way to save money when traveling is by buying a local or international SIM card for your phone. In many places, particularly in European countries, you can even find handy kiosks at the airport, allowing you to quickly and easily buy a local SIM card upon arrival. Simply purchase a SIM card local to the country you are spending time with, and use it to replace your personal SIM card.
Purchasing a local SIM card is not a perfect solution, but there are a lot of advantages to doing so:
- You'll be able to call friends and businesses in the area at local rates, rather than paying roaming charges.
- Your place of lodging will have a local number to reach you on in case of emergency.
You could save as much as 80% over the roaming charges and data usage you could be paying for otherwise
There could also be disadvantages, depending on your travel plans. If you are visiting several countries outside of the EU, you may want to opt for an International SIM card instead, so you don't end up with a pile of SIM cards in your pocket. And you will need to contact your loved ones to give them your new phone number(s) since they won't be able to reach you on your normal one.
But if you will be traveling a lot in places where WiFi isn't a given and want to use your phone without spending all of your money on phone bills, a local SIM card is worth considering.
C. Using a mobile wifi device
For the above solutions to be free, most of them require you to have access to WiFi. To make sure you have WiFi whenever there's a connection available “in the sky”, you can bring a mobile wifi device on your trip.
A mobile or portable WiFi device can be described as a portable WiFi router in that as long as it's on and you're close enough to it, you'll have WiFi. However, for it to be able to give you WiFi, it needs to be somewhere there's a data connection available.
For example, we took a Skyroam mobile WiFi router with us to South Africa and while it worked fine in bigger places like Cape Town, where we would also have been able to use our phone's data roaming, it struggled or didn't work at all in the more remote places we visited on our trip.
So while a pocket WiFi router is a good solution if you don't want to use data roaming for calling (from) abroad, it doesn't guarantee you'll have a WiFi connection literally everywhere.
If you want to take a mobile WiFi modem with you on your next trip, you have several options:
- buy your own portable modem with a separate internet plan
- buy a pocket WiFi modem from a specialized Mi-Fi company and pay for the WiFi as you go
- rent a pocket hotspot with the WiFi included in the price for the duration of your trip
Nowadays, you can find a good range of Mi-Fi devices at reasonable prices. Watch out when you're comparing, though, as some may be sold by an internet provider and require you to get a data plan with that provider. If their international data plan is interesting, that's something to consider, but so ideally if you want to buy a device, you'll first compare both device prices and international data plan prices before making your choice.
Skyroam has three unlimited mobile hotspot plans or options:
- You buy the device ($149.99 or €149 – their conversion rate, not mine) and then get a monthly subscription, which is quite expensive at (at the time of writing) $99/month or €80/month.
- You buy the device ($149.99 or €149) but only pay for WiFi when you're traveling/you need it. In that case, unlimited WiFi costs $9 or €8 per day.
- You don't buy the device but simply rent it for the duration of your trip with unlimited WiFi included, which comes at $9.95 or €7.95 per rental day
With all of the above options, you can connect up to five devices at a time.
Skyroam offers coverage in over 120 countries. You can find the list on their website. They also clearly indicate that you won't have coverage far out on sea (like on cruise ships), on flights, in the middle of nowhere and in space (I guess they want to be thorough in their description).
1.3. How it works
- Buy or rent your Skyroam pocket WiFi device and get it sent to you.
- Charge the device using the included USB cable.
- Turn on the charged device.
- Go to the Skyroam day pass page to activate your first day pass.
- Surf away!
1.4. Pros and cons
I've tried Skyroam a few times and what I liked about it was:
- that the mobile WiFi hotspot device is super easy to use.
- that you get unlimited WiFi.
- how quickly the device was delivered.
- that it worked well in areas where we also had a good data roaming connection.
What I didn't like so much:
- that the Skyroam Solaris device is also a power bank. Some may find this handy but it makes the portable internet router bigger and heavier than devices by other brands and I don't see why I would want to use the device's energy to charge my phone when I need it to provide me with WiFi for an entire day. I prefer having the option of bringing a separate power bank when I need one.
- that it would sometimes connect only to lose the connection again ten minutes later when we were in remote areas. This meant that we lost a full day of WiFi usage as once a day pass has been activated, you can't pause it.
Want to give Skyroam a try? Get it here.
2. Tep Wireless
You can either rent a Teppy (Tep's portable wireless WiFi device) at $8.95 or €7.95 per day (their conversion, not mine) for short trips and occasional travel, or you can buy a Teppy for $129 or €109 and then pay $8 or €7 per rental day for unlimited WiFi whenever you need it.
At these prices, you can connect up to five devices.
Tep provides coverage in more than 100 countries. Like Skyroam, they specify that you may not have coverage in remote areas and that you won't have coverage out on sea.
On its coverage page, the website doesn't say anything about not working on flights and that's probably because Tep offers some extras, among which Prime Wifi. This extra allows you to access in-flight WiFi and 60+ million other hotspots worldwide via Tep's Prime WiFi app and costs $19.95 or €16.95.
2.3. How it works
- Buy or rent your Teppy and get it sent to you.
- Charge it with the included USB cable.
- Turn it on and look for your Teppy's network name in the WiFi connections list of the device you want to use it with.
- Enter the password.
- Surf away!
2.4. Pros and cons
- It's super easy to use and requires no installation.
- You get unlimited WiFi.
- It works as well as any device on the available cellular networks.
- Tep covers less countries than Skyroam.
- You have to know where you'll go before renting your device as Tep has devices that only work in certain regions of the world.
Want to give Tep a try? Get it here.
So, what's the cheapest way to make international calls?
– 1 –
Given that so many of the apps discussed above allow you to call someone for free if they also have said app and if you have a WiFi connection, finding a place where there's WiFi is still the way to go. That's also the case if you want to use an app that lets you buy credits to call landlines and mobile phones.
– 2 –
When you're traveling around the EU and you have a data plan from a European country, you can also use your data plan as roaming charges no longer apply within the EU.
– 3 –
If you're not from the EU or traveling outside of the EU, it's worth considering renting a MiFi device as this will allow you to use unlimited WiFi at a fixed price per day. Alternatively, you might also want to check if there's a national provider that has good international data roaming plans.
– 4 –
If you're traveling to the middle of nowhere, you'll have to suck it up until you get to that one tiny cafe that's also hotel, a farm, and the post office to make a call using their landline :-)
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