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Old 10-15-08, 02:42 PM   #1
Kazer
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Touring Overseas For 1+ Years: Phones?

My girlfriend and I are leaving April 1st, 2009 for a year long tour of Western/Eastern Europe/Russia/China & Southeast Asia. I am a software developer with clients in the US who may need to contact me for support while we are gone. Does anyone have any advice on how best to do this in an affordable fashion? From what I can tell with Sprint (the link shows rates for Thailand) it will cost me quite a lot to receive calls while we're out.

Does anyone know of a cheapish way to receive calls while abroad?

Thanks!
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Old 10-15-08, 02:53 PM   #2
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theres also roaming sim cards such as http://www.sim4travel.com/ and http://www.gosim.com/ and a bunch of others that should do that.

I don't know off the top of my head, but theres probably a VOIP provider that would provide a US number that could be forwarded to a mobile number from a local SIM card
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Old 10-15-08, 02:57 PM   #3
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thanks for the heads up on the sim card stuff, i hadn't even considered that as i've been with sprint for years and years and they don't use sim cards. that looks like it could work wonderfully!
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Old 10-15-08, 03:11 PM   #4
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You could get a satellite phone. They cost about a thousand bucks, and run $1.50 minute. That's not cheapish, but it will work anywhere. The downside? You can be branded as a spy, and will likely have grave difficulties at border crossings.

That said, I wouldn't bring a phone. As a journalist for Discovery Channel, I've worked with local land lines, cell phones, and satellite (and wrote about my travails in my book, Into Thick Air). What you need depends on where you go. Vast areas of Asia have no cell coverage, and the land lines are hardly reliable. If I was not absolutely compelled to stay in communication, I would simply check out my web-based email at every town I passed with internet access.

Good luck!
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Old 10-15-08, 03:22 PM   #5
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Thanks for the thoughts Jim, I'm definitely not considering a sat phone so no worries on the spy stuff!

It looks like gosim would work wonderfully for the first portion of our trip (you can see it in my signature). I've already braced my clients for the reality that I might not be very contactable for extended periods of time via phone; I'm not looking for 100% coverage all the time, I just want the option when it is available.
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Old 10-15-08, 03:36 PM   #6
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You don't need to "afford" it. You need to charge your clients a sufficient fee when they ask you questions. (And yes, I'm serious about that.)

Anyway, I highly recommend the following.
1) Get a Blackberry, maybe with T-Mobile. AT&T will rail you on international, T-Mobile isn't too bad, and data services are cheaper than phone -- as long as you don't surf the web on the BB, that is.
2) Get PhoneTag. It's a service, $10/month, that transcribes voice mails into email.
3) Encourage your clients to contact you via email.

As best I can tell, unless you're in a desert you should be able to check your email pretty frequently.

By the way, if you decide to do a blog, some of them (like Blogger) will let you do updates via email.
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Old 10-15-08, 04:49 PM   #7
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I definitely charge my clients a sufficient fee when they ask questions, no worries there. If I didn't I don't know how I would afford this trip in the first place!

I have numerous business clients that use my software to run their companies and I am the only line of support (working on finding a reliable programmer to provide front line support while I am gone). Such is the life of a custom software developer...

I'm not going to charge them through the nose because I decided to bail out of normal life to go ride a bicycle for a few years

PS: we have a blog! http://www.advriding.net/
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Old 10-15-08, 06:06 PM   #8
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Heh. Well, you don't have to soak them, you can just make clear that you want to be reimbursed for the phone calls, and be very clear that the rate for that will be $2.00 a minute or whatever it is. That will probably encourage them to email you instead.

Good luck finding a replacement dev....
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Old 10-15-08, 06:09 PM   #9
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Why don't you just get a cheap phone in the country you go to at the supermarket or wherever, a pay-as-you-go one, and then email your clients the number...? Once you get the phone, you could get new sim cards in each country. Far cheaper than buying a blackberry or satellite phone, for you and the clients.
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Old 10-15-08, 07:16 PM   #10
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Expanding on avatarworf's idea, you may be able to set up automatic call rerouting through skype or some other service, and change the number the call is routed to once you get to different countries. Once you change the sim card (say you are out of minutes/go to a different country with a different service provider) the phone number will change, and I doubt you want to make your clients keep track of more than a few numbers. This way, all you have to do is update your skype account with the new number to reroute to, and your clients don't have to get confused.
On the cost side of things, you may have to pay twice, once for the minutes on the sim card, and once for call forwarding, but the rates for forwarding aren't too unreasonable. Check out http://skype.com/allfeatures/callforwarding/

Mind you, this is all in theory, and I have not put it to practice.
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Old 10-15-08, 09:16 PM   #11
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One more vote for the pay-as-you-go phone idea, if you're in countries where it's available it's a great way to go. The phones themselves are usually dirt cheap (my last one was $10), and if you're clients aren't calling you every day the phone doesn't cost anything while it's not being used.

Traditionally the cheapest way to make international calls in a lot of countries has been at the post office, this might be a cheap way for you to call your clients should you need to.
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Old 10-18-08, 04:02 PM   #12
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Get a cheap unlocked or unlockable cellphone off of ebay or anyplace (sometimes you can get cheap (like $10 cheap) pay as you go phones that can be unlocked from tmob or att ). Unlock it. Buy prepaid sims wherever you go and just pop them in your phone.
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Old 10-18-08, 04:19 PM   #13
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I've already braced my clients for the reality that I might not be very contactable for extended periods of time via phone
If that's the case, and they've accepted it, then I'd definitely leave the phone at home. Free yourself from that ball and chain! Call in from a payphone or internet cafe once a month if you really feel uncomfortable.
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Old 10-19-08, 02:00 PM   #14
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I'm already going to feel pretty free from the ball and chain but if I keep a good working relationship with my installed base of clients it could easily serve to extend this trip forever!
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Old 10-19-08, 02:10 PM   #15
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Sign up for GrandCentral or YouMail. All your voicemails get emailed to you. That gives your clients the option to call you. Then you could just email back.

Also with GrandCentral, you get one phone number that automatically redirects your calls to any other phone numbers. So if you get a cheap prepaid phone in each country, you won't have to keep updating your phone number with your clients. They just call your GrandCentral number.

I use both services and highly recommend them.

They're both free and YouMail even transcribes voicemails.
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Old 10-19-08, 04:24 PM   #16
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Most telecoms companies require a minimum credit for a PAYG SIM card so buying cards as you go along may well be more expensive and more hassle than going with one of the compaines that offer an international SIM. (Unless of course you use the phone a lot, or stay for a long time in one country).
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Old 10-19-08, 11:03 PM   #17
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Get a cheap unlocked or unlockable cellphone off of ebay or anyplace (sometimes you can get cheap (like $10 cheap) pay as you go phones that can be unlocked from tmob or att ). Unlock it. Buy prepaid sims wherever you go and just pop them in your phone.
I haven't looked at all of them, but most PAYG phones from the supermarket checkstand seem to be dual band for domestic use (the 2 bands, I think 900/1900, only used in the N. America). Depending on where you go, a quad band GSM phone would be your best bet. These are sometimes labled world phones or some such. Nokias are fairly easy to unlock. The newer smart phones I'm told are more difficult. Be careful on Ebay phones, I have no personal experience, but you could end up a blacklisted phone that won't work even if unlocked.
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Old 10-20-08, 11:29 AM   #18
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I'd rate your chances of getting ripped off on your tour as high risk. Don't take anything high-end. Stick with whatever cheap phones you can score locally.
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Old 10-21-08, 12:28 AM   #19
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I'd rate your chances of getting ripped off on your tour as high risk. Don't take anything high-end. Stick with whatever cheap phones you can score locally.
Two years in and we haven't been ripped off of anything!
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Old 10-21-08, 11:21 AM   #20
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oh cool, hi avatarworf! i didn't notice you were part of the travelling two we love your site and have spent many evenings reading it while we prepare for our trip!
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Old 10-21-08, 11:54 AM   #21
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Kazer,

I can't really help with the phone issue, except mentioning that in europe you can easily find prepaid sim cards, however, you will have to get a new one for each country you visit if your calls will be within europe because it is expensive to call between countries with a prepaid sim card, and forget about calling the US with it. You can get a prepaid sim card and then use phone cards to make the call cheaper, but you will still get charged on your sim card and the phone cards are more expensive to use with a mobile. However, most of the phone cards have a free number to call, like from a pay phone or land line. Calling from a land line is really cheap with the phone cards, so you could take advantage of phones at hotsels and such.

I have a question for you regarding finance. How much have you saved for this trip? How much do you expect to spend each day on average?
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Old 10-21-08, 12:13 PM   #22
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Kazer,
You can get a prepaid sim card and then use phone cards to make the call cheaper,
That's how I'd do it. Get a tri- or quad- band phone and just swap sims as needed. At least in Europe, you can get cheap long distance cards everywhere (it costs me around 20 cents a minute to call the US from Denmark, the majority of which is from my service provider, the rest from the phone card).
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Old 10-21-08, 06:32 PM   #23
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zoltani--

that will vary considerably from country to country obviously but here is the current revision of the excel file that we have put together to get a rough idea on costs. i expect our first year to come in somewhere around $10k, hopefully a lot less but we'll see!

i'll be putting more information on the nuts and bolts of the planning stuff on our planning page in the next month or two.
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Old 10-21-08, 06:36 PM   #24
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re: the phone issue

i am pretty sure i am going to use 'gosim' because they have a gateway number that will allow my clients to call for free for what i consider to be a small added fee and there is also the added benefit that it will work with a single phone for the majority of the trip. in the years to follow (if we continue, and i hope that we do) i'll probably have to figure something else out as we get more remote.
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Old 10-22-08, 02:11 AM   #25
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oh cool, hi avatarworf! i didn't notice you were part of the travelling two we love your site and have spent many evenings reading it while we prepare for our trip!
Yeah, Andrew's pre-trip nickname isn't the most obvious We will take a peek at your site and stick you on our links list. If we can help at all, just let us know. The planning stage is so exciting, almost as good as being on the road!
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