If you are traveling overseas, its never been easier to make it cheap and easy to handle calls. Here's a quick list of what we do:
# "T-mobile":http://t-mobile.com. Make sure you have a phone that is a GSM world phone (technically speaking that means it works at 900 and 1800MHz). T-mobile is the only US carrier that unlocks their phones if you call them and ask, so they are a good choice. Cingular doesn't although for many phones there are unlock services that do this. Ideally you want two phones. One is your US phone number and the other you'll use for local calls.
# Make sure the T-mobile international roaming is turned on. You should check their customer service group to make sure. Also make sure to ask that it is turned on in both the billing and the network system. It is supposed to happen automatically but oftentimes, the billing turns on but the network doesn't. If that happens, you will get the system SEARCHING... forever then you have to call t-mobile customer service from overseas. The number is +18009378997
# Sim card, cell phone rental. These folks have a great guide we've used for a while in terms of what to get. Good overall reading.
# "Prepaid SIM Card":http://www.telestial.com/intl_calling_card.php. If you are organized, you can have them ship you a prepaid SIM card. We did this for Connie when she went to Africa and it worked well. Most European countries have easy pre-paid SIM programs. You can just buy a SIM from Virgin Mobile in the UK, TIM in Italy or Mobicarte in Italy for instance when you get there if you are staying a long time. This lets you make local calls essentially for local rates.
# "Calling Card":http://telestial.com/intl_calling_card.php When you get a call from the US, then you can return it with your local phone with a local access number. Telestila uses "Global Phone":https://www.gphone.com/service/ to do this with their GlobalPostPaid service. This doesn't require any setup fee and they are pretty cheap. $0.44 for a call from Italy to the US for example. Also they have a Callback service. You ring a magic number in the US or the Netherlands, they use automatic number identification to call back and then you use the lower US to Europe rate as an example. # "Onesuite":http://www.onesuite.com. If you are calling someone in the US, the other trick is to get them a Onesuite account, these rates are incredibly low calling from the US. So then you ring them once, they see your number and then can call you back from the US. 2.2 cents for instance from the US to China! The big drawback is that require in effect$2/month worth of usage or they die ($10 last six months). So it is best is you talk alot. Otherwise Cognicall (see below is a better deal). There are some other services that are more traditional that I use as a backup: * "IDT":http://idt.net. This is a$25 prepaid card. It works just about everywhere. The prepayment is a drawback for sure. Also it takes 24 hours to activate.
* "Net2Phone":http://net2phone.com. This is a subsidiary of IDT. The same $25 prepayment scheme. The rates are about the same as Global Phone, so I'm only using this until I exhauste the$45 I have stuck there. That will take quite some time at these low rates. Also about $0.44/minute from Italy to the US. * "Cognicall":http://cognicall.com. I used these folks for a long time, but their rates in the US are much higher than Onesuite. Good thing is that they have no prepayment nor monthly fee. As another aside, if you want to make calls from a US mobile internatinally, there are a few dial around solutions: * Cognicall lets you set a mobile phone up so that if you dial a magic access code, then it lets you in and you can just dial an international number. A hassle in that you dial two numbers, but it is way, way cheaper.$1/minute for instance to China on T-mobile vs $0.12/minute. * Globalphone lets you do the same thing with GlobalMobile service. Their rates are even lower at$0.08/minute US to China. That's cheaper than calling from Seattle to Tacoma!