Keeping in Touch

Easy communications for the person traveling outside the USA

Updated March 17, 2014

When I first began to direct tours, Rome was usually the first stop on our Bible Land tours. I would make a call from the hotel to my wife to tell her that we arrived safely, everyone was well, and how many pieces of lost luggage we had. We would talk between five and eight minutes. It might take the hotel operator from one to three hours to get a "trunk" line to the USA. The call would cost about $25.

Because of the lag in transmission one party had to listen until the other person was completely finished before beginning to talk. That is hard for some of us to do at any time! Wife and I did not talk again until I arrived back in New York two or three weeks later. We wrote cards and letters to one another. What a clever idea! My wife still runs across some of them occasionally as she cleans out a drawer or box. Now, many of us can not find an Email we received last week.

The Problem With All of This. You must learn how to communicate, and you must arrange for your family/friends to communicate the way you want them to. There is a learning curve. You must begin early.

Times have changed.

I always provide tour members with updated information related to the country (or countries) we plan to visit. Because this information might be helpful to others who travel individually I thought I might share it with you. It is not detailed, but enough to give you a start. I have no financial ties to any of the companies I will mention. Well, except that I pay them for the services I use.

Most of this information can be found on our page of Helpful Travel Links which you can access from tours.biblicalstudies.info. Here, I call attention to some important items about keeping in touch.

The Telephone.

WiFi has changed many things. Now that WiFi is available in most hotels, at least in the lobby, it is possible to use your cell phone using the wireless feature. But you still might learn something in the notes below.

Cell Phones. First: In most countries the Cell Phone is called a Mobile Phone. Some cell phones can be used in calling to and from certain foreign countries. You must check with your provider to learn if this is possible with your phone, and what the cost will be for incoming and outgoing calls. My experience is that calls to or from Israel cost about $1.00 per minute on cell phone plans I have used. To and from Turkey is about $2.00. The price from other countries is more.

T-Mobile. We have been using T-Mobile for several years. Recently they began offering unlimited international data coverage and texting included with some of their plans. You must check with your individual carrier to learn what is available. Please Note: Just having an international plan with most carriers does not mean it won't cost a lot. It just means you can make the calls.

Locked phones. If you have a contract with one of the popular providers in the USA, your phone is "locked." This means that you must use that service. You will need an "unlocked" cell phone if you wish to buy a SIM card in Israel, or any other country, and use your phone there at a more reasonable rate. Rick Steves has good info on the use of Mobile Phones outside the USA here.

Renting a Cell Phone. You might find it cheaper to rent a cell phone. A company that I have used several times is Travel Cell. I have enjoyed great service in Israel with free incoming calls. Calls you make within the country are relatively inexpensive. Some plans allow calls back to the USA. Select the plan that is best for you. Travel Cell runs lots of sales. Order in time to receive your phone and Israel phone number before you depart.

Laptop Aircard. (Not available for Turkey.) Travel Cell also rents laptop aircards with unlimited data usage. I used one of these a few years ago in Israel. When I arrived in Israel I plugged the aircard into a USB port on my laptop. In a few seconds I was on the Internet. The cost currently is about $40 a week. I learned that two persons can easily share the aircard on separate computers.

Please note: When you come to the end of the rental process you will be asked how you learned about Travel Cell. Please type (or say, if you order by phone) "Ferrell Jenkins." This will allow me to earn a few cents commission to help with the costs of maintaining this page. Your cost will be the same.

The situation in Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey is much more expensive, but it is worth checking if you need to be available for someone back home.

May Not Understand. The person who answers the phone at 6 a.m. at a foreign hotel is often a night clerk or operator who speaks broken English. The call may have to be made more than once to get through.

Internet Telephone. See below under Internet.

Time and Date.

Build your own world clock for the places you visit. Click here.

http://www.timeanddate.com/

I use Firefox as my Internet browser. One of the nice Add-ons is FoxClocks. I have it set for various countries with which I need to keep contact.

General Information for Using the Internet While Traveling.

Use of the Internet for Email has become almost indispensable for travelers and has replaced expensive phone calls, and the mailing of post cards. Many hotels now have a computer available, usually for a fee, for checking Email. Or, the staff can tell you where to locate an Internet Cafe.

If you carry a computer. More hotels are now offering wireless Internet (WiFi) service for their customers. Some provide it free; others may make a charge.

Skype is a great service if you tote a notebook computer. This free service allows users who are connected to the Internet to talk free of additional charge (Skype to Skype). We have used it and have been pleased with it. You must have high speed Internet. You must buy Skype Credit (minimum of $10). The calls you make from Skype back to the USA will cost you a little over 2 cents per minute. Click for Skype.

http://skype.com

There is also a service called SkypeIn (or Skype Number) which provides you with a personal number in your area code. This allows persons to call you from their home phones. The cost for this service currently is $18 for 3 months or $60 for a full year. Your friends talk over their land line and you talk over the Internet, or they can leave a message on your Skype Voicemail. Click here for information on this service.

http://www.skype.com/allfeatures/onlinenumber/

A Skype App is available for many Android phones while using WiFi. I think you iPhone folks have something else you use.

Headsets and telephones that may be used with Skype Internet service are available online, at Radio Shack, and at some Wal-Mart stores. Skype also has video calling.

Email.

You must have access to a web-based Email account in order to take advantage of the Internet cafes or computers in hotels. You can get a free account at Gmail.

MedJet Assist.

This isnít about communicating, but it is important. This service will provide medical evacuation from anywhere in the world to the hospital of your choice. It is in effect anytime you are more than 500 miles from home. Click for MedJet Assist. The service is fairly reasonable up to age 75.

http://www.medjetassist.com/

Get a Blog.

Instead of sending Emails to a large group of people about your travels, why not just get a blog and give all of your friends the URL. They can access the page as they wish. The more regularly you blog, the better others will follow the page.

I have tried Blogger (part of the Google empire) and Wordpress. Ferrell's Travel Blog is on Wordpress. The basic service is free and the learning curve is painless. Go to Wordpress, pick a name, select a presentation, and the widgets (such as calendar, counter, archives) you want, and write your first blog. I doubt you will ever run out of space.

Hotels.

I thought I would include a photo to ease your mind about the quality of our hotel.

Rolling bus at Qumran. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.


Visit Ferrell's Travel Blog

Bible Study Tools on the Internet

Biblical Studies Info Page

Bible World