It used to be that when traveling internationally meant difficulty keeping in touch. When it was possible, it cost an arm and a leg, making contact difficult.
These days the globe is wired in ways that make it much easier to stay in touch without spending a ton of cash. Email and social media are the frontrunners, allowing folks to stay in contact and share their experiences – even destinations once considered “disconnected” have Internet cafes for a reasonable cost. But, sometimes, you need to TALK to the traveler in a situation that requires quicker communication than email or social media. What other option is there?
This writer recommends Skype. Skype is a software application that allows users to send and receive voice and video calls over the Internet. In its early days – the company was founded in 2003 – it suffered from call quality and video quality issues. Over the last few years, however, Skype has improved to the point where any issues are minor and easily overlooked. Skype’s features make it an indispensable tool for the international traveler, and even for the international businessperson!
It can be used to communicate with people in nearly any country in the world, and can be used on a desktop computer, laptop or supported mobile phones.
Skype is a great tool for video conferencing with one or more people. This requires all users to have the Skype application and it can support up to three people in the same video conference. Skype’s group video call feature can support up to ten people in the same conference, making it ideal for a business meeting or for sharing important family moments. As if that’s not enough, Skype has the ability to allow desktop sharing, making it easy to communicate with others and show them how to do perform any type of task on a computer.
Skype’s Video Call feature can been used to make video presentations, as well. The video call can be broadcasted on a screen or a blank wall through a projector and it can facilitate a live Q&A style presentation in real time as an alternative to a webinar or in-person meeting.
Skype really shines with its voice communication features. You can call other Skype users for free, but you can also use Skype to call landlines and mobile numbers all over the world. You can pay a “per-minute” rate that varies depending on what country is being called (a common rate is 2.3 cents per minute for landlines). Or, if you make many calls to the same country, you can purchase a subscription which allows unlimited calls for a flat monthly rate. If you want to receive calls on your Skype application without the caller having to use Skype themselves, the SkypeIn feature is required along with a Skype To Go Number. You can obtain this number based in any country so that users of that country would only pay the standard rate they’re accustomed to while getting in touch with you, no matter where you are in the world!
When you add up the costs, Skype is a very cost-effective way to keep in touch. A country subscription runs anywhere from $3.00 a month to $14.00 a month, and a Skype To Go Number costs about $50 per year. So, on the low end, a monthly cost for unlimited calls is $10 per month. Add the ability to use video conferencing and Skype becomes a valuable communication tool for many people.
Skype’s call & video quality can vary between users, depending on the quality of the internet service used. Two users in the United States, for instance, can have terrific call quality, but communicating with someone in a less developed nation may cause less-than-ideal calls. Also, while Skype does have a mobile app available for smartphones, not all phones are supported.
To obtain Skype, go to www.skype.com and download the application. Once it is installed, you are able to communicate with other Skype users right away. You can add other features like a Skype To Go number from your account on the Skype website.
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a six-year industry veteran and owner of Exclusive Events At Sea and Journeys By Steve, based in Springfield, MO. In addition to producing special events on board cruise ships, Steve specializes in escorted tours of Europe and the Holy Land and culinary-themed travel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his websites at http://www.JourneysBySteve.com and http://www.ExclusiveEventsAtSea.com.