Staying in tounch
The communication has become very inexpensive, accessible and fast. There are different options available in different countries and this bring plenty of questions. You will find some answers below.
More and more trainees from overseas arrive to the USA with their own cell phones. American trainees traveling to Europe end else want to take their cell phones, too. Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions our program participants have:
Q. Can I use my cell phone in the USA and abroad?
A. It depends. Your must have at least 3-bands phone, which means that the phone will operate in the frequency, which is specific to USA?s and Europe's' GSM networks. Remember, you will be using your phone in roaming so it will cost you a lot of money to call AND to receive phone calls and text messages.
Q. Can I buy a SIM card locally for my phone, so I do not have to pay roaming rates?
A. Again, it depends. Many phone companies "lock" their phones so they will not accept competitors' SIM cards. If you plan to use your 3 or 4 band GSM phone in the USA, ask if the phone is SIM-locked before you buy it. If it is, ask if the provider is willing to give you the code to unlock the phone so that you can use a SIM card that you buy here. There is plenty of unlocking services in Europe and some in the USA as well (cost - $5 to $50). In the USA, if you call your customer service and request it, the provider my be able to unlock your phone remotely or by giving you the unlocking code.
Q. Where do I buy a SIM card for my phone?
A. The best way would be to go to one of the specialized stores, which sell wireless service. You may choose a wireless plan (with monthly fee) but you need for this your Social Security number and often credit card or deposit. It will be much easier just to get ?pay as you go?, prepaid card, which you can recharge, with minutes. You can buy extra minutes in supermarkets, on gas stations, over the internet etc. The pay as you go cards cost more per minute then a plan.
Q. How much does it cost to use a cell phone in the USA?
A. The monthly plans start for about $30, but make sure to read the fine print when signing the agreement. There may be many small monthly fees, which add-up to the bill. For that money, you can expect couple hundreds of minutes per month plus free nights and weekend. It is very common for the wireless providers in the USA to offer free nights and weekends. Make sure you know what time the ?night? starts. The ?pay as you go? prepaid plans are less attractive. The rate is usually about $0.25 or $0.50 a minute. Important - in the USA, in most cases, you pay for incoming minutes as much as for the outgoing ones! The same with text messages. This is also true for the monthly plans, not only for ?pay as you go? services.
In Europe monthly plans are usually less expensive, with fewer "free" minutes. Free nights and weekends are rare. Almost always incoming calls and text messages are free.
The Internet is flooded with hundreds of companies selling "cheap" calling cards. They promise very low rates to call overseas. Unfortunately, they use plenty of tricks to get as much of your money as they can for not giving much. This article will tell you how to choose a good calling card, it is very much worth reading. We found this company to be pretty honest, and even if it looks like you pay couple of pennies more per minute it still may be a better deal. Calling cards are also available to buy in other countries if you want to call the USA.
If you have access to good (=fast) internet connection then instant messengers are worth considering. For example Yahoo Messenger or Skype provides you with voice communication; if you have a webcam, you can have real time video conference with your family and friends back home for free. The SkypeOut service is currently free to use in the USA and Canada, you will have to pay little fee to use it to call overseas. The rates are low and the quality is pretty good.
If you have enough time and patience, the "snail mail" still exist! Make sure to ask the post officer for Air Mail sticker and a stamp. If you don't, your letter will be send by the surface mail (by sea) and it will arrive to Europe after about 8-10 weeks.
Postal Service is the most common way to send packages around the World. There are cheaper and faster ways but not so accessible. If you want to send a package to your home country from the USA there are often small companies specializing in sending parcels to each country. You can find them online but also try to look around. In a large US city there may be a community of emigrants from your country. They will know how to send packages cheaper. You will be surprised with the rates - often less then half of the post service prices!
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