My partner is currently volunteering out in Sierra Leone. He flew out 2 weeks ago, and as a result we sometimes have difficulty getting hold of each other. As a part of the voluntary work he is doing out there, he has been given a SIM card to use to call other people he will be working with whilst there. He also took a SIM card with him which provided massively discounted calls compared to what he would have paid if he had used a typical pay monthly mobile phone (or the one pay as you go tariff available with O2).
However using the SIM card he took with him was still very expensive. He left with $105 in credit on the SIM card, and this was entirely gone within 10 days. Since then, he has had another $29 added to his SIM card, which was gone within 2 days. The benefit of this method however was the call charges.
It costs him $0.43 per minute to receive a call, but just like a normal UK mobile number when the person calling is in the UK. (Like me, so all I do is call a normal UK mobile number, and it is taken from my inclusive minutes bundle)
Calling back to the UK is $0.86 per minute, which is quite expensive, but still considerably cheaper than many other options.
Before he left, we looked at the various options, and discovered that on Virgin Media it would cost approximately £58.00 for a 10 minute phone call, and on BT it was around £13.80 for the same 10 minute call. So obviously before you start there is a massive price discrepancy. With time running out, I looked at ways he could keep in touch quickly and easily, not just with me, but with everyone else at home.
We looked at mobile sim cards and found SIM cards which have roaming with charges ranging from $1.50 per minute to receive a call to $0.43 per minute, and from $4.00 per minute to make a call, right down to $0.86 per minute. One of the downsides of this really cheap SIM card is that it charges you to the next whole minute, with a minimum charge of 1 minute.
The SIM card we ended up going with was affiliated with National Geographic, via a company called CellularAbroad.com. I have signed up as an affiliate with them, so that I can earn a little bit more to help keep this website and all of my other websites up and running. As soon as I have one, I will post it here.
However, when he arrived in Sierra Leone, and after spending so much money on the calls in such a short amount of time, I wanted to find a way to call him on either mobile phone, but reducing the cost as much as possible. I started searching for phone cards, VoIP applications, or any other way I could use to call my partner without incurring absolutely crazy call prices.
After reviewing several, including;
- Auracall (http://www.traveltalksim.com)
- NobleCom (http://www.noblecom.co.uk)
- PlanetTalk (http://www.planet-talk.co.uk)
- Comfi (http://www.comfi.com)
- GetMeCallingCards (http://www.getmecallingcards.com)
- Rebtel (http://www.rebtel.com)
In the end I settled for Rebtel, I opted for this because it offered attractive call rates (£0.189 per minute) and charges to the next whole minute, something which seems to be a standard practice across the entire industry. They have both iOS and Android apps, as well as external telephone numbers which they try to make local to where you are in the country, and in the world. I have my partner added, which has generated a single UK London telephone number, this number comes out of my minutes bundle, so I don’t pay for the call, and then only get charged the 18.9p per minute which I’m on the phone.
This also offers me one massive advantage. I can call the SIM card which he was issued in Sierra Leone, meaning that he doesn’t have to switch SIM cards when I speak to him every week.
It now costs me around £1.89 for a 10 minute call, and for the 20 minutes I typically speak to him, it only costs around £3.78 per call, which is massively cheaper than using the SIM card he took out with him!