04 February 2015

How to Call the USA from the UK for Free ● by Jess

I'd say that the hardest thing about living the expat life is the frustration of not getting to see your family very often. Fortunately, we live in an age were our families and friends are only a phone call away. I've done quite a bit of research into the best ways to talk to the fam bam in the States and here are the best options I've found for those in the UK:

1) Google+ 

What is it? : A video conferencing and computer-to-phone service available through your gmail account
Pros:
  • Easy to use when you are checking emails
  • Quality is decent (though I've had more success with Skype)
  • It updates automatically
  • You can talk/video multiple people for free

Cons:
  • You have to download it, so it takes up hard drive space
  • computer-to-phone calls from the UK to US cost money (you can get around this with legal VPN plugins like Hola)
  • Not everyone has gmail


2) Skype 

What is it?: A stand alone video conferencing service which is downloaded onto your computer or device.
Pros:
  • Decent Quality (sometimes I have to turn off my video to get better audio)
  • PC and Mac compatible

Cons:
  • You have to download the program initially
  • To video conference with multiple people, Skype requires ££
  • Updates can be irritating
  • Waiting for people to come online!

+ Although I don't use it regularly, FaceTime is also great. Unfortunately, I am one of the few mac people in my family so it isn't really an option for us, but it's great for those that do!

3) ZipCall

What is it? : A free calling service which allows you to make "local" free calls to the USA. To use it, you simple have to dial: 0333 232 3232 + country code (001) + family's phone number. Then, voila! You're talking to your family!

Pros:
  • No internet required, so I can call my family to matter where I am, as long as I have my phone with me.
  • The process is exactly like calling locally, so there is no long distance fees
  • With this service you can also make free calls to Canada and China as well

Cons:
  • In order to call, you must type in the full Zipcall number, which can be annoying, but it's easily fixable by setting it as a speed dial number
  • Pretty sure it only works FROM the UK, and not the other way around
As a general rule, I use Skype when I am sitting at my computer because I like video chatting with my mama. Being able to see her makes us feel not so far away. We also Skype with Jon's family on Sundays, which I love. 

What I really like about ZipCall is that if there was an emergency or if I'm out and about and I really just have to call my mom and tell her something amazing, I have that option. All this makes the world seem smaller. Most the time I don't feel any farther away than I did when we lived stateside (and honestly, most the time I feel closer!). 

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