Being away from home can be hard even if you’re having the time of your life traveling; whether you’re on holiday, taking a gap year, or have moved abroad, sometimes all you want to do is chat with your friends and family.
Thankfully, these days we don’t have to rely on traditional snail mail and wait two weeks just to get a smiley face emoji, and the internet means that staying in touch is now easier than it has ever been.
From sending messages on social media and making audio and video calls, there are all sorts of apps that help you to stay in touch with your loved ones overseas and combat feelings of homesickness.
And most of the time, bar the cost of your WiFi connection (which is usually very cheap – check out these SMARTY SIM deals for cell phone data), you can use the following apps to stay in touch for absolutely free.
The Best Apps For Staying in Touch With Family and Friends Overseas
If you have a smartphone, there’s a very good chance that you already have WhatsApp. This is very quickly overtaking text messages as the lead way of sending an instant message, with more than 700 million users worldwide.
It allows you to message anyone with the app, no matter where they are in the world, as long as they have internet. One of the great features of this app is that you can see when a message has been delivered and read, and when the recipient was last online.
While it used to be the go to app for messaging while traveling through China, in September 2017 it was added to the list of websites blocked by the Chinese Government – but you can still use the app seamlessly in China with a VPN.
WhatsApp also has a group chat function, which means you can invite your whole family or circle of friends into one chat. On top of text messages, the app also allows you to send voice notes and make phone calls, both audio and video.
Skype is one of the most popular video-chatting services online, and it was quick to become a household name, as one of the first apps in the industry to offer this type of free technology.
Skype allows you to connect with your loved ones face to face, and, best of all – it is free. It is super easy to use, even for the most techno-phobic members of the family. And you can set up group chats for up to 25 people – it’s the perfect app for families spread all over the world.
Skype is often used in a professional context as well, so no need to worry about missing that super important conference call if you are away on a vacation or business trip. You’ll find that Skype is a very mainstream form of conference calling.
Additionally, international calls are incredibly cheap via Skype – something to the effect of 3-10 cents per minute depending on which country you’re calling to/from.
So even if your parents, grandparents or siblings don’t have a computer, throw on $10 of Skype credit and start making calls! Just be conscious of the timezone so that you’re not waking them up at 3 am in the morning!
Facebook is the best social network for staying in touch with your family and friends back home. You can upload photos and video to keep friends and family up to date, but there is also the option of sending private messages over Facebook messenger.
Facebook messenger has quite an advanced level of functionality nowadays, and beyond just sending instant messages, you can also send pictures, videos, and files, and add up to 250 people to a group chat.
You can even make calls through the app, regardless of whether or not you have their phone number, and the call goes directly to their phone. You can choose to make audio calls, or video chat like with Skype.
Group calls are also supported, just start a group chat and then hit the icon to start a call. Just like a regular person to person call, with group chats each individual has the option to log in with audio only or video.
Messenger does now require a separate app on your phone to the regular Facebook one, but it is very easy to use, and best of all, it’s free. You just need an internet connection to message or call people.
If you use an Apple device, FaceTime is automatically available, though the person on the other end will also need to have an iPhone or iPad (the benefits of apps like Skype of Facebook messenger being that it doesn’t matter what brand of phone every-one has).
FaceTime is very similar to making a traditional voice call in that you need to have the other person as a contact in your phone. But as long as you both have a connection to the internet, you can make both audio and video calls.
It’s fast, easy, and a really fantastic way to send messages or make calls between other Apple users, without the need for having to download another app (it’s already there by default).
Emails are the modern form of letter writing, and there are very few people in the western world that don’t have an email address. Emails are delivered instantly, and most major providers now have their own apps.
Sending email via apps is convenient and easy to do on the go, and some apps like Gmail allow you to add multiple email accounts to the one app, meaning you can toggling back and forth with the touch of a button, or combine all inboxes.
You can add videos, photos, and files just as you could with emails sent more traditionally through your desktop, which can be read at the recipient’s convenience.
And there’s the added benefit that emails remain there forever, until deleted, meaning you can always access messages and attachments from whatever device you have the app downloaded on.