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We’ve already covered communications at sea, where we are out of cell phone service. But what about being near shore? How do we use our cell phones to communicate with family, friends, and make arrangements on land?
Google Voice Transfer
Step one for us was to transfer our number to Google Voice. This allowed us to keep our Houston-based phone numbers that we’ve had for years.
Local SIM Cards
We’ve gathered quite the collection of SIM cards now. Prices for data connections have ranged, but we typically paid between USD $3-9 per GB. We usually just go with a straight data package. Very rarely do we feel like we could have used a voice or text package – but we did get one for New Zealand since we will be there for so long and scheduling work.
Google Hangouts App
Hangouts allows us to make VoIP calls for free to the states (because our Google Voice number is a US number). We can make calls to international numbers for a small fee if we need to. The quality clearly depends a lot on the connection strength for our wifi.
Hangouts also allows us to text/message with our friends and family. We can text from our US number, or send messages via gchat. We can even send images and use group texting!
The app has been through several updates which has added more and more features as time went on – we used to use a separate app for voice calls and sending images was challenging, group texts impossible.
Overall, it’s been easy to text and email friends and family, and while we could make more calls, we also have 200 minutes a month that we never use on our sat phone. One goal for us in 2017 is to get better at calling friends and family more often!