Canada is a diverse country where residents from countries all over the world immigrate to start new chapters of their lives. In doing so, many people leave their closest friends and dearest families behind. So what are some proven long distance options to stay connected with families and friends abroad? Read on to find out.
Write a letter/card
A hand-written letter is coveted especially during the age of the Internet. There’s no spell checker, backspace, cut and paste functions so writing a letter by hand requires the utmost dexterity and well thought-out planning. A hand-written letter is a perfect way to show your love and sincerity towards the person who it is addressed to. Although it is not practical in terms of cost and time, mailing a hand-written letter is the best way to stay in touch with your loved ones simply because it’s heart warming. Unfortunately, hand writing a letter is a dying art because all other options below.
You guessed it right, because email is the most widely used app on the Internet. It allows you to compose and customize your letter with ease (spell checker and all editing functions). You can easily attach photos, video and audio clips with your letter. In addition, you can choose to send it to one person or one hundred people all at once. The service is free and delivered almost instantly (no wonder regular letter mailing service is now called “snail mail”. Although it is not as personal when comparing to a hand-written letter, email’s practicality and swiftness in delivery shortens the distance between families and friends from two different parts of the world.
Facebook is a social networking service that keeps a group of people connected. As such, it is a good tool to use for keeping in touch with your friends and families across the globe. Once registered as a Facebook user, you can add friends or family members to your contact list (they need to be Facebook users as well). You can then exchange messages with each other, update your statuses and share news, photos, videos on Facebook. You can choose to receive notifications when someone from your list updates their profiles.
Instant messaging app
An instant messaging app allows its users to send and receive text messages, photos and videos over the Internet instantly. Once the app is installed on your smartphone, you can add friends and families to you contact list and start communicating with each other no matter where you are in the world. Because the app sends the message via the Internet, not through your cellular carrier, there is no texting charge as long as you have data or Wifi. It is much more interactive than options mentioned thus far to keep in touch with your friends and families because the messaging occurs in real-time. Popular examples of instant messaging apps include: Apple’s iMessage, Whatsapp, Line, WeChat, Viber, Tango and lots more! The best part is, many instant messaging app also have video and voice calling capabilities. So as long as the data or Wifi speed permits on both ends, you can easily connect with your family and friends no matter how far you are apart. Please note video calling does consume more data so it is best to avoid using your cellular data if you have a data cap (conversely, you can use it as much as you want if you have a unlimited data plan).
Long distance calling via your current phone provider
A lazy way to stay in touch with your families and friend is simply pick up your home phone and dial a long distance number. It is also likely the most expensive way to make long distance phone calls. Think about it, you are already paying for a basic privilege to use your phone, and now you have to pay the long distance rate on top of it. Find out exactly how much you are paying per minute for the country you dial to most often and compare it to the next product, which should cost a lot less.
Long distance calling via a phone card
Using a long distance phone card needs more effort than using a home phone to make long distance calls. You need to dial a local or toll free access number to connect to the long distance company (save it on speed dial to save time); enter your PIN for verification; then enter the number you wish to call. Because of the extra effort to make long distance calls, rates from phone cards are always lower than your local home phone service provider. However, you should be aware of fees, expiry dates and other usage limitations of the phone card you are using. Study a few different phone cards and determine the best one for your usage. Once decided, just continue buying the same card so you are paying for a consistent rate.
Long distance calling via ttag.ca
A new type of long distance company emerged to address both the higher long distance rates charged by local telecom providers and the inconvenience using long distance phone cards. One such company is called ttag.ca. ttag’s calling rate rivals long distance phone cards. Yet, you are able to use any phone (cell or regular) to make long distance phone calls, no data or Wifi is required. Basically, ttag takes your phone number and number you wish to call abroad and transform them into a new ttag phone number for you. When you call the new ttag phone number, you are calling the number aboard and enjoying ttag’s competitive calling rates.
Long distance calling via a VoIP device
This setup is ideal for those who talk “a lot” between countries whose long distance rates are high (e.g. Philippines, Iran, Nigeria, Iraq, etc.). For example, the rate of calling Philippines from Canada is around 15 cents per minute. So the hourly rate to call Philippines is $9 ($0.15×60). Let’s assume your call length is 1/2 hour per day. After a month, you can expect to pay $135 for long distance charges alone. (as a reference, calling Irag from Canada for the same amount of time will cost you $225 because the calling rate is around a quarter per minute) So, how do you talk for as long as you want and pay less than examples above? Naturally, the number one choice that comes to mind would be using an instant messaging app because it’s free. However, your conversation will last only be as long as your cell phone batteries could power the unit. Your cell phone also might get really hot after extended talking using data or Wifi. If you do talk for hours with your relative or friends frequently, you should consider investing in a VoIP device. Here’s how. Purchase two Ooma Telos, leave one unit at home and ship the other one to the person you are calling abroad to set up at his/her place, as soon as the person connects it to the Internet, you can start calling each other for free. And that’s the main reason we recommend using Ooma Telo because Ooma Telo gives away its service for free after your device purchase. Using both Ooma Telos, you would only pay for the monthly taxes and fees of less than $10 and enjoy unlimited calling with the other Ooma Telo user abroad! The other advantage to use a VoIP device is you can use a regular telephone so doesn’t get hot like a cell phone. A regular telephone handset is also much more comfortable to hold for long period of time. For more information about using Ooma Telo to cut your phone cost, click here.
All options mentioned above can be divided into fourcategories:
- Hand written letter (Needs considerable effort and time to write a letter but emotional impact on the reader is priceless).
- Email (It’s easy to compose and mail for free to anyone in the world in an instant but tends to lose the human touch).
- Facebook (It’s free and all you need is Internet access. It becomes time consuming if you wish to follow every post).
- Instant messaging app (Easy and lazy way to stay in touch today but sometimes it’s easier to call instead of texting).
- Video calling/audio calling (Most interactive way to communicate but may eat up valuable data and drains battery more quickly than regular messaging).
Long distance calls
- local phone provider (Picking up a phone and dialing long distance directly is convenient but you may be paying for higher long distance rates)
- phone card (Mostly sold in stores. Offers low long distance rates but not as convenient to use and additional fees and charges erode the good rates).
- ttag.ca (Make long distance calls from cell phone or home phone. Competitive rates without additional fees. Purchase credit online and top up when needed)
- VoIP device (Device-to-device calling is free. Device purchases and yearly fees are extra but could still save money in certain situations).
Below is a table ranking the ease of use, ease of message creation, speed of delivery, live interaction and cost for each options of keeping in touch with your loves one:
|Method||Ease of use||Ease of message creation||Overall message delivery speed||Live interaction||Cost of delivery (not including setup)||Overall rating|
|Writing a letter/card by hand||4||1||1||0||3||1.8|
|Instant messaging app||4||4||5||4||5||4.4|
|Video calling app||5||5||5||5||4||4.8|
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