Hello there! As promised in my previous post, I will be reporting from KSA on useful tips if you ever find yourself in these parts of the world! Week 1 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was amazing! Lots of new and different experiences!
In this post, I decided to blog about something really critical for anyone working and traveling abroad to do so! My biggest pain for many years when traveling was connecting with my family and friends back home! Since this was my first really big trip (both in distance and duration) I only now looked into this matter in detail…
So, here goes the must-have for any traveler to be able to contact home, and feel like home when browsing and using the internet! What I did, is described below in simple steps!
- Buy a local number: First step when I came, I bought an STC number (the biggest provider in the country and the national carrier), and loaded it up with 55 SAR (approx. 12 euros). With it, I bought a plan for 2GB internet and 600 minutes of local calls for a month. I was set up with a data plan on my phone, and also had the flexibility to call my colleagues with a Saudi number, with no problem. There are also monthly plans for 1GB which cost half the price but with no local calls.
- Subscribe to a VPN provider: Second step, I subscribed to VPN Express for a monthly fee of 12 USD, for a monthly period. Prices fall really low if you commit for 6 months or even a year. With this, I was able to Skype and use the FB Messenger with my family, with no hustle, as before, these apps were blocked, resulting to low quality of audio, and no video at all. With the VPN, this is history. Also, VPN allows me to watch Greek Television, as otherwise, all channels are closed to foreign IPs.
- Subscribe to a VOIP provider: Next step was to create an account to LocalPhone, which allows me to call with really low costs to landlines in Greece, or even purchase a package that also includes mobiles. The cost of 100 minutes of landlines and mobiles, is around 2,5 euros per month! Also, for 3,75 euros and another 3,75 euros monthly fee, you can get a fixed landline phone for your relatives to call you from Greece for example, just like they would be calling a landline in Greece, so with no cost for them! You can save on this cost, but then only you can call. For them to call you, they have to repeat the process and create a similar account with a VOIP provider which is rarely the case for your father, mother, or less tech-savvy relatives!
- Install the necessary apps: Once you have (3) and (4), you can install the VPN client on both your phone and laptop (actually as many devices as you like), so that you can connect with a Greek IP from every device! And of course, using an app like CSipSimple, will allow you to set up your LocalPhone account on your phone, to make all these calls to your relatives. LocalPhone have their own app but I would not recommend it.
So, total cost? 10$ monthly for VPN + 15$ monthly for data & local calls + 4,5$ for setting up your local number (one time fee) + 4,5$ monthly for the number and another 3$ for 100 minutes of international calls to landlines and mobiles.
Total cost of 33$, a little over 25 EUR with current exchange rates, to get all the comfort of your home communications abroad! Not too bad, right?
NOTE: When you are setting up or calling from your CSipSimple app, it’s good to also have the VPN activated on your home region for the settings and call to go through…
That’s all folks! Follow the process and enjoy!
PS: The process can be duplicated in any place in the world! If you rely on Wifi only, buying a local number can be skipped. With the local number, you can also rely on data to get your local calls while on the move!