Travel tips

The 5 best international messaging apps for student travel

For my next selection of recommended apps I wanted to continue with the best international messaging apps (did you miss my Top 5 Language Translation Apps post?). Living so far from home can get very lonely. Sometimes I feel like I miss out on everything—my little sister’s middle school graduation, my Dad’s birthday, and those Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s house. If it weren’t for telephones I don’t know how I could manage!

Unfortunately, these international calls get very costly. My first year living in Boston I saw phone bills come in at the hundreds! While it was easy to control spending on calls with friends, it was difficult facing the large costs from long calls with my parents. Now, we did try the whole, “we’ll call you, don’t call us”, but come on… there’s no way I can spend more than 2 days without speaking to my mother. I can’t even make pasta without calling her first! So, rather than getting a special line that would allow me to call internationally for less, I went ahead and downloaded a few international messaging apps that allowed me to call for free. These 5 apps are my recommendations for communicating with your loved ones when you’re out and about in another country.

international messaging app: WhatsApp1) WhatsApp (4 out of 5 Alex’s): I’ve got to admit I’m a bit biased with this one. This free international messaging app is great because it connects iPhones and Androids, unlike iMessage that only connects iPhones. Your contact list is formed by syncing the app with your Facebook account, selecting all your contacts that have WhatsApp installed. Apart from texting, you can share pictures and videos, send audio notes, share contacts, and even share locations, all at the click of a button. It also lets you update your status, so all your contacts know what you’re up to and it gives the option to mark some contacts as favorites for easy reach. I give this international messaging app a 4 because it doesn’t have the calling or video feature. Nonetheless, since it’s so easy to text, share videos, pictures, and voice messages, and most of my friends and family use it; this is my go-to app!

international messaging app: Viber2) Viber (4 out of 5 Alex’s): Like Whatsapp, Viber syncs your Facebook account to come up with your contact list. It also allows you to text and call for free with other Viber users. If your Facebook friend doesn’t have it installed, then you can make a regular billed phone call to the number they have written on Facebook. It gets a 4 because it can text and call for free at great quality, but loses a point for not being able to share videos and pictures, make video calls, and because it charges for some calls.

international messaging app: Tango3) Tango (5 out of 5): Tango is actually my top international messaging app right now. Users can make free video and voice calls, and free texts! There’s even an option to send free eCards! As an extra, a “Specials” tab sells fun special effects to add to your calls. This app really has it all; there’s even an app for PC’s and laptops so you can make free calls to your friends at home. The only downside I can see is that it’s not yet as popular as the others apps, so your contact list is a lot more limited, and the quality of video calls could be better.

international messaging app: Pinger4) Pinger (3 out of 5 Alex’s): The way Pinger works is you basically are assigned a new cellphone number, particular to the app, through which you can text and make phone calls for free all over the world. Unfortunately, it works with minutes that you have to buy or earn by watching some ads. As you probably know from my last post, I really dislike ads, so this automatically brings the app down a point. My way of thinking about it is that there’s always another app that will do it for free.

international messaging app: Skype5) Skype (4 out of 5): We all know how great Skype is to talk to friends abroad. It allows users to make video calls for free to other Skype users. What’s good about the new international messaging app is that it integrates well with iPhone giving the user quality and easy to use video calls. Another feature of Skype is that users can pay a small monthly subscription to call other mobile devices that perhaps don’t have Skype. I’m going to recommend this one because so many people already use it, making it easy to find friends.

A key detail to remember is that these international messaging apps will still consume international data charges. Apart from that, have fun and enjoy. There is no longer a reason not to call your friends and family when you’re out exploring the world!

Now that you’re up-to-speed on the best international messaging apps, try them out on one of EF’s international tours.

Flickr photo via onbile, wp7connect, itunes tango,  itunes pinger, itunes skype

Editor’s note (2021): This piece has been updated for clarity, accuracy, and relevance.
Topics: Travel tips

Alex Sebelen

Hundreds of destinations.
Endless possibilities.

Contact us Browse tours