How to send SMS messages while abroad
Recent events across Europe have once again highlighted the need to be able to contact people at home when we’re travelling abroad. While those were man-made emergencies, sometimes mother nature can create disasters that also leave those at home wondering about our safety.
When the earthquake in Nepal hit last spring, two of the families in my area had relatives climbing one of the mountains in the area (not Everest). The families desperately waited for news on whether their loved ones were affected since they were out on their trip when it happened. It took several days, but they eventually heard from them (they were all safe). Believe it or not, there’s actually 3G coverage in parts of Nepal.
Send messages from anywhere
Thankfully though, you don’t need 3G, or 4G, or any G to send SMS messages back to the UK while you’re travelling. It used to be you needed a mobile phone to send text messages, but over the last 15 years or so the advent of cloud computing has enabled companies to offer many services online. SMS providers are just one of those services, but arguably one of the most in demand given the growth of mobile. Now, all you need is a Wi-Fi connection, a device that supports a browser and an account with a web-based SMS provider to send text messages to the UK from abroad.
The way it works is much like email. You log into a website where you can send SMS messages from your web browser. Each SMS provider has it’s own interface, but generally speaking you have all the elements you do with email: address book, inbox, and sent folder. You’ll usually find even more than those simple features, but those are the core of an online SMS service.
If you’re using NetMessenger, the fastsms web-based program for SMS messaging, you’ll find it as easy to use as email too (not all providers are easy to use!). You simply type in the number of the UK phone you want to text, type your message and hit send. Your friends or family will get the text on their mobile just as if you sent it from your phone.
To receive replies though, you’ll need to get a virtual mobile number (VMN). These are numbers that look just like UK mobile numbers, but they aren’t tied to a physical device (like your number is assigned to your phone via the SIM card inside). This allows anyone to send an SMS message to your VMN, and you can read it online wherever you are. You can also have it forwarded to an email address if you choose. But if you simply need a way to let your loved ones know you’re ok, you don’t need a VMN. Just know that they can’t reply to you without one.
The costs for sending messages with NetMessenger is incredibly low. Much lower than you’ll find on most network international roaming plans. But some networks in the UK include most countries in the EU in their calling plans. Others charge a premium international fee. Beyond Europe though, you’ll certainly be paying a huge fee for small amount of minutes and even less data.
Of course, you could just use email or social media to keep in touch with your family. But you’ll no doubt have some family members that don’t use either (although nearly everyone has a mobile phone that can receive SMS), and if it is an emergency then being able to get a message directly into the palm of their hand within seconds might just be appreciated.
You could also use our list triggering feature to send a message to all your friends and family at once without the need for an internet connection.
Finding Wi-Fi abroad
To avoid those high international rates, you’ll need to find Wi-Fi where you are. In most places you’ll be able to find Wi-Fi – even remote places like Nepal. In more populated areas, public Wi-Fi can be found easily or purchased from hotels where you might be staying. If you take your smartphone or tablet with you, you can also search for any number of apps that let you know where free Wi-Fi is available. Just be cautious using free networks as they are often insecure.
If you travel a lot, are concerned about security, or just want to have Wi-Fi everywhere – not just in your hotel – you can find networks of hotspots (Wi-Fi locations). There are companies that specialise in creating Wi-Fi networks around the world. They then open up that network to anyone who signs up for their service. Boingo and iPass are two, each with over 1 million hotspots globally and require monthly fees to join the network. If you’d rather just get connected during your travel, there are companies that will rent a Wi-Fi hotspot device you take with you (which then connects to their network), usually for a flat daily rate. When you get home you return it and there are no further charges.
So it’s easy to stay in touch wherever you go. You can assure your loved ones that you’re safe and sound by using a web-based SMS service like NetMessenger. You don’t have to wait until the next time you’re travelling though. Sign up for a free account today, take NetMessenger for a test drive and be ready for your next trip.