Some phone providers will even allow old friends and new to call you locally. European-based Piccell Wireless will assign rental customers both an overseas phone number and a U.S. number. Friends and family calling from the States will pay domestic rates, while you pay a per-minute rate for incoming calls to your U.S. number. (For a phone activated in Italy, the charge is 39 cents per minute.) The alternative is usually much higher: international rates can range from a dollar to six dollars per minute, depending on country and carrier.
What if people call from the States who don’t have your new domestic phone number? Ask your existing provider to forward your calls, which typically involves a small fee.
PREPAID TRAVEL CARD
Prepaid cards, which are effectively rechargable debit cards, are becoming more popularand soon may make travelers checks a thing of the past. (Read more: Prepaid Cards Go Beyond the 'Unbanked')
“Prepaid cards can be reloaded remotely by phone or online. This is much simpler than finding a place to cash more traveler’s checks,” said Lisa McFarland, head of consumer prepaid products for Visa. Authorized loved ones can also reload the card online, so if you find yourself in a bind, help can reach you quickly. They are fully refundable if lost or stolen.
Major credit providers like Mastercard, Visa and American Express each offer their own prepaid travel card, as the common “safer-than-cash” selling point has caught on with consumers.
Prepaid also appeals to travelers because you cannot be charged overdraft fees (good if you’re fuzzy on exchange rate math). The total amount on these cards is all that can be spent, much like cash.
McFarland points out, however, that prepaid cards aren’t meant to replace a traditional bank account. When it comes to things like leasing an apartment abroad, or any other major purchase, a credit card and a bank account are usually necessary.
There is nothing hi-tech or up-to-the-minute about travel insurance — it’s the grandmother of tools for travelers, like a reminder to wear your scrunchable rain hat. “Travel insurance is practical and it’s a necessity. People think it’s a huge expense – though it’s not – and they don’t foresee the risks while traveling,” says STA Travel’s Cordoza.
Travel policies typically provide two main categories of protection: health insurance, and trip cancellation or delay insurance.
Before you go, call your current health insurance company to ask if they cover international travel. If you rely on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs, you will not be covered for hospital or medical costs outside the United States.
While health insurance is widely considered essential, the cost of other types of insurance – like trip cancellation – should be weighed against the cost of the trip. You may already by covered if you book your trip on your American Express, Visa or Mastercard; all offer travel insurance if you book and pay for your trip using their cards. (Coverage levels depend on the status you have with each card provider.)
If you paid without the help of a credit card, or you’d like more insurance than your card offers, you can choose from any number of independent insurers, including low-cost options like CSA Travel Protection.
Don’t wait until you arrive to insure yourself. In most countries, only by becoming a legal resident, which can take several years, are you deemed insurable by local private insurance companies. No matter how much you feel like a native, there are some areas where there is truly no place like home.