You may be living abroad, but you're still just a phone call, text message, or video chat away from catching up with friends and family.
Here are your go-to choices for free domestic and international communications on your mobile, tablet, or computer. Compare and contrast, take note of our usage tips and tricks, and find the right options for your needs. All you need to get started is a wifi connection or a data plan.
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Switzerland's country code is +41. Include the area code when dialing numbers within Switzerland.
Note: Use of all these apps is free with a wifi connection. You can also make calls from your mobile devices using data but make sure to check your monthly limit with your mobile operator first to avoid overuse fees. If you have high data usage, consider getting an unlimited data plan, or reserving your app calls to times when you are connected to the internet.
Whatsapp is a mobile smartphone messaging app. It pulls the numbers from your phone contacts of others who also have the app. Whatsapp offers a space for both one-to-one and group chats, so you can stay in touch with your whole family or a group of friends at once. You can also call your contacts through the app for free, using either a wifi or data connection.
Whatsapp is very commonly used in Europe. It is a great way to message for free or coordinate group events. It may be a new app for North Americans, but try getting your friends and family back home to download it so you can enjoy free international messaging!
Our tip: To make sure Whatsapp finds your contacts in your phone, don't forget to enter international numbers in your phone book in the correct format: (+) (country code) (full phone number). For example, for the US: +1 987 654 3210.
Viber offers the same functionality as Whatsapp; it is a free messaging and app-to-app calling service. You can choose to use one or the other, or more likely, use both depending on the preference of who you are calling.
Skype is a well-known mobile and desktop app that is used to make free app-to-app video and voice calls. Use it from your computer or from your smart phone. Calls between Skype accounts are free.
Another excellent feature of Skype is the ability to use the app to call landlines anywhere in the world. With purchased Skype credit you can dial any number for an extremely low rate.
With video, Skype offers a fun and dynamic way to catch up with someone, or a group. The stronger your internet connection, the better the quality of the call will be. You can even screen-share to show off photos and videos. If you are having trouble with call quality, try turning off video and just using voice call.
Facetime is a great option for iPhone users. It comes already loaded on Apple products, and you can use it for free phone and video calls from any of your Apple products. People can call you on your mobile number or Apple ID email address. Facetime is only for Mac products, so if you want to call a friend with an Android phone, you'll need to resort to one of the other options in this article.
Google Hangouts is yet another option to communicate for free on your mobile or computer. It offers similar services to many of the above, including one-to-one messaging, group messaging, voice and video calls.
Added bonus: Google Hangouts lets you have group video calls with up to 10 other people, in 10 different locations!
You may be familiar with this app as an option for sending text messages, but now you can also use it to make calls. From the mobile app, call contacts and leave voice messages. With chat open in your web browser, you can also make video calls from your desktop to those of your contacts who have enabled the ability to be reached.
You tell us
How do you keep friends and family up to date with your life in Switzerland? Leave a comment to share your favorite apps, or other methods of staying in touch.