Pay Less to Phone Home

National Geographic Traveler Editor at Large Christopher Elliott is the magazine’s consumer advocate and ombudsman. Over the past 15 years he has helped countless readers fix their trips.

Here’s his latest advice:

Reader Question: I’m an American taking a two-week trip to Norway. How do I inexpensively call family back home?

My Answer: Don’t purchase a pricey international plan from your wireless carrier.

For example, AT&T’s least expensive rate costs an extra $30 per month and charges $1 a minute for your calls in Scandinavia.

Instead, when you get to your destination, buy a SIM card or a phone that offers cheap data and make all of your calls on Skype, Google, or Viber (which won’t cost extra).

SIM cards essentially make your phone go native in the country you are in. Telenor, the Norwegian national carrier, offers these cards for about $10 a month for data-only service.

Going the SIM card route is superior to a phone call because you can actually show your loved ones back home the hand-carved troll you picked up at the Etnemarknaden.

Christopher Elliott is Traveler’s consumer advocate and pens the “Problem Solved” column for the magazine (this exchange appeared in the June/July 2014 issue). Follow Christopher’s story on Twitter @elliottdotorg.

Do you have a burning travel question? Share it with us in the comments section below for a chance to appear in Traveler magazine.


  1. Nic Hilditch-Short
    August 1, 2014, 9:33 am

    The internet is definitely the way forward when it comes to communicating with people back home, so many places now have free WIFI or internet cafes and you have some great free apps as mentioned above. Three are also a great provider though who have made certain countries free to call from which helps a lot.