Tuesday, June 23, 2009

South Africa: How to Avoid Communication Breakdown

Strolling around the U.S, we may find ourselves with a cell phone texting away, or talking for hours to a relative in Texas, California, or New York. Sometimes we don’t realize how good we have something until it is gone.

South Africa is a place full of wonder and amazement; but what if you do not have any way of contacting family, colleagues, businesses, or services through cell phone or internet? Here are some common questions that can be answered:

Can I use my cell phone from home in another country?

On some phones such as Sony Ericsson, Motorola, and Samsung models, there is a GSM (Global System for Mobil Communications) system built into your phone. You will be able to make and receive calls across civilized areas around much of the globe. You will have to call your wireless operator and ask for “international roaming” to be activated on your account. The only problem is that per minute charges can be very high. They can be $5 a minute in some areas, so make sure that you know the risks. http://www.telestial.com/view_product.php?ID=LSIM-ZA01

Renting a Phone
You can rent a phone at a Vodafone outlet in any of the international airports in South Africa. Vodacom has 24-hour desks at all major international airports offering mobile phones for rent. You can also rent the phone before you travel. You can go to InTouch USA (tel. 800/872-7626; http://www.intouchglobal.com) or RoadPost (tel. 888/290-1606 or 905/272-5665; http://www.roadpost.com). InTouch will also offer free information on whether your existing phone will work overseas. You can go to http://intouchglobal.com/travel.htm

Buying a Phone there
Roaming rates can be very high, and for various reasons, people do not want to bring their cell phones. Have no fear! Many nations have cheap prepaid phone systems. Once you land in the country, go to a local cell phone shop, and buy a prepaid phone and a calling card. Local calls can be as low as 10 cents/minute, and overall you probably will spend less than $100 for a phone.

What if I need to access the internet to update people on my status?

If you do not have your own computer, cybercafés will be where travelers roam. Go to http://www.cybercaptive.com and http://www.cybercafe.com to find a cybercafé is near you.

Your Own Computer
If your laptop has built in wireless capability, airports, hotels, cafes, retailers, and resorts are going Wi-Fi, which offers wireless internet for your laptop to use. Most of these places that have Wi-Fi offer it for free, or for a minimum fee. You can find out if your destination has Wi-Fi by visiting http://www.jiwire.com.

Good advice would be to bring a connection kit of the right power and phone adapters. Bring a spare phone cord and Ethernet network cable in case something happens to the others. You should also check with the hotel to find out whether your hotel supplies them to guests.

Other Concerns
There are other concerns with traveling abroad. What if you or someone you know gets hurt or sick abroad. You may need travelers' insurance, to ensure that you don’t pay a high bill out of your pocket in case of an emergency.

Name a time when you had a communication breakdown. How did you solve the issue?

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