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How to: call home cheaply

So, you've been bumming around Asia for months and haven't once called your dear old mum back home, shame on you! Those living here soon realise that international phone calls from Thailand aren't cheap, and if you're travelling and need to call your home country, it pays to know where to call cheaply from.

Luckily we live in an age of electronic communications and there are a few options. The easiest and most practical one for travellers is to use the numerous cheap calling services provided by internet cafes and guest houses in tourist areas. You can't miss them because they all display near identical signs outside their shop advertising 'Calls 20 baht'. The services use one of two methods; a call back service of a VoIP (voice over internet protocol) which effectively turns an internet connection into a phone line.

These services cost about 25 baht a minute to Europe and the US - hardly a bargain but about half the rates of standard phone charges here. For other countries or calls to mobile services it gets more expensive. Recently TOT (one of the local phone companies) lowered their rates considerably, though this may not last.

Those living here can set up their own VoIP service using one of the many alternatives easily found on the internet. The quality of these is still lacking and often there is an annoying delay, but Skype is a new technology that has radically improved this new means of calling long-distance. All of these services require that you register and give credit card details. Some are more efficient and reliable than others so it's worth shopping around. Obviously you need your own computer. PC to PC calls are the cheapest (literally a few cents a minute) though you have to co-ordinate with those you are calling. However, all these services also call directly to regular phones.

Another alternative is to use call back services. These companies are based in the US where international rates are cheapest by virtue of sheer economies of scale. Ironically it's cheaper to call Singapore from Thailand via an exchange in Florida than it is to call directly using the local phone service. First you need to register and set up a direct debit on your credit card, providing them with your home number. They then issue you with a number to call in the US - which you allow to ring once and hang up (meaning no charge to you). It then calls you back and asks you to dial your required number. Typically, rates from Thailand to the US are 10c a minute and to Europe 15c a minute. We recommend: Calls in Thailand (a UWT agent).

Unfortunately the phone network in Thailand is somewhat neglected and poorly maintained, but works most the time. Many people now rely entirely on the mobile networks.

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This page last updated: 17 February 2006
This site last updated: 16 June 2005

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