6 Ways to Keep in Touch with Family & Friends while in New Zealand

When your in New Zealand and unless you are a multimillionaire New Zealand is pretty much the furthest away country from Europe and the UK. The time difference is 11 or 13 hours depending upon daylight saving time from the UK, this means when you wake up it is their evening and when you go to bed they are waking up or having their breakfast. This sort of time difference can make it difficult to keep in touch with family and friends.

Keeping in touch with friends and family back home is very important, and often quite difficult or expensive. I’ve news for you my friends, the Internet! It’s the future! The Internet has single handily wiped billions of pounds of profit from telcoms (which they used to make from text messages and telephone calls). Its now so cheap to stay in touch, it’spractically free and there are so many different ways to do it call, video, message. I’ve researched a lot of different methods as well as trialed some of them out and detailed the ones I think are worth considering depending upon your situation once you move, here is how we do it;

FaceTime / Free / Requires mobile data or WiFi / Only works on Apple devices / Low difficulty

FaceTime requires an Apple product such as an iPhone, iPad or Mac. We use FaceTime to video call our family and friends who own Apple products The service from the UK to New Zealand is seamless and the quality is fantastic. Much better than Google Hangouts and Viber, however FaceTime doesn’t allow you to conference with multiple parties- for me this means I have to call and speak to everyone, rather than chucking them all in a group and speaking once.

Hangouts / Free / Requires mobile data or WiFi / Laggy at times / Low difficulty

Hangouts forms a part of Google+, Googles aherm popular social network. In my opinion there are two great features of this software

1) It pretty much works on any device: Android smartphones and tablets, iPhones, iPads, computers, Macs and smart devices with web browsers. This means that as long as your friend or family member have a pc, laptop, phone or tablet you can stay in touch.

2) Joint conversations or conferencing, you can communicate with up to 6 people at the same time, this is great for communicating at Christmas!

The only downsides to Hangouts as I see it are technical – it can be a bit buggy at times, for non-technical people like my mother this is very frustrating. Lag, when there are more than two or three parties on the Hangout the whole thing is a bit laggy.

Viber Out / Paid / Requires mobile data or WiFi / Medium difficulty

I have a paid calling account with Viber and top-up by around a dollar every month, calls are cheaper than Skype and I’ve registered my telephone number with Viber, this means that when I make a paid call to the UK it comes up as my UK telephone number. People tend not to want to answer withheld or international numbers, you never know who it might be or what it’ll cost. This way, they know it is you and because the call originates from within the UK it doesn’t cost them.

VoIP fone / Paid / Very difficult

I’ve used an Internet telephone service for a number of years at work called VOIPfone. This service provides you with a geographic telephone number for the UK (or Europe / USA etc) without the need for a traditional landline service, as it travels over the Internet. I’ve an app called SipDroid (here is where we get technical!) which connects to VOIPfone, when the UK telephone number is called the app rings, simple! The service costs less than £3 per month. This option is ideal for the Grannys and Granddads who don’t know what is so smart about a smartphone, let alone how it is possible to call a London telephone number and speak to someone in Auckland. The second benefit is more related to security, banking and correspondence – so, you want to transfer money from one bank to another or there is a security alert on one of your accounts, if the company have your UK telephone number, this is going to be expensive (trust me!).

If you are concerned about this being a bit to technical for you, I’d recommend giving the VOIPfone guys a call, they will even walk you through the process and help you to configure the app correctly.


Receiving my SMS messages while abroad


MYSMS allows me to send and receive UK text messages. Basically, I have a phone with a sim in the UK that has WiFi, it forwards all my messages over the Internet to my handset in New Zealand. This means I can receive text messages and send text messages without international charges or fees. This solution is great for keeping in touch with my stubborn father who refuses to call or learn to use a computer. A plus side of this software is that it also tells you about missed calls, that sort of thing – however there is no functionality (yet) to answer the calls – I’m waiting on this!

Three, feel at home. International roaming without the charges!

From April,1,2015 UK network Three have extending their feel at home services to New Zealand, this means that contract (and pay as you go bolt on) Three mobile customers can use their data minutes and text messages in New Zealand and it will come out of their bundled contract minutes, texts and MB’s – so no expensive roaming charges while in New Zealand. In New Zealand I’ve found data is bloody expensive and there sure as hell are no all you can eat data packages yet. Data wise, this actually makes Three’s feel at home cheaper than using any of the NZ networks including Spark, Vodafone, 2 Degrees and Skinny – crazy!

To find out more please check out our article on our review of the service here!

If you are living in New Zealand, its probably not the solution for you, though do let me know your experiences of how you keep in touch with family and friends from home whilst in New Zealand by commenting below.



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