3 Messaging Apps that are Perfect for Staying in Touch While Traveling Abroad

 (Image:  Pixabay )

(Image: Pixabay)

Heading overseas anytime soon? Wondering how you'll stay in touch with family and friends back home while you're away? If you don't have an international data plan and don't plan on unlocking your phone and purchasing a SIM card in whatever country you may be visiting, Wi-Fi will become your new best friend while abroad — and you'll probably require a messaging app.

If you don't plan to rely on Facebook messaging — or if it isn't accessible, as is sometimes the case (e.g. in China) — there are certainly other messaging apps you can depend on. Almost every time I've traveled internationally, I have used one of the apps I'm about to recommend to stay in touch with people back home.

An added incentive to keep whichever app you might download after you return from your travels? You'll have a way to keep in contact with new friends you made while overseas — especially those who don't use Facebook (they do exist, believe me).

Here are some messaging apps you may want to look into before taking off:

1. WhatsApp

I've used WhatsApp for a long, long time — years before I ever stepped foot out of the U.S., in fact. The main reason I've done so has been to stay in touch with a friend of mine who lives in Colombia (though we chat over Facebook more often now). Speaking of Facebook, they actually bought WhatsApp back in October 2014.

The app was originally released in January 2009 and has something like 1.5 billion users these days, according to Tech Crunch. What's more, this post on The Market Intelligence Blog says Whatsapp, which allows for your standard text and voice messaging, as well as voice calling, is the most popular mobile messaging app in the world.

2. Viber

When I did go on my first international excursion to Argentina and Uruguay in 2014, the messaging app I turned to was Viber. I really don't remember where I got the idea, but when I found out I could easily make phone calls over Wi-Fi using the app, I was sold. It certainly came in handy while I spent those six weeks in South America.

Viber, which was released in December 2010, doesn't have as many users as WhatsApp — they're more in the 900 million range — but it does basically offer the same service. Plus, they have lots of stickers, if you're into that sort of thing. The app is popular in countries such as Montenegro, Ukraine, and Serbia, so says The Market Intelligence Blog (referenced above).

3. Google Hangouts

Google is a wonder, isn't it? As ingrained in our daily lives as smartphones, partisan politics, and, well, Facebook, Google not only answers our everyday inquiries but also has a lovely communication platform called Google Hangouts. The platform launched in May 2013, replacing three previous messaging products (Google Talk, Google+ Messenger, and Hangouts), and for the past two years, I've been using it to chat with a good friend of mine from high school who has been off studying in Rome.

I'm not too sure how popular Google Hangouts is on the international stage, but with HD video calling, built-in screen sharing, and all the usual bells and whistles you'd expect from your average messaging app, you could say I'm a fan.

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Bonus: One other messaging app that is popular in some parts of the world — China and, increasingly, Bhutan — is WeChat.

-LTH