How to stay in touch with friends and family abroad

chatchatPeople often ask how they can stay in touch with their girlfriend or wife or friends when they’re far away. It’s well known that using a regular cellphone and minutes is too expensive or even impossible.
Luckily there are plenty of alternatives, and for every question there are always several obscure and cumbersome “solutions” that make literally no sense. Especially not with all the more common and better solutions available.

So quit your “cheap” minutes via VOIP or VPN proxies and other silliness. Use something that has broad support, anywhere. Something you can combine with your regular chat behavior, something that makes sense.

Which service to use?

First, I don’t know all of them. I know a bunch of them and I use a very few of them to stay in touch with people. I’ve also tried a few others in the past.

There are a lot of services. I’m not going to name them all. But for the Philippines in particular these are common; Whatsapp, Facebook (Messenger), Viber, Line, Skype, Yahoo Messenger. Yea, That many… Any since they’re popular there is a fat chance it’s used on the other end already.


Text and images only. This is useful as a SMS/MMS alternative. As far as I know it’s free and it works really really well.
Works where? Smartphones.
Service cost? Free.

Facebook Messenger

This is just Facebook Chat, in a separate app. This means you can use it anywhere anytime, as long as you have internet. Can be used a replacement for SMS or generic chat. But you can also make voice calls and even video calls with it.
Works where? Anywhere where you have internet.
Service cost? Free.


I’ve never used Viber. But many people in Asia use it. I get asked all the time if I use it.
Works where? Smartphones.
Service cost? Free.


I’ve briefly used Line in 2013. It works much like Whatsapp and as such is mainly a replacement for SMS (as far as I know). But It supports voice messages also.
Works where? Windows, macOS, Smartphones.
Service cost? Free.

iMessage & Facetime

These 2 are exclusive to Apple products. So probably not too much people use it in Asia. But the services are free and work really well. If the person in the Philippines has an iPhone, Apple computer or iPad with an iCloud account they can use this.
Works where? Apple Products.
Service cost? Free.


Skype is the biggest of the bunch. Free voice calls, free video calls, free chat.
What more do you want?
Works where? Windows, macOS, Smartphones.
Service cost? Mostly free.

Yahoo Messenger

Yahoo has been around for years. I like their messenger. But I have only 1 contact in it that I never talk to. Still, it’s a somewhat popular option in Asia. Not so much in the rest of the world I think. With the official messenger you can use text chat, video chat and voice alls.
Works where? Windows, macOS, Smartphones.
Service cost? Mostly free.

With so much services available (and these are just the obvious ones) you’d wonder why people even struggle with keeping in touch with others around the world.

Your choice

Always check with your chat partner what he/she uses or already has. If you both happen to use Whatsapp already… Then just add each other.
If you have a ton of apps already and on the other end there is nothing yet. Pick whatever is most convenient for you two and convince the newbie which one to use and why it’s great.