Family Abroad? Keeping tabs on Travelling Friends or Family

Having a friend or member of the family abroad can be difficult to deal with, especially if it is a son or daughter. They may be seeing the world and having an amazing time. But you may be constantly worrying. There are many ways that you can reassure yourself and be there to help in an emergency. This blog outlines how you can keep in touch via the internet and be there to help and support your friends and family abroad.

Family Abroad - Urban Backpacking Image Credit: Public Domain

Family Abroad – Urban Backpacking
Image Credit: Public Domain

Use Social Media and the internet to keep in touch with Friends and Family Abroad

The internet can now be found all over the world. Even in some of the most remote parts, your travelling friends and family can probably find an internet cafe. Although it will sometimes be a slower connection than they are used to, it will probably be good enough to communicate.

By following your friends and family abroad on Facebook and Twitter, you can easily see their status updates. With modern technology, you will probably be able to see their photos even before they get back! If they are uploading photos as they travel, that is.

Having copies of their Itinerary and Passport

Make sure that you have a copy of your friend or family members travel itinerary. This way, you can know what to expect. There may be times when they cannot get in touch – if they are trecking in the Himalayas, for example. If you have a copy of their trip itinerary, you won’t be worried if this happens!

You can also ensure that your friends and family abroad are safe when they are travelling, if you know which areas or countries they are in.  If you are worried about safety or political issues, you can encourage them to use the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website. This will always be up to date with travel advice and recommend certain areas to avoid. Remember that if there is political unrest, this is often confined to certain areas such as the capital city or borders with other countries. Not all areas of a country are unsafe. So if your friends or family members have done their research, try not to worry too much!

Having a copy of their travel insurance documents and passport can be invaluable in an emergency situation. If their bag is stolen with their passport in it, scanning and emailing a copy of their passport to them may make it easier for them to get a replacement, or get home. During the event of an accident or sickness, it is helpful for you to be able to reassure them and help by phoning the insurance company.

Telephone and Communication

It’s a great idea for your friends or family abroad to get an international SIM card for their mobile. This will make it easier for them to contact you or vice versa. Remember that in poorer countries, phones can easily be stolen. So it is a good idea to get a cheap basic mobile, and leave the iPhone or Smartphone at home whilst travelling!  You can easily buy a SIM card when you are travelling, just walk into the nearest phone shop and they will sell you one or tell you where to go. Mobile top ups are popular in many parts of Africa and Asia. You can often see little booths that will sell you SIMS and phone top ups.

A BT chargecard can be a good idea, especially if you have a son or daughter travelling abroad. It will allow them to make calls from anywhere, and they can be charged to your phone bill or by direct debit.

If your travelling friends or family have a landline where they are, such as a hotel, you can call them using Pocketdial UK. Our calls use a calling account number and therefore have no monthly bills. You can call abroad with Pocketdial UK from just 1p a minute. Do check with your phone provider, e.g. BT, to find out about any additional charges from them.

Bank Details and Online Banking

If you have the bank details of your travelling friends and family at the ready, it will make it easier to transfer money to them in an emergency. You can usually draw money out of a British bank from cashpoints abroad.

If there is no bank or the transfer is not working, Western Union is a good option for international bank transfers.  You send money via Western Union to any receiving country, and attach a password to it. If your friend or family member goes into a Western Union branch with their ID and the password, they will be able to get it.

We hope that you have found this blog helpful is you have friends and family abroad. If you can think of more ways to be prepared for travelling friends and family, do comment on our blog.


Expat living – Top Tips for Expatriates

Moving to another country can be an exciting life changing experience. Some of the most desirable places to move to include Australia, Dubai and Kenya. But expats often find that after the initial excitement wears off, it can be difficult. Don’t be a stranger in a strange land. Follow our Pocketdial UK top tips for expat living.

Expat Living - Dubai Image Credit: Fotopedia creative commons)

Expat Living – Dubai
Image Credit: Fotopedia creative commons)

Expat Living – Don’t be a Stranger in a strange land!

Expat living makes it all too easy to befriend other expatriates. Many countries, such as Bahrain, South Africa and Saudi Arabia have expat communities. These often gated communities make it more difficult to mix with the locals.

If you are a British expat living abroad in exactly the same way as you did in the UK, you will miss out on a lot of the opportunities that living abroad can bring. Don’t be afraid to visit a local bar or restaurant alone and mingle with the locals – provided that it is safe to do so. You can always check for safety in a country or area by visiting the UK Foreign Office website.

Embrace the local cultures when you can. If you are abroad during a religious festival, you will most likely be welcomed, even if it is not your own religion. If you are living within a Muslim community, Eid is an amazing celebration to join in.  Many Hindus will invite you to their home during Diwali.

Learning the local language is a great step to integrating with local communities. A few spoken words will show that you are making the effort. You don’t need to be fluent to make a good impression! Learning the script of the local language may also be a big help. For example, learning Arabic script will help you to navigate the roads in Dubai.

Respecting Local Culture and Customs

It is important to respect local culture as an expat living abroad. Remember that many things that are acceptable in the UK are not acceptable in some countries. Drinking and kissing in public places, for example, may be considered inappropriate in many parts of some Arabic and African countries. Don’t use the excuse that you are British – if you live in another country, you do have a responsibility to abide by their laws and respect the culture of he country that you are in.

Certain topics of conversation are best avoided in public places in some countries. For example, in China or Rwanda, avoid talking about politics. If you do, you may find yourself in a sticky situation.

Finances and Taxes for Expat Living

One of the benefits of living as an expat is that there are many places where you can earn a tax free salary. Dubai in the U.A.E is one example. However, it is important that you understand the tax laws, especially if you are looking to set up your own business. is an excellent website for offering more specific advice to expats on tax, employment and mortgages.

Don’t presume that getting a bank account or mortgage will be simple in another country. Be prepared for the fact that bank applications and mortgages could take longer to arrange. You may also need more paperwork as an expatriate.

Reverse Culture Shock!

Many studies of expats explore the way that people acclimatise to a new environment and culture over time. The usual pattern of feelings of an expat living abroad is that they experience excitement, culture shock and then slowly adjust. What is most interesting, however, is that British expats who return to the UK after prolonged periods abroad often experience this again when they come back to the UK. Yes – culture shock on return to your own country is possible!

If you are moving to another country for a long period of time, it is recommended that you don’t visit home in the first 3 months. This can interfere with the process of adjusting to a new culture.

International Travel Tips – How to have a Successful Trip Abroad

International travel can be both challenging and rewarding. Once you’ve got the travel bug, it never goes away! The challenges of travelling abroad become easier when you are prepared. This blog outlines the best international travel tips to help you to prepare for your trip and get the most out of your experience.

International Travel Tips – Things to Consider Before you Go

It’s so exciting when you come up with an idea for a new trip. But don’t forget the crucial planning stages. Weather and local festivals are important to consider. For example, you should avoid travelling to parts of India in Monsoon season. However, there are certain festivals that you may not want to miss. Visiting India during Holi or Diwali can be an exciting cultural experience. Do your research before you book, and get your timing right.

Visas are crucial, and it is always best to check out the visa situation with your Embassy or Foreign Office. You wouldn’t want to be travelling by land to Moscow from the UK, and realise that you didn’t have a visa to get through Belarus!  If you are travelling within the EU as a British citizen, you can travel freely. There are some countries that you won’t need a visa for if you have a British passport. This is because they are commonwealth countries, such as Rwanda.

Travel insurance is essential for international travel.  This is probably one of the most important international travel tips. You do not want to find yourself ill or injured abroad and not able to pay for your medical treatment.  If you want to shop around for travel insurance, you can use

International Travel Tips The Taj Mahal Image Credit: (Creative Commons 2.0)

International Travel Tips
The Taj Mahal
Image Credit: (Creative Commons 2.0)

International Travel Tips on Booking as a Backpacker

If you want to avoid package holidays and travel with a backpack, this will definitely keep costs down.  You will, of course, need to plan your travel route carefully and book your own accommodation.

There are so many cheap airlines that offer online booking. Flying is much more affordable than it used to be. Many low cost airlines are now offering long haul destinations, so that you can travel further afield. Jet2 now offer a flight to New York and Ryanair have Fez as a destination from the UK. To keep the cost as low as possible, book as far in advance as possible. Weekends can be expensive, so consider flying on a Tuesday or a Wednesday to get the best value flight.

If you are brave enough to get accommodation along the way, remember to barter hard. When travelling in parts of Asia, such as China and India, there will be ‘touts’ waiting for you to get off the train or bus. They would love to take you to their cousin’s or father’s hotel! Don’t be afraid to ask to see the rooms first, and take a look at a few different places before you commit.

Keeping Safe during International Travel

Travelling independently can be extremely rewarding, but do check if it is safe to do so in the country or area of your choice. In some parts of the world, it is recommended that you travel in small groups. Unfortunately, in some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, it is advisable for a woman not to travel alone.

Do ensure that you respect the local customs. In certain places, you will need to dress conservatively. For women, it is a good idea to carry a sarong when travelling in Africa and Asia. This can cover the shoulders and also double up as a headscarf. Remember that in some parts of the world, you cannot drink alcohol in public places. Always check on the local customs before you travel.

Final International Travel Tips: Communication

Learning a little bit of a new language to impress the citizens of the country you will visit is sure to help.  Even if you are not confident in speaking another language, a simple hello and thank you will go a long way. In some countries, you will find that most signposts are in a different script.  In Russia, for example, you will find a that most street names and Metro Station names are in the Cyrillic script. Rosetta Stone offer language learning tapes and courses. Embrace and enjoy!

Finally, for the last of our international travel tips, make sure that you have an easy way of contacting home. A telephone card or access number an be a big help in an emergency situation. Make sure that you check out Pocketdial UK, as we can help you with cheap and easy international calls.

What are your top International Travel Tips?

Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment on our blog. What are your top international travel tips?

European City Destinations – Top 5 Affordable European Cities

Join me on my quest to find the most beautiful and affordable European city destinations. I feel so lucky to live in the UK because we can easily access some of the most beautiful cities in the world. Europe is full of rich culture and architecture. With cheap airlines such as easyJet, it is now more affordable to take a break to European city destinations. Many travellers to the UK embrace this and frequent European cities such as Prague, Paris and Rome.

For this article, I wanted to focus on five of my favourite European city destinations – Riga, Dubrovnik, Florence, Amsterdam and Lisbon. All of these cities can be reached from the UK by plane in less than 3 hours. The cities that I have chosen are not as bustling and busy as the larger capitals such as Paris or Rome. However, I really like the more untouched European capitals. The European city destinations that I have chosen here also work out slightly easier on the budget!

Top European City Destinations – #1 Riga

I tend to view Riga as a more untouched city compared to Prague, but with a similar feel.  It is the capital of Latvia and one of the largest Baltic cities. Riga is famous for its ‘Jugendstil’ (German Art Nouveau) architecture and fantastic nightlife.  The town square displays famous buildings including the house of Blackheads. Riga is one of the most beautiful and exciting European city destinations.


Dubrovnik (Croatia)
Photography by Lena Ni on Flickr

Top European City Destinations –  #2 Dubrovnik

On the coast of Croatia, Dubrovnik is becoming one of the increasingly popular European city destinations. It is known as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’. It’s not as cheap as you may expect, but it is still much more affordable than London and Paris. The medieval walled

town is stunning. The combination of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture has survived an earthquake and armed conflict. If you enjoy trying local alcoholic beverages, make sure that you try the rakija. It is a kind of plum brandy – strong and sweet!

Top European City Destinations –  #3 Florence

Beautiful Florence is the Art capital of Europe. Walk across the Ponte Vecchio bridge and shop or eat until your heart’s content. If you are an art love, you can’t miss the Ufizzi gallery. Make sure you get there early to avoid the lengthy queues. If you enjoy scenery and gardens, you should check out the Giardino di Boboli (Boboli Gardens). One of the most famous landmarks in Florence is the Duomo (Cathedral). The Duomo is beautiful both inside and out.

Lisbon Photography by Chris Yunker on Flickr

Photography by Chris Yunker on Flickr

Top European City Destinations –  #4 Amsterdam

Amsterdam is popularly known for its legalisation of drugs and prostitution. Prepare yourself to be exposed to the sights and smells that come with this if you are heading into to town! But the red light district is not all that Amsterdam is famous for. Check out some of the amazing museums such as the Nemo science museum and the Van Gogh

Museum. If you are interested in history, visit Anne Frank’s house and find out about their life in hiding as Jews during the second world war.  The multi-story town houses are a beautiful characteristic of Amsterdam.

Top European City Destinations –  #5 Lisbon

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal. It is rich with culture and things to do. For a stunning view of the city, climb the Cristo Rei (statue of Christ) or Caste of Sao Jorge. You will probably need a few days to explore the city itself. If you like sea life, Lisbon has a fantastic aquarium. Make sure that you head out to Belem to visit Jeronimos Monastery and the Tower of Belem. If you have more than a few days in Lisbon, it is worth taking a trip out to Sintra to admire the breath taking palaces.

Call European City Destinations with Pocketdial UK

Did you know that with Pocketdial UK you can call abroad for as little as 1p a minute?

Great for making those important hotel bookings for European city destinations. It is also ideal for contacting friends before you travel. Wherever you may be travelling this summer, have a fantastic trip.

UK Visas – A Quick Guide to Entering the UK

If you are entering the UK from another country, you may need to apply for a visa. It can be overwhelming and confusing when faced with so much information, so we have put together this short guide to entering the UK to help you.

Please remember that this is a basic guide. We are not official representatives of the UK Border Agency or Home office and rules about visa can change frequently. Therefore, you will need to check this with the Government bodies of the UK and your country of origin.

London: Potography by TJ Morris on Flickr (Creative Commons 2.0)

London: Photography by TJ Morris on Flickr (Creative Commons 2.0)

Entering the UK – Do you Need a Visa?

Whether or not you need a visa to enter the UK will depend on many things, including your Nationality, reason for entering the UK and your current country of residence. The UK Border Agency have developed a quick questionnaire to help to determine whether you need a visa.

Entering the UK from the EEA as an EEA Country National

If you are entering the UK from another EEA country, as a national of that country, you will probably not need a visa. The UK Border Agency states that ‘Nationals of countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland have the right of free movement and residence in the UK’.

Entering the UK from other EU countries

If you live in another EU country and hold an EU passport, you may not need a UK visa. However, check first, as some new members of the EU are still in transitional stages, for example, Romania and Bulgaria. Free movement and residence in the UK is not coming into place for these countries until at least 2014. If you are unsure, it is always best to check.

Entering the UK – Different types of UK Visa

If you are entering the UK as a visitor, you will need to check whether you need a visa, as this is dependent upon your country of origin. If you enter as a visitor, this is usually for up to 6 months.

If you are entering the UK to study, depending on your nationality and country of origin, you may need to apply for a student visa. If you are entering the UK on a student visa, make sure that you check all of the visa rules and requirements. For example, there may be restrictions on how many hours you are allowed to work while studying in the UK. If you breech the terms of your visa, you could end up losing the right to study and stay in the UK.

If you are entering the UK for work, you may need a work visa. The type of work visa that you apply for or get awarded may be dependent upon the work that you do. For example, the UK Border Agency may distinguish between skilled workers and temporary workers. For more information on working in the UK, click here.

Contact Details for the UK Border Agency and Home Office

It is advisable to contact the UK Border Agency or Home Office directly to find out about your visa requirements or visa application. The work of the UK Border agency will soon be returning to the Home Office and will be split into two parts, focusing on the visa system and on immigration law enforcement.

The UK Border Agency or Home Office will always have the correct and most up to date information. You can apply online for most visas.

When you arrive in the UK

When you arrive in the UK, you will probably want to keep in touch with your family back home. Remember that with Pocketdial UK you can get cheap international calls from just 1p per minute.

Happy Easter! Celebrating Easter Around the World

With all of the meals, chocolate and happy Easter celebrations, the commercialisation of Easter means that it is easy to forget what it is all about. Easter is the most important festival on the Christian calendar, probably even more important than Christmas, as it remembers the Resurrection – Jesus rising from the dead. In this blog, I explore the traditions and values behind Easter, and the amazing ways that people celebrate Easter around the world.

The Meaning of Easter: Good Friday

According to Christian tradition, Jesus as the Son of God died on the Cross so that the sins of mankind could be forgiven. Good Friday was the day on which Jesus was crucified at Golgotha (the place of the skull). Christians believe that Jesus took on the burden of the sins of man at the point that he was crucified, and that through his love for mankind, God will forgive.

Easter Sunday

Christianity teaches that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. The Bible tells the story of Mary Magdeline, a close friend of Jesus, going to anoint his body with spices.  But when she got to the tomb, the stone had been rolled away and his body had gone.  The resurrection was the ultimate miracle. Jesus had rose from the dead and ascended to heaven to be on the right hand side of God.

How is Easter Celebrated around the World?

In Europe, eggs are popular, signifying new life that follows the resurrection of Christ. In many parts of Europe, eggs are decorated beautifully and intricately.  Small wooden crosses are often made and palm fronds to celebrate Palm Sunday.

In Africa and some parts of Asia, re-enactments of the stations of the cross are very popular. Easter processions are also popular in Europe, particularly in Spain and Italy.  At Pocketdial UK, we were excited to find out the top 5 places to see Easter around the world.

Easter Around the World: Top 5 Places to visit at Easter

5. Alaska – In Alaska at Easter, you can see real multi-coloured chicks! Their eggs are injected with dye before they hatch. Don’t worry, the dye is harmless!

Easter around the world

4. Spain – Visit the Spanish town of Malaga where you will see a Palm Sunday procession and a figure of Christ being paraded down the street on Holy Thursday.

3. Germany – Beautifully decorated Easter Eggs can be seen in Germany at Easter time. Volker Kraft decorates his tree in Saalfield with 10,000 decorated eggs, and has been doing so for 40 years!

2. Philippines – In the Philippines, it is traditional to re-enact the stations of the cross. Beware – some of these can be gruesomely realistic!

1. Italy – You just can’t beat Easter in Italy. Religious processions and festivals can be seen everywhere. Italians bake traditional Easter cake called Colomba di Pasqua – a cake shaped like a dove. Join the thousands who visit Vatican city to hear the Pope conduct Easter Mass on St. Peter’s square.

Homemade Colomba di Pasqua

Homemade Colomba di Pasqua
Photography by ‘Nicola since 1972’ on Flickr.

How do you celebrate Easter around the world?

What do you do to celebrate Easter? Have you celebrated Easter around the world and have any special experiences to share with us? Do leave your comments on our blog.

Remember to contact your friends and family to say happy Easter. You can make international calls from just 1p a minute with Pocketdial UK.