A reader wrote to say his wife was going to Germany and he wondered what the best options were for texting, calling and browsing the Internet with her phone. We sent him a link to a long article about the right kind of cell phone, and it all got rather complicated. He joked that he probably wouldn’t figure it out till his wife came home. But hey, why not use Skype? You can instant message a person back and forth, talk to them or make a video call.

To use Skype’s free calling service, you need WiFi access, which really varies from country to country. To be sure of getting it, subscribe to a service like for around $8 a month (no contract required). You can get WiFi access at 200,000 hotspots worldwide.

If you’re in WiFi range, Skype lets you make free calls and not pay huge data roaming fees. Use it on a computer, tablet or smartphone. The sound quality is best if the other person is also using Skype, but you can also make calls to landlines. We’ve tried it both ways and using Skype to call a landline phone at the other end works pretty well.

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