By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: When in Europe this summer, I'll be staying at hostels. My parents really have requested I phone them regularly. What's the best way?

A: There are a variety of phone companies offering phone discounts and other overseas phone services. Some examples are companies like Canada-Direct which is comprised of six telecommunications firms such as Bell Canada, Telus and SaskTel.

The company states, "You can call hassle-free with Canadian operators." Better yet, it is in Canadian rates. Billed as an automated international access service, Canada Direct is available from over 130 countries around the world. For country code and other info call 1.800.561.8868 or visit

Or you can consider another route and use a phone card from the many firms that have been popping up as of late. If you decide this avenue, it's best to research as much as you can about the services and fees before you decide to purchase from one of them.

Recently, a local newspaper conducted a random survey and found most of these companies fell short in what they purported to offer. Some of the companies that fared among the best included Gold Line Telemanagement.

With access to over 60 countries, the Travel Card costs $10. If you visit their web site you can get phone rates online. For instance, reports a call from France to Toronto costs 0.21 CND$/min. For more card information, contact Gold Line Telemanagement at 1-888-800-6422.

Another company that topped the list is TeleMax Communications which offers a variety of competitively priced calling cards. Need more info? Contact 1- 888- 483- 5629. Their Global Access card is priced at $30.

As with most of these companies offering such services, TeleMax Communications advises that certain public pay phones may require coin or card deposit or the service may not be available from every phone. So it's best to check if the telephone is equipped with international automatic dialing capabilities.

Judging by your query which was sent by email, it's evident that your family has online capabilities.

You can also send them an email by signing up with the many search engines offering free email services. Once in Europe, simply locate a cybercafe or a public library with Internet access, log on to your web site, key in your user identification and password, type your message and hit the send button. Voila - instant messaging from afar.


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