We're all about travel in South America and one of the most important questions we get is how to communicate while on the go. I use T-mobile phone service including an optional international plan that gives me free unlimited texting and phone calls for .20 cents per minute. But what I have found is that I rarely use my T-mobile service because What's App has become my go-to app for all my communications while traveling in South America. (and central America) Adios Adventure Travel staff have been using WHAT'S APP for several years.  It's free and it can be set up on any phone. We use it for daily communication between with our teams in Peru, Ecuador, Galapgos Islands, Bolivia and Chile.  It's end-to-end- encrypted so our messages are secure.  Not that we're sharing any secrets, but we've tested the limitations of this communication tool and it's passed with flying guinea pigs!  

Here's what you need to know:

  • WHAT'S APP is a closed app so you can only communicate with other people who have downloaded the app onto their devices
  • you can communicate with any device that has the app
  • there is no cost and there are no ads
  • you can send text messages, make phone calls, use video, send recorded voice messages, send documents or images.
  • you can set up closed groups, which is perfect when traveling and you want to communicate with several people with one message
  • there's no limit to the number of texts or calls you can send or receive
  • documents and photos can be saved to your phone and will take up data space
  • the app will indicate when messages have been read by your recipient 
  • messages and documents can be shared with other What's App users
  • messages and documents can be copied and pasted to use in other accounts on your phone 
  • privacy settings allow you to determine if you want your status to be visible or if you want 24H time limit for messages and other content before they disappear. Forever.
  • the app can be used to communicate with anyone else who has the app anywhere in the world where they have access to WIFI. You can use this app to stay in touch with your family at home as well as to communicate with locals who have the app where you're traveling.

There are 2 methods to set up What's App on your device:

  • go to the app store on your device and search for WHAT'S APP, then download
  • anyone who has What's App on their device can send an SMS text to you with a link to download. Once you have the app on your device you can do the same for anyone you want to communicate with.  Scroll to the bottom of your contact list in the app and you'll see a share button for "INVITE FRIENDS."

How to set up contact list on What's App and find people you know:

  • once you set up What's App on your device, you can open your contact list in the app and see everyone who already has What's App from your phone contact list.  Touch the name to send a chat message
  • to add new contacts, you open the contact list in your phone and type in the person's name and their number. It's really important to know that for international numbers you must use + sign followed by the country code and the person's number including area code if they have one.  The International dialing code or exit code 011 from the US is not needed.

Limitations:

  • you must have access to WIFI or phone service to use the app in real time. You can see old messages and old documents anytime as long as your phone is charged and you have not set your app settings to delete messages after 24H.
  • you cannot use What's App to access other accounts on your device including text messages, emails or phone messages.
  • some places have spotty WIFI service and communicating with the outside world is limited. Galapagos Islands is one and other dead spots in Peru and Bolivia as well. Not to mention Patagonia and Easter Island.

Here's how we use What's App:

  • Daily communications with our teams who live and work in South America
  • All our groups are asked to install the app and send a test text to our contact in the destination they are going to about 2-3 days prior to departure.
  • When traveling you can send messages or photos to your friends and family at home. 
  • In the US, What's App works on my phone everywhere that I have Tmobile service or WIFI
  • When I'm in South America, What's App works with WIFI only. All hotels and most restaurants have free wifi. 

This app has truly changed the way we do business. The cost and convenience of communicating with our local teams in South America as well as our groups when they're on the go is so easy now, that I'm afraid we take it for granted. But in case anyone "up there" is listening. Let me assure you we are grateful!