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Telestial News

June 14, 2016

INTRODUCING OUR NEW ‘TRAVELER’ INTERNATIONAL SIM CARD

The summer is here, and as people’s thoughts turn to where they might want to go on vacation this year, Telestial’s thoughts turn to how we can best save you money on your calls if you do. With this in mind, we are pleased to announce the launch of our new Traveler International SIM card. There are a number of changes important changes that we’re really excited about.

Direct Calling in 80 Countries

Our SIMs used to work using Callback technology (you can see an overview of how this works here). Now you can make direct calls in 80 countries from the most popular tourist destinations including Europe, the USA and Australia. Direct calling offers a more natural, seamless experience like you would encounter with your domestic provider. We will be adding more countries to the direct calling list as they become available, but you won’t need to buy a new SIM to keep up to date – it will automatically update, meaning you can keep using your SIM for longer.

Data Plans

Over half of all internet connections now come from mobile phones. The applications that a modern phone is capable of running – from Facebook to Netflix and everywhere in between – make it an affordable and convenient replacement for tech that was previously only available on desktops or tablets. But all these things require a data connection, and for many people, the prohibitively high price of mobile data can mean that they stop using such apps while they’re traveling. Telestial believe that nothing should get in the way of your enjoyment while you’re away, so we have launched a range of data plans that can save you up to 300% on your mobile data costs. Broken down into two global regions, you can buy a plan of up to 2GB of data, more than enough for all your online needs.

Simpler Rates

We’ve made it significantly easier to plan your trip and figure out what rates are available in the countries you are visiting. Instead of having to look up each country individually for a multi-country trip, we’ve created a trip planner, which will show you the rates for multiple destinations on the same page. Data Plans are split into two regions, and we’ve made topping up clearer and easier so that you can see exactly which options are available and work best for you.

Access to the Best Networks

The new Traveler SIM covers over 190 countries, but also gives you access to over 380 networks, which is twice as many. This gives you numerous options that you wouldn’t necessarily get by roaming on your domestic SIM. Most domestic operators make deals with a few partners in other countries, usually one or two. However, since making deals with operators is the core of our business, our roaming SIM cards give us access to significantly more networks. If you find yourself traveling through an area where the coverage is patchy or your signal breaks up, the SIM will switch to a stronger network.

Family and Friends Call Free

Saving money on calls is great, but free calls? Even better! This is why we’ve set up a toll-free number for your friends and family to use to get in touch with you. It’s not completely free – you will have to pay a small surcharge to receive a call, but if you’re a long way away from home and don’t want your family to pay out for an international call, this option will cut costs for everyone. Right now, it’s only available if someone calls you from the USA, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and the UK, but we’re planning on adding new countries soon.

Automatic Updates

As we’ve already detailed, the Traveler SIM will update automatically when new direct calling countries are added. But there are even more features that we’ve got planned that will be added to the SIM in a similar way – you won’t need to do anything to take advantage of them. We will soon be offering the option to add a +1 US number, for example, and while you can currently receive fast LTE data in 20+ countries, we’ll be adding more as soon as they become available.

We think that these changes will help make your traveling experience that much more enjoyable as you won’t have to leave your phone locked up in your hotel or back at home. So if you’re headed overseas this summer, grab yourself a new  Traveler SIM ($19, with $10 of included credit) before you travel and start saving now!


May 25, 2016

OUR GUIDE TO THE RIO OLYMPICS

In just a few months, all eyes will be on Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Having already picked up a Brazil SIM card, you’ll need to know where to go next. There are four regions of the city where events will take place, so here’s a guide to all the things you can do in those places while you’re not cheering on your national team.

Olympics with Brazil SIM Card
Maracanã

In the west of the city, on the coast, is the region known as Maracanã, which is already home to one of the world’s greatest sporting icons. Rebuilt and renovated for the 2014 Football World Cup, the Maracanã Stadium has played host some legendary football, and several footballing legends. These athletes were so adored and recognisable that many of them only need a single name – Pelé, Rivaldo, Zico, Ronaldinho, Zico, Neymar… the list goes on and on. As well as guided tours, there is a museum, where you can relive some amazing goals and check out some exclusive memorabilia. This is a must for any serious football fan. As well as hosting the opening and closing ceremonies, the stadium will also play host to – what else? – the Olympic football tournament.

It is well-known that Rio loves to party, especially during Carnavale season in the period leading up to the Catholic observance of Lent. But where else in the world would they purpose-build a stadium to better show off the skills of competing Samba Schools? The Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí is exactly that, a half-mile runway, flanked on either side by stands for spectators, where the remarkable displays of exotically-costumed dancers can parade to best effect. While the Olympics takes place at the wrong time of year for the Carnavale, you can be sure that the Samba Schools will put on something special for the opening ceremony. Because of its long shape, it’s a perfect venue for the Olympic archery tournament, and will also be the start and finish point of the marathon.

Copacabana

Just a little to the South of Maracanã, is the more famous Copacabana, immortalised in cheesy song (as is the borough of Ipanema). This legendary beach front region will play host to the volleyball competition on the beach, and the coastal road is a perfect venue for road-cycling, the marathon and triathlon events. As well as the white sands of the beach, this has proved to be an ideal venue for concerts, including a 1994 New Year’s concert by Rod Stewart that drew a crowd of 3.5 million and remains the biggest ever. 

Flamengo Park is the unofficial name of Parque Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes, a 300 acre area of urban parkland. This is one of the best places to be on a sunny weekend, with Brazilian families flocking to enjoy the green space. There are football pitches, tennis and basketball courts, and even an area for model plane enthusiasts to practice. For those looking for a bit of culture amongst the agriculture, you’ll also find an open-air theatre, the Rio museum of modern art and a sculpture park dedicated to those that died during World War 2. The wonderful backdrop of Sugar Loaf Mountain and the Christo Redentor will make it a perfect venue for the cycling and walking road races.

Barra

You wouldn’t have thought that Barra da Tijuca would be selected to host the majority of the Olympic events taking place in Rio, not when its name translates as ‘swampy sandbank’. Thirty years ago, the area barely existed, then being a huge beach adjoining a series of lakes and swamps. Now, however, the area has been transformed into one of the most metropolitan and luxurious parts of Rio, so it’s no wonder Olympic organisers were happy for most of the attention to be centred on it. Here you’ll find the Olympic Arena, the Velodrome, the official Hockey and Tennis Centres and Riocentro, which at all other times is the largest convention centre in Latin America, but this summer will host the weightlifting and boxing.

Outside the events, there’s plenty to see and do in this neighbourhood, particularly if you fancy a bit of shopping. There are several malls here, including the biggest in Brazil, with a wealth of entertainment and dining options as well as stores. In a region so young, there’s not much history to speak of, with one notable exception – Barra da Tijuca is the birthplace of Gracie Barra Ju-Jitsu. The martial art of Ju-Jitsu has existed since the 17th Century in Japan, but it thrives today not only on its own merits but also as a key component to the sport of MMA, mainly down to the influence of one family – the Gracie dynasty. Now with thousands of schools around the world, Gracie Barra MMA is one of Brazil’s most famous exports.

Deodoro

Deodoro is the Olympic area that is furthest from the city centre, but also hosts the most eclectic mix of events. Surrounded by rolling hills, traditional events such as equestrianism and shooting will be held here; alongside some of the newer, more exciting events such as BMX biking, white-water rafting and, for the first time in Olympic history, rugby sevens. The extreme sports park will remain after the event is over, offering the young people of Rio a lasting legacy.

Here you’ll find the Aerospace Museum, with over 50 planes from various eras to explore and learn about. Part of the National Air Force’s university, and with a couple of real squadrons based at the site, the museum is a great place to tour. It’s also the home of the Smoke Squadron, Brazil’s version of the Red Arrows or Blue Angels, who will no doubt be making an appearance at either the opening or closing ceremony.


May 22, 2016

Is Internet Censorship on the Rise?

Social media is considered an increasing problem by some governments around the world. Its ability to bring people together, to allow them to communicate and organize, can be a real problem for some governments, to the extent that they would rather turn the entire internet off rather than risk people using it. While this is upsetting, inconvenient and expensive for the citizens of these countries, it can be a real surprise for travelers. While the world is becoming more and more connected, it would be a mistake to rely on this when you are abroad. While you can rely on hotel WIFI and messaging apps to communicate with the folks back home, it would be a mistake to do so without a back-up plan that involves calls and texts. In the last week, there have been several instances where the internet, or aspects of social media, have been shut down by government officials. Let’s look at some of these:

Iraq

It’s exam season in Iraq, and in this modern age of smartphones, technology and connectivity, cheating is becoming a serious concern. However, many people have criticized the government’s decision to completely shut down the entire internet for short periods as something of an overreaction. This is something that happened last year, but without much explanation. The outages have been running for three consecutive days so far, and look set to continue until the exams are over.

Vietnam

For many people, particularly in Asia, Facebook may as well be the internet as far as they are concerned. So when Facebook (and Instagram) is blocked, as happened in Vietnam last weekend, it can be a jarring and unnerving experience. It is precisely because the social media giant is such an effective tool for connecting people with similar viewpoints that puts it at risk of closure, as the government can take exception to large groups of people organizing protests. In this case, people are deeply unhappy at about an environmental disaster caused by a Taiwanese plastics corporation and have been using social media to express this.

Uganda

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was sworn into office for a fifth term, after an election that was considered questionable by international observers and human rights groups. Social media sites Facebook and Twitter were blocked for four days while the election took place, only being restored once it was over. Sites were also blocked back in February for similar reasons.

India

Over the last six months, the Indian government has had a somewhat trigger-happy approach to internet shutdowns, with ten events in the last few months. The current outages are happening in the city of Azamgarh, where there are tensions between two community groups. The government has shut the internet down in order to stop the spread of rumours and also to monitor social media postings over the last few days. Among those affected are banks, which have lost up to 33 million dollars’ worth of e-commerce revenue as a result of the shutdowns.

Brazil

While there is currently a good service in Brazil, many citizens have suffered recently due to a court order to shut down WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging app used by millions in Brazil. In one of her last acts before being suspended from office, former President Dilma Rousseff passed a decree related to net neutrality which also included an attempt to stave off further attempts to shut down social media. However, the decree is not expected to take effect until next month, and with Rousseff now impeached, it is unclear whether this will become law or not. With the Olympics coming this summer, some clarity on this issue is urgently needed.

Morocco

Back in February, Moroccan telecoms companies blocked all VOIP services throughout the country, including Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. It is believed that this has been done to protect telecoms companies’ revenues, but it has not been a popular decision. Today, Maroc Telecom, one of the biggest ISPs in the country, has begun blocking online gaming, in a move that is likely to further infuriate people. Despite an increasing number of people signing petitions against these moves, the government has not stepped in to help.


May 2, 2016

WORLD YOUTH DAY COMES TO POLAND – THINGS TO DO WHILE YOU’RE THERE!

World Youth Day was started in 1985 by Pope John Paul II, and has grown into one of the world’s biggest events. It definitely draws the world’s biggest crowds; the world record for the greatest attendance of a religious festival was won by WYD in 1995 when 5 million gathered in the Philippines for the final mass (a record only surpassed last year, when the current Pope gave another mass, also in the Philippines). Young people from all around the world come to celebrate their faith, share in their diversity and generally have a great time. This year, the event returns to Poland for the first time since 1991. This year, the theme is ‘mercy’, and the event will feature a special tribute to the recently canonized founder, St John Paul II, himself a polish citizen.

If you are headed to Poland this summer for World Youth Day (or for any other reason), there is a vast array of things to do. We’ve made a small list from some of the huge amount of options available to you.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

One of the first things you’ll want to do when you arrive in Poland is grab yourself something to eat. Some Polish foods are famous the world over, such as kielbasa pork sausage or pierogi dumplings, and you should definitely waste no time before sampling these. But there are dozens of other treats, including an amazing array of desserts including makowiec, a traditional poppy-seed and piernik, a version of gingerbread served with a chocolate glaze. However, our favourite food from Poland has to be the amazing oscypek. Served on its own, or grilled with bacon, apple and cranberry sauce, you might have a hard time finding this salted sheep’s cheese. It’s native to the Tatra Mountain region, but the real problem is you might find yourself looking at oscypek and think it’s something else entirely. This is because the cheese is cured for two weeks, giving it a light brown colour on the outside, and also because it is pressed into an intricate spindle that gives it the appearance of carved wood.

Once you’ve filled your belly (or even while you’re doing it), you’ll want to wash your food down with a drink. This being Poland, the most obvious choice is vodka. But unlike some other vodka-drinking nations, it’s not simply enough to knock back shot after shot of the pure stuff – in Poland, they prefer to blend it with other flavours. From the cherry-infused Wi%u015Bniówka to Goldwasser, which combines a plethora of herbs and spices with flakes of real gold, there’s plenty on offer. But the most famous Polish vodka these days is probably Zubrówka, which comes with a blade of bison grass from the Bialowieza Forest. Why bison, you ask? Well…

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Poland has a huge array of environments and areas to satisfy even the most adventurous traveler, but two areas stand out. First, there is the aforementioned Bialowieza Forest, a last remnant of the vast, primeval forest that once covered the whole of Europe. It is here that you’ll find (if you’re lucky) the European Bison. While most of us think of Bison as an American icon, roaming the great plains of the Midwest, the European Bison is primarily a forest-dwelling beast. And they have a wonderful forest to dwell in. Some of the oak trees are so vast and old that they have individual names, such as Emperor of the North, the Dominator Oak and The Guardian of Zwierzyniec. With some of these great trees being over 400 years old, they are well worth tracking down.

When you think of Poland, you don’t think ‘desert’ – but that’s exactly what you’d be thinking after a visit to Slowinski National Park. On the coast of the Baltic Sea, there are several acres of shifting sand dunes. There are also several large lakes, seven rivers and 87 miles of tourist tracks around the park, giving you ample opportunity to enjoy the beach, the dunes or the wildlife.

Castles and other sights to see

With a long and tumultuous history both internally and with its neighbours, it’s no surprise that there are hundreds of castles in Poland. From the vast edifices of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, to the ruins of Ogrodzieniec, built in the 13th Century to help fend off the invading Mongol Hordes, there are castles of every kind to be found all over the country. One that truly cannot be missed is Malbork, the largest (and most imposing?) Gothic castle in Europe.

The towns are no less charming, including the old town of Krawkow which was one of the few that escaped the devastation of the Second World War. There is also Olsztyn, which has been painstakingly reconstructed. Of course, to truly bring home the awful horror of World War II, one must visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum.

Another of Poland’s great visitor attractions is the Wieliczka Salt Mines. As well as tours of the mines themselves (which have been in operation since the 14th Century), concerts and plays are often held there, and there is a hotel and spa that offers you the opportunity to spend a night 135m below sea level.

Enjoy the Festivities

Poland is host to several key outdoor music festivals this year (including Open’er and Przystanek Woodstock 2016), but sadly none are running during the week of WYD. However, there are a couple of other festivals going on, including the 21st Open Air Jazz Festival in Warsaw’s old town. Running for almost two full months between July and August, this event attracts the biggest name in jazz from all over the world.

Meanwhile, in Gda%u0144sk, another long-running festival will be taking place for three weeks between July and August. St Dominic’s Fair was first established by papal decree in 1260 and was very soon one of the key dates in any European trader’s calendar. It was not long before hundreds of ships were arriving at the port of Gda%u0144sk to trade, make deals and be entertained. Some 750 years later, it is still one of the largest market festivals on the European mainland.

Stay in Touch

With so much going on and so much to see in Poland, you’ll want to have a way to keep in touch with friends and family back home, to make sure they know you’re okay, and to share your experiences. The best way to do this is with our Europe SIM card. Everything is priced at 25c (17p); calls are 25c per minute, texts cost 25c to send, and data is priced at 25c per MB. With $10 free credit, this gives you more than enough to upload photos, check maps and send videos. If you’ve travelled from further afield, calling back home isn’t too expensive either, with calls to the rest of the world priced at 59c per minute.

Whatever your plans, we hope that you have an amazing time at WYD 2016!


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