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Communications - E.T. Phone Home!
Communication requirements fall into 3 categories:
- Between vehicles and/or group members. The choice lies between CB Radios and handheld PMR walkie-Talkies. For UK use CB Radios no longer require a licence, but most do require hardwiring into the vehicle and the antennae have to be properly tuned to work effectively. In Morocco CB Radios are illegal and you risk confiscation or worse if the authorities take exception. The aerials are rather a give away! Their potential range is better than PMR Radios and they are more commonly used in the UK for Off Road trips. PMR radios require no "plumbing-in" and are heldheld making them more flexible and can be used by other expedition members on foot to communicate with a vehicle driver giving directions through difficult terrain. They are now legal in Morocco, but anyway are much more easily hidden discreetly should circumstances require it. A pair of Midland G7 2-way radios can be bought for £70 from Thunderpole - see links above.
Naomi Low telephones Mum in Marrakech from Cafe in Tata, Southern Morocco
- Longer range communication in country & Home. In many countries now the cell phone networks have been expanded year by year. In Morocco many areas which had no signal now offer good reception. However Mobile phones are a very useful resourse - particularly text messages which are of course received as soon as you have a signal even if you were out of contact when it was sent. International Roaming is expensive so it is worth getting your mobile 'unlocked' before leaving home, so that you can purchase a local pay as you go SIM card (available easily in Morocco at modest cost) which enables you to receive calls from home without having to pay and be able to make in country calls at local rates. However Mobile phones cannot be relied upon to work all the time in remote areas.
- Emergency Global Communication. Satellite Phones are the method of choice for remote emergency communication. Until recently, however, they were very expensive to buy or rent. This last year has seen the launch of a new affordable satellite messaging & tracking system - Spot - Satellite Personal Tracker which can be purchased from about £110 and on payment of a modest monthly fee enables messages to be sent to preregistered email addresses or text messages to mobile phones. The unit will also send messages enabling its location to be displayed on Google Earth so that folks at home can be reassurred that you are progressing satisfactorily. In the event of an emergency it offers a alert facility for rescue services. Fully featured Iridium satellite phones enable you to talk directly and have data links for laptops - but are more expensive, and it probably makes more sense for most people to rent a phone for the duration of a specific trip rather than buy. See All Road Communications Website for options.