MEDIUM WAVE (550 - 1600 kHz) & FM / VHF (88 -108 MHz)OK for local stations - generally within 100 miles for 24-hour reception. Night-time reception can be 1000 - 2000 miles, i.e. BBC Oman is receivable in Egypt / Libya.
SHORT WAVE (1.6 - 30 MHz)Works by bouncing the signal back from the ionosphere, the ionosphere raises and lowers through the day and different frequencies are absorbed or reflected at different times through the day. Generally daytime signals are received from 11 MHz - 30 MHz, and night-time the higher frequencies are lost, so reception is mainly from 6 - 12 MHz.
Add to this that reception is also affected by the sun's 11-year sun spot cycle, short wave is never totally predictable but can be almost an adventure, with you 'exploring' the short-waves to find a more interesting station.
Refer to the BBC reception charts for your part of the world.
ANTENNASare just as important as the radio. Outdoor is always best. Only using a radio's telescopic aerial indoors gives excellent reception of the fluorescent light and any nearby television electronics, placing the radio near the window often helps, but cannot compare to an external aerial.
My accommodation usually is a concrete hotel room or a metal skinned Portacabin, for these I use a home made 1 m telescopic aerial mounted on a modified plastic bracket from a bicycle lamp, connected to a 10 m long coaxial cable with a jack plug into the radio. (the bracket can mount onto window frames, air conditioners or roof edge, the coax cable eliminates internal room noise being added to the signal).
The best system I had was a Sony AN-1 amplified aerial that worked wonderfully for 15 years and many thousands of travel miles before it finally died.
A common rough and ready method is to connect a length of insulated copper wire to the radio aerial and then lead it through a window and either hang it from the window or throw it over the roof.
THE SHORT WAVE RECEIVERPortable is usually the only option. Digital is best, more memories are better, single sideband (ssb) is useful, as is a switchable bandwidth. (This can reduce interference from stronger adjacent frequencies)
My present radio is a Sunstech RP-DS800 (also known as a Tecsun PL-380) hundreds of memories, recharge via USB lead.
My last radio, died of old age, it was a 14-year-old £250 Sony ICF-SW55 (125 station memories, 5 alarm times, 5 on-off times) which I haven't seen bettered yet.
SATELLITE TV (Europe)Obviously the best solution for the expat, SKY TV is receivable in most of Europe, it requires a SKY Digibox with a subscription from a UK address. (See satellite suppliers)
SKY's free channels can be received using a Digibox and a FreeSat card, obtained from SKY for about £20, with an expected life of 2 years, and again it requires a UK mailing address
Ideally the card should be turned on using the receiver in the UK, but can be activated by using a UK mobile phone from your location abroad.
Note that the BBC and soon ITV are broadcast on a narrow beam aimed only at the UK and is only receivable in neighbouring countries, or with a very large dish.
Being rather careful with money (tight), I have a Free To Air (FTA) digital satellite receiver, (£70) linked with a DISEqC positioner (£70) to a 80cm dish (£30). This lets me 'see' most of the satellites available for Northern Europe. Stations I can receive free are:- BBC world service, CNN, Bloomberg, Saudi Ch 2, Dubai Ch33, and I can often catch an English soundtrack film being shown with Arabic subtitles on Nilesat or Arabsat.
Visit your local satellite dealer, he will be keen to show you the options available in your area of the world, especially if it means a profit to him.
USEFUL LINKSVoltage Valet International Electric Plug Adaptors & Voltages For The World's Countries
Lyngsat.com Satellite info database