Best cheapest way to call for help if stranded in the mountains w/o cell signal?

Hope the knowledgeable folks here can help with this -- assume there's no cell phone signal for miles around and you get stranded when you are up in the mountains. You may be hurt or injured or lost. What's the best way to call for help? Is there something inexpensive but reliable that I can buy to be prepared for such a situation? Thanks for all suggestions.

Satellite phone, but they used to be expensive I bet they still are.

A good pair of lungs. Or a $5 whistle. But seriously, I doubt you'll find something that is both relatively inexpensive and reliable. But for about $300, you can get a PBL device that might save your life, which seems reasonable.

CB or VHF radio.

Ham radio seems prices have really dropped and units have miniatureized

UV5R Radio 5W Ham Radio on Amazon. $35

You need an FCC license to operate an amateur radio.

But perhaps if you operated it only in life-threatening circumstances, it would be worth the risk of a license violation.

Licensing isn't very expensive: $15 for the required test (repeated if you fail & have to take it again.) If you pass the test, I think the license itself is free. (The basic license doesn't allow you to use all frequencies.) Plan on $25 or more for a study guide, unless perhaps your library system has one availabile.

How difficult is it to pass the exam? How much time needs to be invested to study?

I haven't taken it. From what I've read, it will take studying. The questions are pulled at random from a pool of about 400 standard questions.. I think 35 questions, and you have to answer 26 correctly. The study guides cover the possible pool of 400.

My son took the test when he was 13 or 14 and got his license, so it's not that difficult, but as KentE mentioned it will take time to study(or memorize 400 questions and answers)for it, actually quite a bit of time for people not familiar with the subject matter(radio waves, basic physics, electrical theory, etc.) One can contact a local ham operator club that usually has someone certified to administer the test. Also, someone in the club will likely lend you study materials. I might add that using a hand-held short wave radio as an emergency device does has limitations, depending on where one is at, that could leave one down in the canyon without a signal.

If memory serves me. There are ones for the car also. Stringer then hand held

The Ham test is not at all difficult. Free study materials online and test pool questions are on theAARLsite. Getting Your Technician License . Think about the dividend received being able to save yourself or someone else in an emergency. The test is not difficult at all. it is not expensive and the benefits to you and others are enormous.
Hams are currently actively involved in Hurricane Dorian emergency operations and will be critical to relief operations as most traditional telecommunications systems have been wiped out. Major Hurricane Dorian Prompts Sustained Activations

If I remember correctly there's a certain language involved.

Plus it is quite possible to get Asia and other countries. Depending on the ionosphere, clouds ect

I think the Morse Code knowledge requirement for a ham license has been eliminated.

Isamorph writes: "My son took the test when he was 13 or 14 and got his license, so it's not that difficult, "

Methinks your son must have really wanted that license, and worked diligently to get it.
"Not that difficult" is relative: I'm not a ham operator, and have no experience with it-- but I do have some job-related knowledge of electrical circuits in general, and Radio Frequency transmission in particular.

I just completed a sample test from one of Isamorph's links, and got 22 questions correct -- not enough to pass.

22 seems excellent for no ham radio experience( spend about 8 hours studying and you should pass with flying colors ):). My son had substantial experience operating a sophisticated ham radio set up prior to taking the test thanks to the tutelage and mentorship of this old fellow who was a friend and who had been a ham radio expert for most of his life. My son became an IP lawyer, and some of his work today deals with radio, electrical, and high tech engineering concepts in general, concepts that he started grasping via his ham radio days. So small change. And I guess the license test is relatively easy or hard depending on the circumstances. Probably best to just spend a few hundred dollars for a PLB device to have for a life-threating emergency since one went to the middle of nowhere not to call someone up, let's hope.