Phone calls anywhere
Since I started traveling about a year and a half ago staying in contact with people has been one of the most difficult things for me (the bizarre local calling systems don't help either :)). This is especially true with people who can't get online, like my Grandma. Figuring out a decent phone system has been really tough and I even recently had to change my "permanent" number which I've already written about here and here.
I think I've finally got a great system worked out. Something that will work for anyone who travels internationally a lot. It will get a lot simpler and cheaper when Google Voice goes international or Skype gets SkypeIn numbers in Canada.
- Over the past 1.5 years I've "lived" in 6 countries and had a local cellphone number in 4 of them.
- Roaming for me to call out is prohibitively expensive.
- My family never has any idea of how to get a hold of me. All of my friends that I maintain decent relationships with are online so that's not so much of a problem.
- In emergencies I need to be contactable.
- I don't want my family and friends to pay a fortune just to call me.
- A local (Vancouver) VoIP number that never changes (ideally)
- A US SkypeIn number and SkypeOut subscription
- A local cellphone number
I switched to Voice Network in September for my VoIP service and so far have been happy with them. I pay $4.50/month for my Vancouver phone number and 1c/min to anywhere in Canada, 1.5c/min for US.
Skype is really a lifesaver. Without it I don't believe my life would be nearly as comfortable. I have a subscription to Skype "Unlimited US & Canada" which gives me virtually unlimited North American calling for $2.80/month. I recently picked up a US SkypeIn that costs me $4.46/month.
I also make a habit of getting a local phone number for my cellphone in any country I'm in for a decent amount of time just to make my life easier. (A SIM card in South Africa cost me 14c CAD compared to $40CAD in Vancouver :-/ so really most places the local number is virtually free to get and then just pay per use).
1. For people who want to contact me... either call me on Skype or call my Vancouver VoIP number listed on the left hand side of my blog. I forward my VoIP number to my SkypeIn number and then either answer the Skype call on my computer, go to voicemail or forward it to my local cellphone number (in SA it's ~30c/min, so I don't do that unless I'm expecting a call).
2. For me to call out has never been a problem, and I just use Skype for that.
The total cost to me is about $12/month which is well worth it for a permanent local phone number wherever I am in the world. (In addition to these services, I also use a Logitech ClearChat Wireless Headset which I use for all my phone calls).
I'm only a bit embarrassed that it took me this long to get going with the SkypeIn number... it really does simplify everything and makes things run so much smoother.