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Single cell number for perpetual travelers?
Old 07-03-2010, 08:57 PM   #1
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Single cell number for perpetual travelers?

If I have a world phone I can switch SIM cards as I move from country A to country B and thereby obtain a local phone number in country B. While I would certainly want to do this in order to allow people within country B to reach me on a local number, this method also causes my cell phone number to switch each time I move.

Ideally, in addition to having a local number tied to a SIM card bought within a given country I would also have a single cell phone number that travels with me wherever I go. Does anyone know how to set this up? I thought of Skype but learned that their customer service is horrible/nonexistent.

Thank-you
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Old 07-03-2010, 09:08 PM   #2
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check out google voice
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Old 07-03-2010, 09:20 PM   #3
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I've been a beta tester of Google Voice for months. You select your area code and number from a list and give that number only to all callers. On the Google web site you set one or more additional existing numbers (e.g. your Sprint cell number) and it forwards the public number to the private numbers you chose.

All voice mail and text gets aggregated on Google. Voice is transcribed to text and emailed to you.

It has been ideal for me, esp if you have an Android phone.
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Old 07-03-2010, 10:22 PM   #4
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I had thought of Google voice but didn't know it was now open to all - and I may have misunderstood exactly how it operates. So it will work even if I have a permanent US number but am overseas 100% of the time? If I am in Europe and I get a call forwarded to myself from the USA via Google voice do I pay an international per minute rate to the local European carrier (potentially very expensive)? How on earth does Google provide this for free - not that I'm complaining?!

Thanks again
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Old 07-03-2010, 10:35 PM   #5
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clarification: free within the USA ...
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Old 07-06-2010, 05:36 PM   #6
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Yes, I do this with Skype and I have had very good results.

I have a single USA phone number through Skype. This is the number that my family and friends have, as well as my financial connections (credit card company, brokerages, etc) in the USA.

When I travel to country X I buy a cheap local sim card and put it into my quad band phone (which can be bought new for $60). I then enter that number as my forwarding number for Skype via my web browser. Now, when someone calls my USA number, it will be automatically forwarded to my local mobile phone. The person calling won't know that the call was forwarded or what country I am presently in. The drawback is that when you use forwarding, and you don't answer, it will go to your local mobile phone voicemail, and sometimes the message is in another language and that can confuse callers. You pay the charges for the forwarding via your Skype account, which is the cost for a call from the USA to the country you are in at standard Skype rates.

I have found the call quality on these calls to be very decent. My mom loves it, she just has to call Kramer at a single number, without having to know what country I am in or my latest mobile phone number or even knowing how to make an international call. Callers just pay standard USA phone rates to your number. I chose a phone area code in the same state that my mail forwarding service is located.

When I don't enter a forwarding number in Skype, and if I am not online running Skype at the time, the call will go to Skype voicemail which is retrievable via the Skype application.

My total cost for all of this is $60 per year plus the per minute forwarding cost at Skype rates when someone reaches me. This price also includes unlimited Skype calling to the USA to any USA phone number (when you order the latter service first, included is a 50% discount on a Skype In number which is the phone number I am talking about above).

I don't actually know how to duplicate this set-up on Google Voice, I did about 5 minutes of reading on it. It seems like they are more focused on people who will be maintaining USA phones and someone like me with a virtual presence only.

The only USA phone number besides my Skype In number is a pay-as-you-go mobile phone plan (Tmobile) which I pay nothing on when I am out of the USA, and can be renewed once a year without surrendering any minutes. I keep the sim card with me, and I put it into my phone when I arrive at a USA airport.

The most I have paid for a sim card outside of the USA is about $3.
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Old 07-06-2010, 11:06 PM   #7
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Far out!

Kramer, you are a five-star resource!

Cheers,

Ed
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Old 07-07-2010, 12:34 AM   #8
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Far out!

Kramer, you are a five-star resource!

Cheers,

Ed
Ed, the pleasure is all mine

What I have found is that maintaining some kind of permanent number in the USA is pretty necessary for my financial accounts and it has been an ultra-convenience for my family.

Making it easy for friends and family to stay in touch with you is one more thing you can do to stay more connected.

Kramer
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Old 07-08-2010, 11:57 PM   #9
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Kramer,

Excellent and thorough answer. Thanks alot! The voicemail issue is an imperfection but at least the "one number" goal is a possibility. I will have to check and see how Google's system handles voicemail...

I never thoroughly checked out Skype after learning that they had such poor customer service (I could be wrong, but that was my impression). Sounds like you have had a very good experience with them. Have you had any interaction with Skype customer service or have you simply not had a need for this department?

Thanks again. Saver
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Old 07-09-2010, 01:42 AM   #10
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Kramer,

Excellent and thorough answer. Thanks alot! The voicemail issue is an imperfection but at least the "one number" goal is a possibility. I will have to check and see how Google's system handles voicemail...

I never thoroughly checked out Skype after learning that they had such poor customer service (I could be wrong, but that was my impression). Sounds like you have had a very good experience with them. Have you had any interaction with Skype customer service or have you simply not had a need for this department?

Thanks again. Saver
Hi Saver, I have never had a need to use customer service, thankfully. I doubt you will get much customer service out of any cheap VOIP provider. For instance, I am paying $60 per year for a pretty impressive service from Skype, probably can't expect much service.

On the forwarded calls when you are abroad, the call quality actually seems to be pretty good, better than an ordinary Skype call over WiFi.

Skype also has some local numbers you can buy or use or something like that to call from your cheap local mobile phone to the USA. I don't do that, I make USA phone calls from my netbook or my Ipod Touch over WiFi. This means I can't call the USA when I am away from my apartment. Actually, my pay-as-you-go mobile phone in Colombia allows calls to the USA for about 11 or 15 cents per minute (nothing to do with Skype), I can't remember which, but the call quality is not the greatest.

I didn't add above one more interesting use of the Skype service. When I am in the USA, I use a Skype Phone from Phillips that I bought a couple of years ago. You hook up a little thing to your home router. Then the Skype phone itself can be located anywhere in the house (along with the battery charger), just like a regular home phone that is wireless. When someone calls your Skype In number, the phone rings. Your computer does not have to be on. The quality is better because it is not using WiFi, as there is a base unit attached to the router. Unfortunately, Phillips discontinued this product (I got it for $100). They have designed a newer one, but last I checked it is still not for sale in the USA, even after being available in Europe for something like 9 months. Also, this phone is very convenient to make Skype calls from and all my calls to any USA phone are free.

I think there are a lot of VOIP solutions out there. For my particular situation (which is a bit unusual), I have not found anything better than Skype. For instance, I think if you are running a business from abroad, Skype definitely is not high enough quality. For a Perpetual Traveler like me looking for a thorough but not business-quality solution, it is perfect.
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Old 07-09-2010, 08:53 AM   #11
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Another vote for Skype
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Old 07-09-2010, 01:16 PM   #12
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I've been travelling since retiring in April, and Skype has worked well for me. It gives me a permanent US number and gives me voicemail notifications by email. I don't own a cell phone or carry a netbook, so I stop in Internet cafes, which seem to be almost everywhere these days. Only place in Ecuador & Peru I've found with no cafes is the Amazon jungle.

Depending on where you are, Skype capability at Internet cafes can be uneven. There is also almost never any real privacy, so sensitive subjects need to be made from non-Skype booths. These things are forcing me to look at carrying a Netbook while travelling. That brings with it other advantages, but also disadvantages. The way I travel, I'm afraid a netbook would be broken or stolen.
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Old 07-11-2010, 06:23 PM   #13
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I recently booked some plane tickets. My credit card company was going to deny the transactions except that they called me first, at my USA number. And my mobile phone rang in Colombia, I answered it, and so everything is fine. In this case, I had even called the credit card company ahead of time, earlier today, telling them about the transaction because I had had trouble with it before. But the person that called me seemed to have no idea about this.

So I just wanted to add how convenient it can be to be reachable under these circumstances.

One thing I would like is to be able to receive text messages on my local mobile phone when sent to my USA Skype number. I don't know how to do that.

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Old 07-12-2010, 07:56 PM   #14
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Thanks again Kramer!

I hadn't thought of that angle when it comes to the convenience factor ... that's a very good point.

Voice quality will matter for me. Am I right in thinking that there are more expensive VOIP services that will provide better call quality than Skype? Does anyone happen to know which are known for providing higher quality overseas calls?

In terms of phones I am thinking of a touch screen GSM smartphone with a removable SIM card. Please correct me if I am wrong in thinking that this will do the trick.

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Old 07-12-2010, 08:59 PM   #15
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Hi Saver, I have heard that Vonage works well. But that is for a home phone, you carry the device abroad with you. I would say that solution is more for business users, and it costs way more than Skype. There are various other solutions out there. I think the main quality difference is whether you use WiFi or not for the call -- I believe Vonage connects to the router itself avoiding WiFi (or maybe it is a router). But you won't be able to do that at a hotel or even in some apartment settings (for instance, I couldn't do that in my apartment here in Colombia, there is a shared router in the hallway). Plus, it is one more thing to carry (that alone rules it out for me).

As far as a smart phone, do you mean one that gets data over 3G (in addition to ordinary voice)? That is a whole other ball of wax and more difficult to get working and very country specific. It is particularly difficult because it is harder to get a data plan prepaid. As it works now, I often get my new phone number at the airport, or at a convenience store next to my hotel, it is just simple whereas data is more complicated. I am always stay in places with WiFi. Plus, in some countries you don't want to be walking around with a smart phone for safety reasons.

What I do is I have a cheap quad band phone. And I also have an Ipod Touch that works over WiFi. FYI, an Ipod Touch is an Iphone minus 3G, GPS, and phone. I run Skype on the Ipod Touch for calling, as well as on my netbook. I will surf the web and use Skype on my Ipod Touch sometimes at coffee shops, etc. I also research rates for my cheap sim card to the USA, sometimes it is not expensive. In Thailand, I used calling cards -- just 1 baht per minute (3 US cents) so I could call from my mobile phone to the USA cheap.

I think what you decide upon depends a lot on how often you move around and whether you are doing business stuff. I am typically located in a given location 1 to 6 months, and I don't necessarily go back to the same place. If I lived in one location for 8 months per year, for instance, and kept stuff there and always returned there, a different solution might be better.

I wish I could give you more information on other solutions. I really have not met long term travelers with good solutions or anything that really surprised me and caused me to rethink my own method.
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Old 07-16-2010, 08:30 PM   #16
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Another idea that has other advantages is a toll free number (like from ringcentral.com)

I have one of these, but didn't get it for travel reasons, but a way to simplify all our numbers (although it could do the skype or google phone thing too).

So I configured my toll free number with extensions ofr the whole family...call it, select my extension and it rings my cell, or whatever number I put in. Has voice mail, dialout, fax in or out, can make calls from PC, etc. Being toll free, everyone can call from anywhere in the continental us including phone booths.

Found it very useful so far.
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Old 07-16-2010, 10:01 PM   #17
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Just when I thought I had it figured out ...

Kramer, many thanks once again. That is exactly what I meant by “smart phone”
Data is very important to me and I was surprised to hear that it can be tough to get (in your case for a pre-paid plan). When paying on a monthly basis (no annual contract) is a plan that includes both data and voice much easier to find? Perhaps there is a big difference when talking about options available in developed vs. emerging countries.

E86,
That’s a suggestion I would not have thought of ... thanks.

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Old 07-17-2010, 01:01 AM   #18
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For data plans in the developing countries, there are prepays. They are meant to work with a USB modem in your computer (the modem takes a sim card). For instance, these are available on both pre-pay and post-pay basis in Colombia, Philippines, and Thailand. Pre-pay is more expensive.

But it is the mix of data and voice plans, the sim that would go in your I-phone or smart phone, that I am not sure about. They are definitely available on a post-pay basis, but not sure about pre-pay. Getting a pre-pay is not always easy without a mailing address and/or resident identity card.

By the way, I carry around my own USB modem that I bought used on Ebay in case I want to use a wireless data plan with my netbook. Although usually they sell a start-up package that includes the modem and the first period paid for.
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Old 07-17-2010, 04:58 AM   #19
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Depending on your Internet provider, a SIP phone might be an option.

SIP is a protocol that lets your handset make Internet (VoIP) phone calls. In the case of my French Internet provider (free.fr), support for SIP is built-in to the ADSL router which they supply as part of the package.

A SIP phone typically connects to the Internet via WiFi, then talks to your router back home, and the ADSL router is what makes the call. Since VoIP calls are typically free, this allows you to sit in a McDonald's with WiFi in Prague, talk into your mobile phone, and call the US for nothing via your router in France.

I don't know what is available in this area from US Internet providers, though.
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Old 07-17-2010, 10:02 AM   #20
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Data is very important to me and I was surprised to hear that it can be tough to get
Some (most?) smartphones can connect to Wi-Fi networks as well as 3G for data, so that could be an alternative when you can't get 3G data.
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