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Using Skype to Save Money on Phone Calls When Traveling Abroad

by on March 28, 2011 · 21 comments

in Points Guy Pointers, Travel Technology

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As I wrote about in February, I got a Verizon iPhone the day it came out. I personally had horrendous service with AT&T and I haven’t regretted my decision at all.

However, it has been a huge adjustment for me when traveling internationally since my Verizon iPhone doesn’t work and I haven’t gotten around to jailbreaking it so I can use international SIM cards. Instead, I’ve been taking advantage of the Skype application which has saved me tons of money on international calls.

Once hooked up to a solid wifi connection, all you have to do is load up the app and dial away. When I was in Stockholm last week a 3 minute call to a US cell phone number cost me a whopping 14 cents. The same call would have been at least $4.19 with AT&T.

Skype for iPhone

The app is free and you can load money instantly, so in my opinion it’s a no brainer for the international traveler.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Penser

    Have you tried Google Voice? Much better. Switching to an Android-based phone would be a step up, too.

  • The Points Guy

    Haven’t tried Google Voice- how is it better? And whats the big deal about Android phones?

  • nsfw

    I didn’t think Google Voice was a VOIP provider. I thought Google Voice was still more or less “Grand Central” the company they originally bought. Which means its a service where one number can ring you at multiple numbers with lots of options.
    But, when you make a call with GV, its actually going to call a local number and make the call. Not a true TCP/IP VOIP client like Skype.
    @TPG What Skype is actually doing is making a internet based VOIP call to a local point of presence in your home country, so you are basically only paying for some long distance between two numbers in the United States. The one unfortunate thing is, if you wanted to Skype to a local Stockholm phone number, it would have been a call from the United States to Stockholm. Costing you a lot more. But still cheaper than calling with your cell phone from your US number to Stockholm.
    I found on my recent trip to Buenoes Aires and Rio that wifi is freely available at almost any cafe or restaurant. I thought I would need a local SIM card, but Skype and tons of free wifi made it unnecessary.

  • Matt Wilson

    Skype can save the day. My family was in Uganda for six weeks last year. $10 worth of Skype credit can go along way! In a place like that, you have to almost turn your cell phone service off completely anyway becasue the roaming charges are CRAZY high!

  • Monica

    Unfortunately, the Verizon iPhone does not have SIM cards as Verizon technology is CDMA, not GSM like AT&T.
    http://m.cnet.com/Article.rbml?nid=20030117&cid=latest&bid=233&webref=reviews.cnet.com%2F8301-19512_7-20030117-233.html%3F

  • The Points Guy

    Monica- I mistyped- I meant jailbreaking my old AT&T 3GS iPhone that I no longer use

  • Penser

    @TPG –

    You can make calls via GV right from your Gmail account or from the GV app. Better connection quality (slightly), and cheaper in many cases (as described above).

    Android can be customized more and is a more open platform. It has a longer learning curve, but if willing to learn, is much nicer than anything Apple, as it doesn’t lock you into proprietary products. In general, women and novices tend to prefer iPhones a bit for their out-of-the-box user-friendliness. Android is stealing overall market share and is being rapidly adopted by experts, the business community, etc. You should give the ThunderBolt a try at a Verizon store. You’d chuck that iPhone in a heartbeat.

  • http://www.themrpickles.com mrpickles

    Another trick is to call forward your iPhone to your skype-in phone number so you can still receive you normal calls and voice mails in your skype account.

    If you buy a local sim card your local incomming calls are usually free, so then go online and forward all of your skype calls to you new free incomming sim card phone number. This worked grear in Fiji when it is about $4 a minute for US callers to call a Fiji cell phone number, but they can now call my US cell->Skype->Vodafone Fiji number for free.

  • Brad

    When I was traveling quite a bit abroad, I signed up for Skype’s $2.99/mo unlimited plan that allowed me to call landlines and mobiles in the US and Canada. This allowed me to keep in contact with friends, family, coworkers etc… for next to nothing. Generally, I also load up with $10 or so in Skype credit as well in case I need to text anyone or make calls to foreign counties.

  • Michael

    Mr Pickels,

    Can you kindly outline the steps necessary to do this? Sounds great but I’m a layman.

    “Another trick is to call forward your iPhone to your skype-in phone number so you can still receive you normal calls and voice mails in your skype account.”

  • Steve G

    You can actually save even more money by getting 20% cashback on your Skype purchases by using BigCrumbs. I use it whenever I buy anything online including: flights, hotels, travel, retail etc.

    http://www.bigcrumbs.com/crumbs/landing.do?r=southsoccer&s=68372

  • ew

    I also switched to verizon iphone and love it. If you’re traveling to a GSM country and want the convenience of using your own number, another option is Verizon’s global phone loaner program. Basically, you can call them and request a GSM phone, which they will mail to you before your trip. You can then use that phone abroad for up to 3 weeks, at standard global roaming fees. There is no additional rental fee or shipping as far as I know.

    I only use it for trips > 1 week… not worth the hassle for a few days. I also still use wifi+skype on my iphone for most calling as you suggested. But, this does give you the option of receiving calls to your usual number. More importantly, it gives you a working phone for making calls in a pinch without hunting for wifi. I used to carry an unlocked GSM phone and buy a local SIM, but this has been a cheaper option for trips 1-3 weeks.

    http://b2b.vzw.com/international/Global_Travel/index.html

  • http://www.themrpickles.com MrPickles

    Many of us travel to foreign countries and you don’t want to lose touch with friends and family when you are in far off lands. Using some simple tricks hotel elite status can afford you the benefit of free internet and free wifi in exotic locations where phone calls can be VERY expensive such as Tahiti and Fiji. Over the years I have learned a few trick for cheap phone calls and here is one of them using Skype and an iPhone.

    Step by Step procedure:

    1. Go to http://www.skype.com and download the free Skype program to your desktop (PC or MAC) and set up program. Skype to Skype calls are free, but you will also want to setup Phone to Skype calling and Skype to Phone calling which has a nominal fee. Close your browser after you download Skype to your computer and have it up and running. Exit Skype also.

    2. Go to BigCrumbs and setup a Big Crumbs account: http://tiny.ly/r6DN Using this link will give you currently a 20% cash rebate on your Skype purchases.

    3. Once your BigCrumbs Account is set up, then search for the Skype store, login with your Skype account name and purchase an online Skype phone number.

    4. Program your Skype Phone Number into your iPhone address book so you remember the number.

    5. Download and set up the Skype iPhone app/iPad app from the Apple App store, install and setup with your login and password.

    6. When you are on your outbound international flight before the door closes forward your iPhone to your Skype phone number. Dial *72-1-area code- Skype Number.

    7. When you land in the foreign country leave your phone in airplane mode but turn on wifi.

    8. Turn on the Skype app and allow it to run in the background, also allow push notifications from Skype.

    9. Whenever you have a wifi signal you will receive Skype calls on your iPhone/iPad and Skype voice mail notifications.

    10. You can go one step further and “unlock” your iPhone (Google Jailbreak and unlock iPhone) or use an unlocked GSM world phone and purchase a local SIM card in the foreign country you are visiting. Most countries allow free incoming calls so the next step would be to login to your Skype account and Call forward the Skype number to the local foreign cell phone number for your new SIM card. Now your USA iPhone calls will forward to your Skype account then to your new foreign SIM card anywhere you have a 2/3G signal.

    11. When you return home just dial *72 to cancel your call forwarding.

  • Pingback: TheMrPickles.com

  • The Points Guy

    If anyone is interested, Mr. Pickles outlined the whole process for setting up Skype on his blog:
    http://www.themrpickles.com/blog1/

    Thanks Mr P!

  • Don Smith

    Just FYI, if you have friends/family actively serving in the armed forces (i.e. deployed, whether combat related or bases at the nations of respective allies) – Skype is a great way to stay in touch.

    The network infrastructure at a given locale may or may not might not be good enough for streaming video, but voice chat has worked well most of the time.

  • Carlos

    Unlimited calling to any US cellphone or landline for $3/month also works when making calls to the US from international territory. FYI.

  • http://www.howtotraveler.com Brad Benner

    I spent several hours trying to jailbreak and then unlock my AT&T iPhone 3GS. Complicated and difficult process, in my opinion (note, I’m a former IT consultant). I’ll keep at it, but in the meantime, I found that Skype works great — especially using their online number and call forwarding features to route calls from my friends and family back home to my local mobile (an older GSM phone that I use just for travel). Details are on my blog at: http://www.howtotraveler.com/2011/04/receiving-calls-is-easy-and-cheap-while-traveling/.

    Great blog, btw. Cheers,
    Brad

  • Furst

    With google voice, you won’t need a Skype online number (which you have to pay for service). When people call your google voice number you can answer straight from your desktop (for free in the US and Canada). And obviously you can also make calls from your desktop with google voice (for free in the US and Canada). And you can also make and receive calls with your google voice number on your cellphone. Plus there are TONS more useful and free features with google voice. It’s seriously amazing.

  • Joseph popotai

    new individual on line

  • Aliasgar Babat

    Skype is a wonderful voice and video calling application. No doubt about that. However, businesses nowadays prefer better security while conducting online meetings and hence many of them use tools like RHUB web conferencing servers. It works from behind the firewall, hence total security.

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