Technology like email and Facebook make staying in touch with friends, family, and business colleagues a breeze and services like Skype make international calling easier and cheaper. Gone are the days of calling cards, special access numbers, and expensive calling rates.
But most people only use Skype to make (free) computer-to-computer calls, which requires both parties be online and connected at the same time. Finding a computer with good connectivity and Skype installed can be challenging in many countries and coordinating a time to talk may not always be easy or convenient. Plus, sometimes you need to receive a call when you’re out and about or your contacts at home need to call you on their own schedule.
There is where Skype comes it. It offers two separate calling features that when used together make it easy and cheap for folks to reach you by phone while you’re traveling.
The first is online number which is an actual phone number your contacts can call you on. They’re currently available from Skype in 24 countries, including the US and most of western Europe. When the number is dialed, the call automatically rings on you on Skype. Call forwarding is the second feature which forwards your Skype calls to an actual phone.
When used together, calls are routed over Skype’s calling network to a local phone in your destination. This means your friends, family, and colleagues don’t have to fuss with the trouble and expense of making an international call (which, at least for many Americans, is still a daunting task), nor do they have to set up or learn how to use Skype. Combine this with the fact that Skype’s international call rates are excellent and most non-US mobile carriers allow you to receive calls free of charge (they make their money when you place calls), means you’ll save a ton of money along the way.
To illustrate how this worked on my recent trip to India:
- My friend Grace, who lives in Seattle, calls me at (206) 905-92XX, a local Seattle number, so the call is free to her. Skype charged me $18 to set up and use the online number for 3 months, but doesn’t charge me per minute to receive calls placed using the number.
- The call goes to Skype and they attempt to reach me online. If I’m connected to Skype in an internet cafe, on my netbook, or on my iPhone, then I can take the call there. There’s no per-minute charge for me to receive the call this way.
- If I’m not online, the call is automatically forwarded to my Indian mobile number +91 73890095XX, where I can answer. Skype charges 9.2¢/minute to forward the call to an Indian mobile but Airtel, my carrier in India, doesn’t charge my anything to receive the call.
Connecting the dots this way makes it super easy for folks back home to get a hold of me, and I can update the number calls are forwarded to as I move between countries, which makes it even more seamless.
Here’s a quick re-cap of how to set up Skype so that your contacts at home can call you:
- Set up a free Skype Account.
- Purchase an online number.
- Bring a GSM mobile phone with you on your trip and when you arrive, purchase a pay-as-you-go SIM card from a local carrier.
- Enable Skype’s call forwarding feature using your new, local mobile number.