Get your voicemail online while traveling

Listening to voice messages left on your mobile phone can be expensive when you’re traveling internationally. This is because carriers require you to dial their messaging system (resulting international roaming charges) — or — if you’re an iPhone user — to download the message using your phone’s data connection (also expensive unless you’re using WiFi).

Instead of using the carrier’s voice messaging system on your mobile phone, switch to Google Voice, which allows you to store and retrieve your messages online, in one central place so you never have to worry about messages being deleted. Plus, the service will convert voicemails into text and send them to you by email or text message (SMS).

Google Voice is completely free and works with all of the major US mobile carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. You can also use this with a landline, as long as your provider allows you to forward unanswered calls to a different number.

Here’s how to set it up:

  1. First, create a Google Voice account. As part of this, select the I want to use my mobile number option.
  2. After completing the verification process, click Settings in the upper right corner, locate your mobile phone, and click Activate Google voicemail on this phone.
  3. Follow the instructions provided to enable voicemail forwarding on your mobile phone. For example, AT&T users will dial *004*xxx-xxx-xxxx# (where xxx-xxx-xxxx is your Google Voice phone number) and press Call.
  4. Lastly, click the Voicemail tab to record your outgoing greeting by using the buttons provided in the Voicemail Greeting section.

To have your messages transcribed to text sent to you by email and/or SMS:

  1. Click Settings in the upper right corner, then click the Voicemail tab.
  2. Under Voicemail Notifications, check Email the message to and select an email address where you’d like to receive your voicemail transcriptions.
  3. To send receive voicemail transcripts via SMS (text message), check Send a text (SMS) message to and selecting your mobile phone from the list provided.
  4. Finally, under Voicemail Transcripts, check Transcribe Voicemails and click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.

Now that you’ve replaced your carrier’s voice messaging system with Google Voice, here’s how to retrieve your messages:

  1. Online through the Google Voice Website or the mobile optimized version of the site at m.google.com/voice.
  2. Through the Google Voice phone system by calling the Google Voicemail number provided with your account.
  3. By email, if you’ve enabled this option.
  4. Using the Google Voice iPhone app.

Don’t worry — you can disable voicemail forwarding to Google Voice at any time by logging into Google Voice, clicking Settings in the upper right corner, clicking Deactivate voicemail, and following the instructions provided.

Now that you have Google Voice fully setup and configured, you’ll no longer have to call in to retrieve your voice messages (saving you international roaming charges), and you’ll the flexiblity of listening to your messages using any computer or phone with internet access.

Thank you to HTT reader, Amy S., for inspiring this topic!

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4 Replies to “Get your voicemail online while traveling”

  1. I hope you do not mind answering this question. I have set up Skype on my iphone and have paid for a minimal subscription. This is what I would like to do while traveling for a month: put my iphone on airplane mode so I incur no roaming charges and have the benefit of free wifi when available. Use my iphone as a phone only through SKYPE when I need to check my landline voicemail at home in the united states. Is that possible? I know that you cannot check your iphone voicemail, but can you check your voicemail from your landline. Thank you for letting me know. Or is it better to have a SKYPE number that people can leave messages for? But that might confuse my clients (they are older)…

    1. Hi Amy,

      Thanks so much for writing — I’m happy to answer your questions.

      I think your plan sounds good. You’ve probably already this article, but in case you haven’t, be sure to check out my suggestions on using Skype to receive calls: https://www.howtotraveler.com/2011/04/receiving-calls-is-easy-and-cheap-while-traveling/.

      In terms of checking voicemail:

      For your landline — just be sure to get the actual dial-in number and password/PIN. In case you’ve been using some sort of short dial-in code directly on your phone that saves you from having to dial the actual voice messaging system.

      For your iPhone – this article will be a good resource and, if my recollection serves, you should still be able to access voice messages on your phone (‘Visual Voicemail’), as long as you have an active data connection.

      1. Thank you so much for the time you took to answer our questions! So I think actually for our purposes the Google idea is the best. Let me just clarify because I am not too technologically advanced:

        My husband’s office landline is XXX-XXX-XXXX. If he sets up a Google VoiceMail account, all that will happen is when somebody calls his office while we are away which we do not wish to broadcast (and the message on the Voicemail simply says, “I am unavailable right now, but please leave me a message with YOUR PHONE NUMBER and I will contact you when I am able.”) and they actually leave a message: “Hi, This is Sarah Somebody. Please call me at 999.999.9999”. Google VoiceMail will then send this exact message via an email to whatever email address it is instructed to do so? We do not want to have this feature for our cell phones as they will simply be in airplane mode.

        1. I think the scenario you’ve described with regard to your husband’s office landline will work, as along as he’s able to forward unanswered calls to the voicemail number Google Voice will provide when you create your account. Just be sure to register the landline number with the system and (obviously) test it out.

          One thing about the transcriptions — these are not done by humans, so they’re not 100% accurate. In my experience, they’re decent, and I can generally understand who called and what they’re calling about, but they can sometimes be funny too! The good news is that you’ll always be able to listen to the message itself — which is especially easy using the iPhone app.

          About your cell phones — if you think you won’t need to listen to voice messages that may be left on these phones while you’re traveling, then I think your plan is good. Just keep in mind that if you do need to listen to a message, it can be a bit of a pain.

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