A Plan for Phone Use Overseas

Perhaps not the most thrilling blog post, but possibly one that’s useful for other travelers/workers hoping to maintain some level of normalcy and connectedness overseas.

I’ll be in Spain for six weeks and am planning on working for four of those weeks.  Email is my primary mode of communication — I also use Google+ and Skype for video calls and I use a cell phone for less planned interactions and quick calls.  I’ve been looking for a way to make calling me easy for my clients — not wanting to put a burden on them to schedule calls, get on Skype, etc.  I think I’ve found a solution!

Step 1:  Google Voice + GrooveIP and Talkatone
I have a Google voice number that I used when I lived in Vermont and didn’t have cell service at home.  You can sign up for a number for free, tie it to your email account, and direct calls to either another phone(s) or to your computer/Google chat.  When I lived in Vermont, I gave out my Google Voice # to everyone, and had it ring my home phone and cell phone so I could catch calls.  

There are a couple apps — GrooveIP for Androids and Talkatone for I-products, that allow you to receive and make Google Voice calls over wifi.  I have a Droid cell phone and an iPod, both wifi capable.  I plan on using my Google Voice number and make and receive calls on those devices (I’m bringing and trying two — in case one doesn’t work).  Fingers crossed the connection is strong!

Step 2:  Dealing with my Verizon cell phone
It took three tries with Verizon customer service, but I have found out that I can let my pre-paid smartphone plan ($80) lapse, and the phone will still direct callers to voicemail since I have a small balance on my account.  I plan on changing my voicemail to ask callers to call my Google Voice number while I’m abroad.  I’m on a prepaid plan, not a contract, so I have this flexibility.  I don’t plan on using a cell in Europe —  it terribly expensive and if I really needed one, I’d get one there.

I’ll keep y’all posted and let you know if this plan works.  Has anyone else tried using GrooveIP or Talkatone overseas?  How did it work?  Are there any other ways of doing this?

Edit:  I’ve been using Talkatone over wifi for almost a week from Barcelona and it works nearly perfectly.  People I’ve called in the US report that the quality is good and it sounds only slightly grainy on my end – but very audible.  My calls have dropped twice, slightly more often than normal, but not too disruptive.

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