Worldwide calling, done dirt cheap

Are you living or traveling abroad for a long time? Need a way for (not-so-tech-savvy) people at home to reach you without breaking your budget? For the past six months I’ve been using a cheap and dirty prepaid cell + Skype setup to allow people in the states to call me for the cost of a mere local phone call.

Here’s what you need:

1) A pre-paid cell phone. In Korea, you can get one from some LG stores for under 30,000 won ($23 USD) plus 30,000 for activation. We found one for 5,000. For 10,000 (<$8) per month, we get 200 minutes outbound calling and maybe 100 sms messages. I’m not exactly sure, but we’ve never gone over. Regardless, it’s cheap.

2) A Skype account. Most people know you can do free skype-to-skype calls if both parties are using skype, but most neither leave their skype account open all the time or plan on specific times to do skype calling. Combine SkypeIn with call forwarding and voicemail and anyone in your home country can reach you without making an international call.

Here’s how it works.

Once you have your in-country cell phone number, purchase an online phone number from Skype. You can select a phone number for most countries and area codes. They cost $18 for three months or $60 for the year. To receive calls, you’ve got two options. You can either buy Skype credit or purchase a monthly subscription. Me, I’m cheap and don’t make or take many calls, so I just purchase $10 at a time. To receive calls on my local ROK cell costs me about $0.07 per minute.

My phone number is a West Virginia phone number. This means whenever my mom or my luddite friends call me, they just dial a local WV number. Since I usually leave Skype closed, Mom’s call goes to Skype, then Skype sends it out on the local cell network, and my cell phone rings, interrupting me from my bipimbap. The phone call doesn’t cost here anything more than a normal local call; I pay the regular $0.07 rate from Skype but since my in-country prepaid phone doesn’t charge me for inbound calls, I’m not using up my cell phone minutes, only my Skpye credit.

You can also setup a voicemail to take your missed calls. It works like any other voicemail; record your message. The drawback is you need to be use Skype to check it. Also,while you can receive all the inbound calls you want, I don’t know yet how to make outbound calls without using a computer. Maybe there’s some solution out there, but I don’t know what it is.

All in all, this setup has worked wonderfully for me. If you’re using something similar or something better, I’d love to hear about. Drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Note: I’m not an affiliate or a shill for Skype, they just happen to offer a pretty good service that I like. If and when somebody comes along with something better (ahem, google voice), I’ll try that out.

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