In my on-going efforts to become location independent, one of the greatest stumbling blocks has been phone accessibility. Sure I can bring my Canadian cell phone abroad and answer calls on it, but the roaming fee’s are outrageous as is the cost of data. I travel a lot for both business and pleasure and wanted easy access to email and apps such as google maps. I dont tend to make outgoing calls very much, but want to be available via my regular phone number.
Skype offers “SkypeIn numbers” that allow you to setup a ‘local’ phone number in your home country, then you can forward your regular cell phone number to the new number. This works great for most countries, but due to CRTC license issues, the service is not available in Canada.
After a lot of internet research and tinkering with different services, I found a solution to get cheap data and roaming while traveling and still accept calls from my regular Canadian phone number (without the caller being charged long distance). All while keeping my fees under $20/month.
1) Unlock your phone and purchase a local SIM card
I travel to the US and the UK quite a lot and its possible to buy cheap pay-as-you-go cards in both countries that give you about 1gig of data and free or cheap incoming calls. My UK SIM was about 10 pounds with T-Mobile.
2) Create an account with a VOIP service that provides DID numbers
After searching through lots of reviews, I chose www.voip.ms. They had great reviews, were very inexpensive and although they seems quite ‘techy’ at first, the account was quite easy to setup and their support staff was very helpful.
3) Create a ‘DID’ number with an area code that is local to your home city
Your VOIP provider can help you set this up. Mine took only minutes to create.
4) Forward your new DID number to the number on your new SIM card
I have mine forwarded to my new UK SIM card number. Make sure to check the international forward rates, many offer monthly flat rates. I chose www.voip.ms because they have a $1.99 monthly rate and then by the minute billing. This was a cheaper option for me because I want to keep my account active between visits. Make sure you test to make sure the forward works. Sometimes international dialing can be tricky.
5) Forward your regular phone number to the new DID number
I simply popped my regular SIM card back in to my phone and setup the forward through the handset (I use an iPhone, so forwarding is done on the phone itself). When the forward was complete, I put my new UK SIM back in.
6) Test and your done!
Although the steps aren’t complicated, it did take a few hours to setup and test. I used Skype to make test calls and had to play with quite a few settings. I did find that setting up the UK forward to be the hardest part and once I knew the correct number to use, then set my DID to go to voicemail while creating the Canadian number forward made it easier to test.
- People can phone you on your regular number and have no idea where you are. The call is billed as a local call for them.
- Some VOIP services like www.voip.ms allow you to setup voicemail and even email you the recording
- You can setup numerous worldwide DID numbers all forwarded to the same place
- Cheap and fairly easy to setup without any need for hardware (such as MagicJack)
- There is quite a delay before the call connects, since its forwarded so many times
- SMS messages wont get passed through
- CallerID doesn’t always work properly
- Limited outgoing calls (I can only place UK calls while using my UK SIM)