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Traveling? Call Home for Free

Netgear WiFi Skype PhoneThe days of the pre-paid long distance and international phone cards are gone. Sure, you can still get one, but the question is – why, when you can use Skype?

With Skype you download a simple piece of software onto a computer (Windows 2000 or XP, Mac OS X, Linux) or your mobile device. There are also versions of Skype for Nokia cell phones and Treo PDA Phones too. This software allows you to talk (you need a headset with microphone and speakers, $30 or less usually) with other Skype users through the Internet for free. It also combines an instant-messenger if you don’t have headphones available.

Many Internet cafes are willing to install Skype for you on their computers if they’re not already loaded if you ask nicely. This can be a handy way to not have to carry a laptop or other device with you on your trip. If privacy is a concern, you may wish to buy a Skype phone, such as this Netgear SPH101 Wi-Fi Phone ($199 after rebate) that will allow you to make calls through any WiFi network to Skype users without requiring any computer. There are many other choices at the Skype Store also.

This is all fine and dandy, but when you’re calling grandma, she’s not so up on computers and the last thing you want is to be her dedicated tech support for calling her sister Wilma. So, opt to not install Skype on her computer. But now, how can you call her and tell her about the nice girl you met in Italy before you two run off and get married?

Simple. There’s 3 add-on services that you’ll have to pay for, but may be worth it for you depending on your preferences and needs.

  1. SkypeOut will let you call grandma, or anyone else with a land line – ya know, a regular – phone or mobile phones. You will pay low rates for international calls, and from now until the end of the year you can call any US/Canada number for free, although this may be restricted to Skype calls that originate in the US or Canada. Calling internationally will probably have the international rates associated with those calls.
  2. SkypeIn gives you a real phone number so your relatives and friends can call you using one local phone number instead of trying to remember the number of the sim card you rented this week. Beauty of this is that they won’t have to pay any long distance charges on these calls. If you’re not interested in taking the call, or are asleep from the after-wedding party, Skype Voicemail comes to the rescue.
  3. Skype Voicemail (comes free with SkypeIn) If for some reason you don’t want SkypeIn but want to send someone with Skype a voicemail, you can purchase access for a small fee to leave these people a voice message. Currently the cost is € 5 for 3 months or € 15 for the year.

Go on, Download Skype for Free and give it a try.