International phone tricks

Dave Winer has questions about using mobile phones in Europe. My answer (which I learned from Ken Rutkowski):

1. Get a local SIM card for GSM phone.*
2. Forward your US number to your Skype number.
3. Forward your Skype number to your European GSM number.
This way, people can call your local number and you can talk to them without paying international roaming. Calling the US won’t be cheaper on your mobile phone; for that, use Skype on your laptop while online.

* This requires that you have an unlocked GSM phone. Many GSM phones can be unlocked; just Google for those services or pay your provider for the privilege. I used a really old Nokia phone for years but got a web-ready PDA-phone in January so I can also get email on my phone — a godsend. Also, most providers in Europe sell pay-as-you-go SIM cards that don’t expire; that’s just reason No. 476 why their phone system is better than ours. The EU is also limiting roaming rates within Europe.

Also, Dave, find out whether you need an adapter on the plane for your laptop power. If you’re taking your MacBook, you have to buy that adapter from Apple and only Apple because it has the proprietary magnetic plug.

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  • Jim Louderback

    Good ideas on forwarding phone to skype, skype to sim. But you’ll save even more money if you use a global SIM that gives you incoming calls free. If you’re going to multiple countries in Europe, I like United Mobile..

    outgoing calls are a little expensive, but not so bad.. and all incoming calls are free!

  • I have foundsome new phone apps that help with calling internationally. runs a JAVA app on your phone that you use to start a call. Their servers call you and then call the other person. Their rates are comparable to Skype. I think they save money by routing the call over the net from their origination PBXes.

    Nimbuzz is similar except that all calls are free. You can trigger a call from your JAVA cellphone to a googletalk (Amazing) contact or to another Nimbuzz user. I haven’t done the later. But, I think Nimbuzz triggers a call to their 800# and then directs your call onto the gtalk system or to another cellphone registered with the Nimbuzz system.

    So if your phone runs java and has a little bit of internet on a prepaid sim you can makes cheap calls from international locations.

  • Chris

    “Also, most providers in Europe sell pay-as-you-go SIM cards that don’t expire.”

    I challenge that. The SIM card has to expire — it’s the way the phone number is returned to the “pool.”

  • Josh

    I have a question. If i get a local number int eh US for my family to call me via skype. Then they can call this local number. And with skype I can have it forward to my skype account, can I then have some software on my PC or something forward incoming calls to my Japanese cell phone number here.

    Basically, what I would like this to do is that someone calls a local skype number in my hometown, then it forwards directly to my japanese cell phone, or if this is not possible it forwards the call to my skype account and then some 3rd party software forwards the call to my Japanese local cell phone number, resulting in their being no charge to call me here in Japan from a local number in the US. Is this possible?

  • josh,
    yes, you can get a phone number anywhere in the world and you can forward calls to another phone. this will cost you skype rates but they are ridiculously low.

  • I believe you can do this with skype pro, but it will cost 15 cents a minute to call your Japanese cell phone, which kind of stinks, because incoming calls are free usually for Japanese cell phones. But you have to pay skype out rates.