Need to call during travel, Best option- Skype revisited
Or desire to receive calls while travelling and avoiding hefty roaming charges.
Nowadays, most travellers are swamped with choices of travel SIMs and roaming routers (Wifi egg) which are so easy to use and handy, but most provide data only. Some have call capabilities also, but most of these charges a handsome premium which seems not worthwhile for the few calls one may use while overseas. Nowadays, most people are accessible via WhatsApp, Line, WeChat, Airbnb messaging, etc. SMS too (this involves extra charges over your data package). Despite all these ‘instant’ message apps, yet calling during travel is important, e.g. …in communicating with B&B hosts confirming your arrival time, or you’re lost and want some directions, you want to book a popular restaurant days ahead, etc., I’ve been caught with such desperate needs while in rural Japan when Google Map failed and I had to resort to roam calls (which was ridiculously expensive!), ditto needs occurred in my recent trip while driving in Alaska, Banff and Jasper. Anyway, I consider it’s assuring to have such capability at a reasonable price. Of course, WhatsApp, Wechat, etc allow calls too via data access, but in addition to their call quality has room for improvements, what if the one you’re calling doesn’t have any of such instant message app?- typically commercial enterprises like hotels, restaurants don’t have such. And being able to call restaurants to book ahead before driving there and be disappointed is handy too.
I did some recent research, and would recommend Skype to be a handy, reliable and very economical tool for such calls – Don’t leave home without it!
I’m quite sure all of you know Skype (the name was derived from “Sky peer-to-peer”) which has been around since 2003, changed hands several times (eBay in 2005 for US$2.6 billion, then a Canadian JV in 2009 valued at 2.9 billion, eventually bought by Microsoft in 2011 for 8.5 billion) and has been rather popular. At the end of 2010, there were over 660 million worldwide users, with over 300 million estimated active each month as of August 2015. At one point in February 2012, there were 34 million users concurrently online on Skype. Please visit here if you are interested in more background of Skype.
I used Skype a lot around 2008 to 2010 mainly because it’s free and an obvious tool for me to take regular PTH lessons from my teacher in Beijing (while I was in Hong Kong). I could see, hear her clearly and she could demo mouth movements while pronouncing the words, worked well for me. I dropped using it in recent years as the need seemed not there and I almost forgot about it until last month while travelling in New Jersey, I suddenly found the urgent need to call my HK bank when my credit card was declined while shopping in the Jersey Premium Shore Outlet. My friend reminded me of Skype and I quickly installed it on my new phone, put $5 there and was happily using it for all my calling needs during my 7 weeks trip in N. America. Calling roaming during this period could easily costed me over a thousand HK$! Mostly, the quality was of no discernible difference from calling via the mobile provider, but at a few percent of the price! It’s much clearer and responsive than several years ago (due to recent improvements via MS), and when compared to calling/talking on WhatsApp, etc, it’s day and night- I’ve never been cut/interrupted during the calls, e.g. from US to HK, from HK to Australia (in a 50 min call), etc. Most importantly, using Skype, you can call anyone, any number who/which is NOT on any instant message app like WhatsApp, WeChat, etc. Of course, if the one you call is also on Skype, then you can call him/her free, while you have to pay a very reasonable amount if otherwise. So here’s the way to call someone who’s not on Skype (or any other instant message app):
- download and install Skype on your device – mobile phone, computer, tablet, wearable (any common platform), visit here. With this, you already can communicate with anyone on Skype via their Skype ID
- create and open an account- i.e. join Skype, then either join their monthly/annual plan or just join the PAYG (Pay as You Go) which you just prepaid/deposit a sum (I started with US$5). Yes, you need your credit card.
- Well, that’s it, just start dialling via Skype (wherever you have data/wifi, i.e. internet access)
- as if you’re dialling from your own phone – no special prefix, the normal “+” before the country code will do- Bob is your uncle!
Inward, i.e. you want to receive calls via Skype (at their affordable rates)
- You can sign up for a personal Skype Number by a subscription plan (paying monthly or annual subscription charges). People can call you from their mobile or landline and you pick the call up in Skype. A Skype Number is great option if you, or your friends and family live in different countries, or plan to travel abroad and want an affordable way to keep in touch. There are also other uses for having a Skype Number (e.g. business related, etc, click the link to see more details)
- You can choose a no. from any of their 24 serviced countries including Hong Kong, US, Canada, UK, Australia, Briazil, Mexico, etc. This no./line is in fact provided in conjunction the local mobile network provider- e.g. in conjunction with HGC in numbers in Hong Kong starting with 8..)
- Once you have this Skype personal number, you receive calls (via your Skype app from any device- mobile, desktop, tablet) from overseas free (if your caller uses Skype too), or usage covered under the typically lower Skype subscription rates (compared to the roaming rates). This is useful e.g. you desire/expect to receive many calls while overseas and want to avoid high overseas usage charges.
- For example, you’re paying rather high fees for calls received while travelling overseas and you want a cheaper alternative. The Skype solution is: every time your travel overseas, you forward your mobile no. to the Skype No., hence any call to your mobile, your phone will ring as a Skype call (yes, you need internet) and your usage would be covered under your subscription (you just pay a flat fee for unlimited incoming calls), i.e. you no longer pay the exorbitant roaming charges to your mobile network provider. Hence it’d be logical that you choose a Skype No. in the same country as your usual mobile thus avoiding any cost in call forwarding. Of course, you can ask your friend to call your Skype No. direct.
- You need to estimate your usage to see if it is worthwhile for you, .e.g getting a Skype No. in Hong Kong, the subscription as of Oct 2017 is US$52.26 per year.
Remember that Skype to Skype calls are free anywhere in the world
Here are some of their international call rates (as of Oct 2017):-
- PAYG (most flexible option for occasional calls) to US, UK, Australia or Singapore, Taiwan landline: HK$0.18/min, India 0.12/min, China 0.16/min. You just purchase some Skype Credit (like pre-paid) which is stored in your Skype account.
- or you can choose Subscription plans -monthly calling plans that let you make unlimited, or fixed-minute calls to landlines (and mobiles where applicable). A subscription is great if you make a lot of calls.
- HK$23/month unlimited calls to US (and 2 other destinations) landline and mobiles; e.g.
- HK$54/month unlimited calls to 8 destinations including Canada and US
- HK$108/month unlimited calls to anywhere in the World (63 destinations landlines, 8 destinations landline or mobile)
If you like further explanation, this is a good one too.
Disclaimer: I donot work nor get any pay or credit/benefit at all from Skype or any organisation related to writing this article
Skype. (2017). En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 5 October 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skype
Download Skype for Desktop Computer | Skype . (2017). Skype.com. Retrieved 5 October 2017, from https://www.skype.com/en/download-skype/skype-for-computer/
What are the different types of Skype subscriptions and pay-as-you-go options?. (2017). Support.skype.com. Retrieved 6 October 2017, from https://support.skype.com/en/faq/fa331/what-are-the-different-types-of-skype-subscriptions-and-pay-as-you-go-options
Use Skype to make and receive voice calls when traveling. (2017). Help Center. Retrieved 6 October 2017, from https://support.gigsky.com/hc/en-us/articles/205496498-Use-Skype-to-make-and-receive-voice-calls-when-traveling