Last month, I reviewed the Skype app for the iPhone and talked about how it is a great and almost free way to call back to the U.S. when you are traveling abroad, as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection. Earlier this week, Matt Gross, author of the Frugal Traveler column in the New York Times, published an interesting article called "Calling Home for Even Less" which discusses using services like Skype on the iPhone to call home when you are abroad. If you travel internationally for work or pleasure, you should read this article.
Gross notes that one of his current favorites is a service called Voxox, which works well if you are using a cellphone while abroad in which you have inserted a local SIM card. What he likes about Voxox is the SMS callback feature, which he describes as follows:
Say I’m in Buenos Aires, using a local SIM card, and I want to call my wife in New York City. I simply send a text message with her number to Voxox, and seconds later my phone rings. I pick up, wait a couple more seconds, and there’s her wonderful voice, asking when I’m coming home. (Soon, baby, soon.)
What’s awesome about this system, which I’ve been testing the last couple of weeks while traveling in Canada, is that you don’t need a computer, Internet access or a fancy phone to make international calls. (O.K., you’ll need to go online to give Voxox your local SIM number, but that’s a one-time thing.)
As long as you’ve got cellular service, you’re set. And it works well. Only once have I sent the text message and gotten no response whatsoever. In that case, I just waited a few minutes and tried again. It worked, which is all I really ask for.
He says that the rates are quite good. For example, he says that an Argentina-to-Brooklyn call costs 9.48 cents a minute using Voxox, versus about 17.2 cents a minute using Skype. I presume that this math assumes that you are using Skype over a cell phone service. When you use Skype on an iPhone using a Wi-Fi connection, you can call any U.S. number for about 2 cents a minute, as noted on this chart on the Skype website. And U.S. toll free numbers (which I used for some conference calls) are free with Skype.
I'm about to travel internationally again, and I definitely plan to once again use the Skype app on the iPhone to call home to the U.S. because it is so cheap and easy to use. It doesn't work well for receiving calls (you would have to be running the Skype app and be in an area with Wi-Fi at the moment that someone was trying to call you for the service to work), but it works great for scheduled calls where I agree via e-mail that I will call someone at a specified time and then I use the Skype app to do so.