Monday, November 15, 2010

Google Voice: Useful Tool While Abroad

This summer, I discovered Google Voice, which is turning out to be more beneficial than I'd first thought.  Here in Ukraine, I have figured out how to use Google Voice (sometimes in combination with my Skype account).

Originally, I used Google Voice in the US so that one of my friends could call a number (local for them) that would forward the calls to my cell phone.  I had set up two different numbers (with two different email accounts), and one of them was with a Maryland area code for my "experiment."

In the States, this is how Google Voice works, and there is a centralized voicemail for all your phones.

Friend --> GV number as intermediate number --> Your phone (cell, home, work, or all of them) rings

While in the US, I have a Verizon phone with a monthly contract.  This contract is put on hold while I am in Ukraine, so I don't pay for a phone I'm not using (so a two-year contract turns into three years).  I have used my home phone number as a contact while in Ukraine, but my mom is cancelling that number since we all have cell phones.

If I want to contact anyone in the US from Ukraine, I use Skype if they are a Skype user or if I am calling a 1-800 number.  Sometimes I use Skype to call phones (for the whole conversation or to have them call me on Skype), but this costs about 2 cents a minute, so I usually use it for calling internationally during the summer. 

Here is where Google Voice comes into play! If there is no answer on any of the phones, Google Voice records and transcribes your voice messages and notifies you by email (which can be VERY entertaining sometimes).  My family (or others I am trying to contact) can leave me voicemails, which worked out VERY well in the spring of 2011 while I scheduled services at churches. You can also send a free SMS to any US phone.  Now, I can use my Google Voice number as my "home" number so that those in America can contact me! It's long-distance for my family, but at least it's not an international phone call. 

Unfortunately, Google Voice does not have local numbers for all areas, nor can it forward calls to international phones (that would be AMAZING, though).  For now, Google Voice is still rather practical and now I do not have to use my "Hotspot Shield" while in Ukraine.

When you're a missionary, you've got to be thrifty and inventive with what you have.

(updated September 2011)


  1. Jessica, I use MagicJack. It works wonderfully. For $19.99 a year (less if you buy 5 years at once), I have unlimited calls to the US and Canada, my own (US) phone number, and voicemail that is sent to my email as a MP3 attachment. The call quality is always excellent. (Much better than Skype!) I have a Pennsylvania phone number, but it's long distance for my parents, so they call me on their cell phone. Then, if they're home, I call them back on their home phone so they don't use their minutes. Communicating with home is much easier and cheaper than it was when I first came to Romania - when I had to stand in a phone booth and spend $1 a minute to call home!

  2. Thanks, Jonathan, for the info. My roommate last year had MagicJack, but I didn't know all its specifications. For now, given my present circumstances, especially my access to the Vonage phone, I'll use my conglomeration of phone-type services. However, this info is good to know for when my US cell phone contract ends, and whenever I move elsewhere in the world.