Many of us (digital nomads), as we tend to leave our country for several months, are in need of a solution to receive texts messages or phone calls to our usual phone number.
Whether it is to be able to connect to a bank account and receive the verification SMS, or to be able to stay available for our clients or to avoid having to explain that we are currently travelling abroad, having a phone number that would work anywhere in the world would be very helpful.
Fortunately, there are solutions on the market:
The Roaming Solution:
The first solution we could all think of is called roaming. Roaming is the term used by network providers to define the ability to call, text, and use data outside of the normal geographical zone of coverage.
Depending on the type of plan you subscribed to, depending on the company you decided to get that plan from and depending on the country you are planning to visit, roaming is probably the best solution to consider.
However, for most digital nomads, who won’t plan to visit only one country not to keep paying for their mobile phone plan at home, nor to have to switch from one SIM to another (for those who don’t have a dual sim phone), roaming might not be ideal.
Besides, this solution might cost more than any of the other solutions listed below.
The VoIP solutions:
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet protocol. This techno
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet protocol. This technology allows users to make standards phone calls and to send real texts messages without having to connect to any mobile network, but instead by connecting a phone to any sort of Internet network (Mobile data, DSL, Fiber…)
VoIP is not something new. It has been developed a while ago, back in 1995. What is new is the fact that with the 4G networks’ speed we can now easily make VoIP phone calls from almost anywhere in the world.
Several providers are offering different features, at different prices, covering different countries. The following list will allow you, I hope, to find the solution that will fit your needs the best.
1. Google Voice
Let’s start with the most popular solution these days. Google Voice is being used by many digital nomads as the discussion on social communities can testify. What is possible with Google Voice, what are the limits of this service?
- You can make phone calls from all your devices even your laptop.
- It is not limited to the US which means you could get an Italian or French phone number if you needed to.
- You will get transcripts of your voicemail and store them as you do with your emails.
- You can personalise your voicemail.
- It is possible to call overseas from anywhere in the world.
- The spammy phone calls and texts will be rejected.
- You can prevent some people to call you.
- Google Voice will screen the calls before you accept them.
At the moment, free calls are limited to the US and Canada. Calls to any other country or calls made from any other country won’t be free.
All the rates are listed here. In some countries like Albania, you will pay about $0.35 per minute while in France you will pay only $0.03 to call other mobiles.
Is Google Voice the right solution for you?
There are two types of offer, one for individuals, one for companies.
While Google Voice seems to be the ultimate solution for most digital nomads, it might not be the best (the cheapest) solution to manage all calls from all employees of one company.
- It appears that it is not possible to have several phone number under one single account.
- Emergency calls can’t be called through Google Voice
- There are some calls privacy concerns about what Google will do with the data
Skype phone numbers have been available for a while. I have used this solution for 5 years now. It could be a good alternative to Google Voice for many digital nomads.
It is a great solution to make and receive calls from anywhere in the world. However, Skype is not the best solution to receive or send text messages.
- You can get a phone number from 25 different countries.
- You can receive and make phone calls from the Skype mobile app or your laptop.
- There is a voicemail feature available.
- Skype is proposing two billing methods
- Pay as you go
- Subscription (1, 3, 12 months paid plan)
The pricing breakdown is difficult to summarise for Skype as there are many plans available. There is a US unlimited calls plan available for $2.99 per month. All the plans can be seen here.
If you decide to go with the pay as you go solution, you can check the rates on this page.
Overall, we can say that Skype phone calls are not expensive.
Who does this fit?
Skype will be useful to individuals who only wish to call or to receive calls from and to anywhere in the world. It won’t fit digital nomads who need to receive text messages unless for US digital nomads.
Skype phone number can be quite useful to companies operating with remote workers.
Another great alternative to Google Voice, especially if you worry about your call privacy.
Hushed is a second phone number app that will allow you to receive and make calls from anywhere in the world (as long as you are connected to wifi or data) but also to send and receive text messages.
- Make and receive calls
- Send and receive SMS or MMS
- Get more than one phone number
- Voicemail available
- Forwarding calls from your usual phone number to Hushed phone number
- Automated replies to SMS you receive
- Available on phones and laptops
- Can be synchronised with Slack and Dropbox
There are two types of plans available. One pay as you go plan and a prepaid plan.
It is the pay as you go international plan that would be the most useful to digital nomads as it seems to be the only plan that is offering international calls and texts.
Its price starts from $4.99.
Who does this fit?
Hushed seems to be the perfect solution for digital nomads who spend a lot of time abroad.
It does not seem to fit companies in need of a VoIP solution for their employees.
4. Cloud SIM
Another alternative to Google Voice, Skype or Hushed, Cloud SIM is a second phone app that will allow you to make and receive calls anywhere in the world. It will also allow you to send texts to and from any country.
The main difference seems to be that Cloud SIM does not have any desktop/laptop software.
- Up to four phone numbers available
- Text the whole world
- Call the whole world
- Custom voicemail
- Decide when you wish to be reachable
All the country rates can be found here.
Who does this fit?
This solution would be perfect for individual digital nomads in need of having one single phone number available wherever they are in the world.
Whith the rise of esims, it is likely that these solutions (except for Google Voice as it is already connected to Google FI) will soon be replaced.
Esims plans are being developped accross the world with plans to call, text, and get data for quite cheap prices.