Skype is awesome!

One of my major frustrations with international travel is staying in touch with those at home on a regular basis. In the past I’ve either stayed in contact via email, which is simple but not personal, or by buying phone cards in the country I’m in, which is personal but a hassle. I refuse to pay the outrageous fees for international calling on my cellphone, so have never even thought of that as an option.

While I’ve heard about Skype in the past, I only downloaded it about two weeks ago. I was a bit apprehensive since I’m technologically illiterate and was concerned it would be tough to use, but it couldn’t have been any easier. My brother and I agreed that we’d communicate via Skype while he’s in Egypt, and it has worked out great so far. Not only is it better than talking on the phone in terms of quality, but it’s free, so there’s no need to rush the conversations. Of course the caveat is that an internet connection is needed, but that’s included in my brother’s room rate at the InterContinental in Cairo.

I totally dig Skype, and plan on using it in the future for all my international communication needs, assuming I can get internet access for a reasonable price.

Comments

  1. Skype is great while traveling. Three Skype stories:
    1. Visiting a friend in England we spent the afternoon in Salisbury. Sitting outside using a T-mobile connection (when it wasn’t roaming for US subscribers) we called my wife in the US using SkypeOut. He was really impressed.
    2. Daughter and I are in Barcelona. She wants to buy a live chinchilla and bring it home. Used Skype at an Internet cafe to call CDC, Customs, Fish and Wildlife back in US to find out it was ok (his name is Miguel).
    3. Same Barcelona trip and the SAS flight had wifi. Made a Skype call home at 34,000 feet mid-Atlantic.

  2. If you do not have internet access at your hotel due to high internet daily charge rates, then there are some good ways around this. I recommend getting an unlocked quad band GSM phone(850, 900, 1800, 1900), and then buying a prepaid SIM card that has good international rates.
    If you have T Mobile service, they will send you one unlock code per phone for 90 days, or one can simply order an unlocked GSM quadband phone from Nokia or Motorola.

    I recently did this with a Lebara card in Switzerland, and I could call the US for about 7 cents a minute. For London, I bought an Orange international calling card for 5 pence a minute to the USA which is also an awesome deal.:) It pays to check out the various offers. I think the Lebara rates are the best that I have seen, and they are an English based company, so see if they are in the European country which you are visiting.

  3. Skype is great, as long as your Internet connection is fast, but keep in mind that in some cities, VOIP (i.e. Skype) is blocked — Dubai, for example. But in most places it works and for those, I highly recommend purchasing a USB handset. I *love* the IPEVO Free.1 handset that I use. I have friends that prefer their bluetooth headsets–apparently so they can pace around their hotel rooms–but to me that’s just something else that requires charging.

  4. You can also use Skype (and SkypeOut) with an iPhone application called Fring. I can’t tell you how convenient this is for travel abroad. Hop onto any WiFi network and call away with no roaming fees.

  5. Skype is great, and not just for travel. One of my best friends, in Spain, has a five year old boy. Last year she called me on Skype and asked me to entertain the kid for a few minutes. It turns out she had to wrap his Christmas gift and needed him to be distracted for a while. The call was free, so I asked him to hold his drawings to the camera so we could talk about them. We had a fun time, and Mom got her package wrapped.

  6. Skype’s quality varies alot sometimes – it can go downhill fast.

    Also keep in mind that VOIP in general is very sensitive to a factor called latency. Latency is how long it takes for the signal to travel between your computer and the server. On slow Internet connections, or when you’re really far from a Skype server, it can very rapidly degenerate into unusable. Also connections which are saturated (e.g. over utilized – too many people or something), you’ll likely have issues as well. Packet loss which comes with cruddy connections will affect VOIP noticeably as well.

    As far as places where it’s blocked, if your employer has a VPN that routes everything through it when you’re VPN’ed in, this is one way around this sort of thing.

  7. Wow, great blog. I love reading blogs about Voice over IP! It’s such an exciting technology. I have learned a lot in implementing a small VoIP network at home, and am thinking of starting VoIP business in my area. There are a number of small businesses in my region that would benefit from it greatly. Thanks again for this blog – it is really well-done.

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