2 Apps You Need to Travel Internationally with Your Smartphone

Google Hangouts Dialer Google Voice
Google Hangouts Dialer Google Voice

Guess what people. You can now make free phone calls with your smartphone using wifi and you no longer need a data or minute plan to do it. To people who like to travel internationally and work remotely, it’s kind of a big deal, and this is why.

A few years ago, when I wrote my original post about what to do with your phone plan when you travel the world, we still had to find workarounds. But now, when you travel internationally, all you need is your smartphone and a wifi connection and you can call your friends, family, and clients back home for free. No more dragging your laptop and headset out to a cafe. No more relying on Skype or paying by the minute. You can simply pick up your smartphone and dial a number. Hallelujah!

This is how you set yourself up to do just that.

apps for making calls from overseas

1. Get yourself a Smartphone with Android Version 4.0.3 or above.

In fact, it doesn’t even matter if it is GSM or CDMA, global or unlocked. Since this is all happening via wifi, all bets are off. Yeah!

Side Note: if you are interested in having the ability to pick up a local SIM card when you arrive in say, Guatemala, be sure you’re getting a quad band, unlocked, global, GSM smartphone. This is super handy for making calls to people like your landlord or for other travel logistics when there is no wifi available. And you’ll also want to make sure there is no regional locking involved with the smartphone you choose.

2. Set up Google Voice and Google+ accounts.

First of all, do this before leaving your home country. This is how your “local” calls are established. Then go to https://www.google.com/voice to get yourself a Google Voice phone number. If you have a Gmail or Google account, sign in using it. If you don’t already have a Gmail (or Google) Account, you’ll be prompted to create one. You’ll go through the process of getting a new number, or you can port your existing number to Google Voice — which means leaving your contract with your current carrier (like porting your number from AT&T to Verizon or vice versa).

Personal Note: I ported my number from Verizon to Google Voice back in 2011. It is my primary phone number and I can attest that it works, and it works well. I make and receive my phone calls via wifi on my laptop or my smartphone. I also forward my calls (and texts) to a local SIM when I’ll be away from wifi so that don’t miss important communications.

Now it’s time for the easy part. To set up access to the Hangouts feature — it’s kind of Google’s version of Skype and it’s the feature that will allow you to dial phone numbers via wifi — make sure you add Google+ to your Google account. Go to https://plus.google.com/ and they’ll walk you through the set-up.

3. Add your Google Account to your smartphone.

This is the part where you make sure all of your fancy new calling ability is synched to your smartphone. Google tells you how to do it here.

4. Download the necessary Google apps to your smartphone.

In Android, you use the Google Play app to access and download new apps. So open Play and download these two apps:

Google Hangouts Dialer Google Voice
Google Hangouts Dialer

to dial phone numbers (to have a normal voice-style conversation). This is different that Google Hangouts. Be sure you get the Dialer app. Here’s Google’s help page.

Google Voice

to send and receive texts via wifi

If you want to set up call forwarding to a local SIM, you will need to use a laptop to access those settings.

5. Turn off your phone’s data usage

Just to be sure you’re not using any of your data plan (if you have one), go into your phone’s settings and disable the data. You should be able to get there via Settings/Data Usage and then turn it off.

And that’s it! Now you’re totally set to send and receive phone calls and texts via wifi for free from your smartphone — both domestically and internationally. Life is sweet, indeed.



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