Free calls to the USA are possible with Google Voice. That’s right—you can make FREE calls to the United States with your cell phone from abroad. No catches. No fees. This service is made possible by our very good friends at Google.
As a budget backpacker, I use Google Voice to stay in touch with family and friends at home in the US. While Google Voice is only available to those with an existing US phone number, this blog post is focused on helping Americans phone home for free while traveling abroad.
How to Use Your Phone Internationally Without Charges
Unfortunately, the top 4 cell phone companies in the US—Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile—don’t allow you to call the USA from internationally without significant charges.
I do not recommend utilizing your US-based cell phone provider overseas. They will charge you an exorbitant amount for everything from calls, text messaging, and especially data. The best rate of these companies is probably T-Mobile where you can call the US for as low as $0.20 per minute.
I should also point out that AT&T, for example, does offer international day plans for select countries starting at $10 per day. This will give you unlimited calls within the foreign country and back to the US and unlimited texts to the world. However, if you are traveling for an extended period of time, the cost of this plan will surely add up; and don’t forget, this is in addition to your normal monthly service charges.
Free Calls with Google Voice
A much better and completely free option is to get a free Google Voice number which will allow you to call and text the US from abroad on WiFi for free.
With Google Voice, you get a free phone number for calls, text messages, and voicemail. When setting up your Google Voice account, you will link your new Google Voice number to your existing mobile or landline number.
Then when you are overseas, you can call back to the US on WiFi for free using your Google Voice number. Even more, you can receive calls from the US, and neither you nor the caller will be charged. Your Google Voice number will be a US phone number, so you can call any US number on WiFi for free from anywhere in the world.
You also have the option of buying a cheap local SIM card abroad. This will allow you to make calls off of WiFi as long as you have cell phone service with your SIM.
Getting Started with Google Voice
Before your trip overseas, there are a few things you’ll need:
- An iPhone or Android smartphone
- An active US phone number
- A Google account
You can sign up at Google Voice online or through the Google Voice app on Android or iOS. In either case, you’ll need to download the app. You’ll be using the Google Voice app on your phone to make calls.
After verifying your existing phone number, you can immediately start making and receiving calls with your new Google Voice number.
Other Google Voice Features
In addition to making free calls to USA, there are a ton of other Google Voice features.
- Send text messages from your computer
- Transcribed and searchable voicemails
- Make international calls for cheap
- Block unwanted callers and spam calls
- Forward calls to other multiple numbers
While most people won’t use Google Voice instead of their carrier, it’s a great option for international travelers.
More Budget Travel Tips
My name is Tony Florida, and I am passionate about traveling the world without spending a fortune. Since quitting my job in 2018, I made it my mission to see the world on the cheap.
This Google Voice blog post is just one of many budget travel blog posts that I’ve written in an attempt to help you see the world on a budget.
Let me know if you have any questions about using Google Voice abroad in the comments below.