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.
47 thoughts on “How to Make Free Calls to the USA with Google Voice”
Hi Tony, thank you for this update! I have been searching all over the web to try to find an answer to this question:
I have a google voice set up with my current carries (at&t)
I will be in Europe for a few months, and was wondering will I be able to receive calls to my google voice number from US if I have wifi and the right settings on my google voice app?
Also will I be able to make calls to US numbers from my google voice (less important)
I know you wrote that I can, but reason I am asking is because I went to UK in August 2018 and I believe I tried doing both and it didn’t work. Only text messaging did.
I appreciate your answer,
Hey there! Yes, as long as you are connected to WiFi you will be able to make and receive calls and texts through the Google Voice app. I use this all the time abroad. There’s actually a setting in the Google Voice app called “Make and receive calls” so just make sure you have “Prefer Wi-Fi and mobile data” selected and then you should be good to go.
Perhaps you may want to test it out before traveling. From another phone, call your Google Voice number. Also, from the Google Voice app call another phone. If that works here, it will work abroad too.
For what it’s worth, I also have AT&T, but every carrier will work the same.
Thank you! yes I did test it out and it worked, but I thought that thats only because im using another US number to test with, but I guess it will be the same.
I forgot to ask, will the calls work overseas with WiFi without linking google voice number to a US phone number? I removed my US phone number that my google voice was linked to (under incoming calls I chose iOS Device-this device) and I was able to receive and make calls here in US to another US number but not sure if this feature would work overseas. Reason I am asking is cause I will have WiFi in Europe but another non US sim card in my phone.
Google Voice requires a US-based number, so I don’t think that setup will work for you abroad. In other words, you won’t be able to link a foreign phone number to Google Voice.
I suggest that you keep your US phone number linked to Google Voice. When you are overseas, go ahead and swap out your US SIM card for the foreign SIM card. That way, you will still be able to use Google Voice to call back to the US for free on WiFi and also be able to use your foreign phone number.
Hello, thank you for an informative article. So just to make sure I got it right – I have a T-mobile phone number, and a google voice # linked to it. If I take that T-mobile phone abroad, but use the Google voice to make and receive calls – do I understand correctly that those calls are for free? Is there anything that I need to do to make sure T-mobile does not charge me for those calls other than using the Google Voice app on Wifi?
Hi Anna, You got it! You can use your Google Voice phone number anywhere in the world on Wifi (or with a local SIM card connected) to make phone calls to US phone numbers for free.
You have a few options for ensuring you aren’t charged fees overseas….
As a precaution, you can keep your phone in airplane mode to avoid T-Mobile charges and just switch on WiFi. It’s also a good idea to call T-Mobile and tell them to block international data on your phone. You can also remove your SIM card from T-Mobile if you have one when traveling.
Hi, If someone call my Google voice # from Europe do I get charges for the call I did not generate?
Nope, you won’t get charged form incoming international phone calls unless you initiate the call.
I was charged outrageously by AT&T for all the calls I made from Europe to US for the last 4 days through GV. I was on wifi all the time. How did it happen? I did not unlinked the US phone number.
I just posted a comment yesterday and it is gone. I was asking what happened with GV as I was charged by AT&T for all the calls I made from Europe to US for last week. I got a warning for going over $250. I was on Wifi all the time. How did it happen?
Hi Gaby. Did you keep your phone on airplane mode the entire time? As soon as you connect to international cell phone towers, you’ll be charged these outrageous rates.
Are the charges for data, talk, or text?
Thanks for the wealth of information. I am moving to Itlay in October. I am trying to get this phone thing straight before I get there. Here is what I am considering and I have a follow on question.
1) Set up GV and Google Hangouts.
2) Port my AT&T number to GV
3) Install an Italian carrier SIM into my iPhone 7 Plus
4) Use wifi- for making calls/texts/video chat to and rfrom the states.
Here is my question.
If I port my phone from AT&T, will it remove it from their control completely?
Can I bring it back to a new carrier from GV when I return in three years?
Hi Lou. Yes, AT&T will lose complete control over your phone number once your port it to Google Voice, and you can port the number to a new carrier when you return. It looks like you have a good plan in place. One thing I would add is that if you put the GV app on your iPhone and your Italian SIM has 4G or 5G, you can also use your phone number off of wifi in Italy too.
Hope you’re doing well! My boyfriend and I are going to Bermuda to work remotely and we’ve really enjoyed watching your videos!
I was considering getting a Google Voice phone number, but wanted to confirm a few things first:
If I have a US Google Voice phone number but am abroad in Bermuda, is it free for me to make calls and send texts to people in the US while on Wifi? In addition, is it free for people in the US to call and text my US Google Voice phone number (from landlines, androids, etc.) while I am in Bermuda?
Thanks so much!
Hi Chelsea. You are 100% correct. While you are abroad in Bermuda, it is free for you to use your Google Voice number to make calls to the US, receive calls from the US, send texts to the US, and receive texts from the US while on WiFi. As long as the phone number that you are interacting with is a US phone number, you won’t have to pay a cent.
That’s so cool that you are going to be working remotely in Bermuda. Enjoy it!
Please let me know if you still have questions about Google Voice!
Amazing, thank you so much Tony!
Is it also free for the person calling or texting me from the US? Or will they have international charges for calling a location in Bermuda even though I have a US Google Voice phone number?
Thanks so much again, this has been extremely helpful!
As a general rule, when a someone located in the US uses their US phone number to call another US phone number, there will be no international charges for the caller, even if the recipient of the call is located outside the US. For example, when Bob in Arizona uses his US phone number to call Sally in England on her US phone, Bob won’t pay international charges, but Sally might. Now if Sally is using her Google Voice number in England to answer Bob’s call, Sally won’t pay international charges either.
Amazing! Thank you so much for all your help!
I had been using my Google Voice number through the app on my EU phone for the past 6 months. Now, it won’t work. I have turn off the cell data (attempted to use the wi-fi in my flat ONLY), have put the phone on airplane mode and have even deleted and re-installed the app. Again, the google voice had been working flawlessly for 6 months up until three days ago. I can still make and receive calls on my laptop through Google Voice, but not my EU phone–which is an iPhone. Any ideas on why or better still, on a fix?
My first suggestion would have been to uninstall and reinstall, but you have already tried that. What specific type of error are you seeing?
Thanks for all your tips here!
I’m doing some backpacking to Central/South America for a year and was planning to Port my number to GV. I was then planning to cancel my current phone plan in the US, so I don’t have to pay those fees while I’m traveling. I’m still in the US and was planning to do all of this here so GV would be set up while I’m in the US. However, I was wondering if GV will allow me to make/receive calls and texts abroad even though my US based phone plan will have been canceled? I plan to use your idea of getting local SIM cards as well.
Thanks for your help!
Yes, by porting your US number to Google Voice and canceling your current service with your carrier, you can use a combination of a local SIM card and WiFi to continue to make/recieve calls and texts abroad.
quick variation: I am already living in UY:
I have a local SIM installed in iPhone and Google Voice all loaded with a number they generated.
I want to port my US number to GV and cut all ties to AT&T. I thought this was cool to do but then you said “An active US phone number” is required to make this all work.
Am I missing something?
VS: You will need to access a verification code that is sent to your current GV number during the porting process. That’s why you need that number to be active.
Success! Thank you so much walking everybody on the Internet through this lol – for real this is such a valuable resource, thanks so much for maintaining it.
– I happened to have another phone, I popped my AT&T sim into that phone (I had an int’l plan so I could receive calls)
– I went through the steps on a laptop to port the number
– Sure enough they called the AT&T phone with a magic code to do the port. (I then turn off this phone)
– I sat around for 24 hours and then hazzah – I get an email saying the number has been ported (and another email from AT&T saying the number is no longer part of my account)
– On my local phone I launch the GV app and under the setting ‘make & receive calls’ I set it from ‘carrier only’ to ‘Wifi and mobile data’ – that way it doesn’t matter than I don’t have a “linked” US number
Tony, can I get a FREE Google Voice account ON MY LAPTOP COMPUTER that gives me FREE calls within the US (US to US calls)? And do I need a headset to use Google Voice?
Hey Tony, thanks for all the helpful info. My question is – can I use Google Voice over wifi only while in Europe, or do I also need to get a sim card over there? I don’t necessarily want to make and receive calls/texts while out and about, but do want to check in when I’m back at the hotel and connected to their wifi. I already have GV on my phone, in addition to my regular carrier service, which I know won’t work over there.
You can certainly use Google Voice exclusively on WiFi abroad. That’s exactly what I’ve done in many countries.
Thanks for you time and help. My guess is my question may have already been answered in this thread but I just want to check in please. I am traveling to Aruba from the United States and I have a google voice number for work that I use only through my computer. Am I able to call using google voice over wifi from Aruba to the United States, to actual landlines and cellphones, and receive calls from the United States from landlines and cellphones to my computer on wifi in Aruba? And can I make these calls for free because I am on wifi? Thanks!
Yes Hank, you are able to call for free from your computer on WiFi back to US landlines and cell phones from Aruba.
hi Tony, if I do not have access to WIFI but I have a local mobile phone with unlimited internet 4G, can I link my US phone with personal hotspot and still be able to make calls to US and receive calls from US through google voice without being charged by Verizon?
thank you so much!
My US phone number is serviced through Tracfone. Will my phone number work with Google voice? I also have an android phone.
The best way to determine if your phone number can be ported to Google Voice is to type your number and check at https://www.google.com/voice/b/0/porting/
I am headed to Italy for a week on personal business. for the first time I am trying to work remotely while I am there. I own an Italian Sim card which I use in my Samsung when I land. I have a google voice number connected to my US phone number. I do not want to port my US number bc the trip is short. Here are the questions: Will I be able to make calls/texts to the US using my google voice number, when my italian sim card is in? More importantly. Will people (my boss) be able to reach me with no fee using my US phone number?
Yes, you can make and receive free calls/texts with your Google Voice number while in Italy. ou can do this while you have service with your Italian SIM card and on WiFi. You cannot use your US number in Italy.
I set up Google voice and ported my existing US phone # before leaving the US. I am now in SE Asia, and had to get a new phone. I installed Google Voice on my new phone that has a non-US phone #. Now the app is asking me to verify the device phone #, but of course it won’t accept a non-US number. Is there a work-around so I can continue to use Google Voice to call back to the US? I expect to be out of the US for a few more months.
Ok, here’s a question: Can I use Voice in Europe to call a US number that also is in Europe? They have Whatsapp, but only works on wifi. Would they have to have international plan to receive a call from Voice?
PS Can I call a hotel in Europe using Google Voice?
FYI, it seems that Google Voice has changed. Calls to the states are not free, even when on WiFi. The app pops up a message to continue and be charged by google or to use your carrier.
Do you have to use a VPN when calling back to the US from Europe, using Google Voice??
Google Voice will properly could see that you are not calling from the US.
Going to Europe for a couple of weeks, so just wondering if it is straight forward to call back to the US or I need to connect through a VPN?
Hi Jan. The use of a VPN is not necessary. Since you are calling US number to US number, there is no issue.
Ok, so just a matter of downloading an VPN app and use it every time I make a call?
If I get calls from families/friends in the US, will they then be charged if I’m not on VPN?
To be clear, you do not need a VPN for making or receiving calls with Google Voice. If you call another US number from anywhere in the world, the call will be free. Incoming calls are also free. Friends/family in the US who call your Google Voice number will not be charged. This is because in each case, a US phone number is calling another US phone number.
Go figure … Right after posting my comment, I started digging around more deeply in the Google Voice settings. It looks like something changed with a recent update. I had an old version of the app on my previous phone. I got a new phone a few months ago, and it installed the lastest Google Voice. At which point I could no longer makes calls.
But I see now a setting that was causing this issue.
It’s the “Making and Receiving calls” setting. On my old phone I had this set to “Prefer WiFi and mobile data”.
But on the new phone it was automatically set to “Use operator only”.
For any one else in a similar situation, also check the “Incoming calls” setting. On my NEW device it was set to only receive calls on my old device. I had to disable the old device and enable the new device (I don’t use my old phone, so hence the reason to disable it).
That has now solved what I thought was a change in how Google Voice handles calls made from outside the USA.
Hi Tony, very fortunate to stumble upon your website. here is my situation. i am going to the far east for more than a month. i am with tmobile and will be getting free roaming of 3G data and free texting. i was just told today that i will be charged by any incoming calls to my US phone number if voicemail is activated. so spam calls are not only annoying and they will cause me $$$ as well. will forwarding my US cell phone # to my google voice avoid this charge?
one more question, will putting my phone on airplane mode safeguard any charge from tmobile when wi-fi drops while using google voice. i was told by tmobile that i was charged because data dropped when i was using whatsapp calling.
Thank you so much for you valuable and detailed information
Buy low-cost international calling cards online and make international calls for a relatively lower price.
The calling card is just a prepaid system that allows consumers to make long-distance (local and international) calls at reasonable prices in pureminutes.