Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

How to forward your calls from the US to anywhere in the world via Google Voice and Skype.

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

It’s pretty easy to stay connected to your friends and family from the US if you live or travel outside of the US. With the following services you can have one phone number that will reach you anywhere in the world. What you’ll need:

1. Google Voice – Free
2. Skype Online Number – $18 for 3 Months / $60 for a year
3. Local SIM card wherever you are – Prices vary
4. A US based phone (Just to do the initial setup)

The first thing you need to do is sign up for a google voice account. You’ll need to do this at http://voice.google.com The important thing is that you’ll need to do it either while you’re in the US or have a US IP address. Another requirement for google voice is a current and active US based phone number.

You can pick phone numbers in nearly any area code you like. I chose to pick an area code that was in my last locale. That way friends who knew your last number don’t think too much about calling or texting you. It also helps with things such as bank accounts, credit cards and talking to Business Contacts. Giving them a phone number in the same area code as where your accounts are at make it easier to talk to people and not have to explain to them they need to call an international number to talk to you. Also, if you have your mail delivered to somewhere in that area code still, even better.

When signing up for Google Voice, they’ll ask you to give them a phone number to forward to. You should give them your US based phone number at this point. Just pick up the phone when they call; to verify it and enter in the confirmation code.

Next, sign up for a skype account. These can be made at http://www.skype.com While you’re there you’ll need to get a Skype Online number. This is a phone number that when called, will forward to whatever phone number you want it to forward to anywhere in the world.

Now, you may ask, why do I need a google voice account if I’m paying for a Skype online number as well? That is a great question. The reason is, in the event that you go back to visit the US or move back there, you don’t want to have to continue paying Skype to forward your calls. You also don’t want to have to pay Skype rates to send SMS messages. (currently .11c each message) And, if you disable or disconnect your skype online number, you don’t want to have to tell your friends and family new phone numbers to reach you at every few months when you sign up for a new Skype Online number. Eventually they’ll just stop calling you out of frustration.

Now here’s the tricky part.

Now that you have a google voice account and a Skype Online number. You’ll need to tie those two accounts together. First thing you’ll need to do is add a phone number to your Skype Online account that Skype can forward to. At this point you can use the same number that you are forwarding your google voice calls to. Have Skype verify that number. Then have a friend call your Skype Online number to verify that it is forwarding to your phone correctly.

Next, go into your google voice settings and add a new fowarding phone number. This should be your Skype Online number. When google calls to verify that phone number this series of events will happen:

1. Google calls your Skype Online number
2. Skype Online forwards you the Verification call from Google to the number you provided Skype.
3. Your phone will ring and within a few seconds a verification prompt from google will ask you to verify the call
4. Enter in the verification code.

Now, you’ve got your two accounts linked up. To make it even more seamless, you can go into the Caller ID portion of Skype and enter your Google Voice Number. That way you can use skype to call your friends and family and they will know that it’s you who is calling them. Next up you’ll need to link up your foreign phone number.

Say you go to Thailand. The country code there is +66. When you arrive in Thailand, you’ll get a Local SIM card and put it into your “unlocked” phone. Once you get your local phone number, you’ll need to login to Google Voice and make sure that you’re only forwarding to your Skype Online number. Then you’ll want to login to Skype. Once you login, go to the “Call Forwarding” Tab. If you have your US phone number here still, you’ll want to remove it. Then this is where you’ll enter your Thai Phone number. Make sure you enter it with the country code and remove any zero prefixes. Your phone number may be

02-2134567
But with Skype you should enter it as:
+66-2-2134567

Now, when someone calls your US Google Voice number, it will do all the following for you seamlessly:

1. Your friend calls your Google Voice Number
2. Google Voice Forwards the call to Skype Online
3. Skype Online forwards the call to Thailand
4. You pick up the phone and pay the skype rate for the phone call.
5. Your friend pays as if it is a local call to them.

Now if your friend sends you a SMS or Text message to your google voice number. You can receive these in realtime as well. To do this, you’ll need a smartphone, a Local Data Plan and the google voice app on either Android or the App Store. Just enable push notifications and when they send you a message you’ll receive it right away and you can respond just as quickly.  If you don’t have a data plan you can always just wait till you have wifi access to see your messages or login to the Google Voice home page and see and respond to messages from a computer.

Next, when you travel to another country, you’ll want to make sure you repeat the same steps above as the example with Thailand.  But you’ll want to add an additional step. You’ll want to go into the Skype Forwarding panel and remove the older forwarding number from the previous countries you travelled to. The reason this is important is because Skype will continue to forward to any phone you have listed. If someone has gotten your recycled SIM card they may pick up the call before your new phone number in Indonesia even rings. You wouldn’t even know that you missed a call till your angry friend or banker e-mails you asking why you’re phone is now going to someone who doesn’t even speak english. It’s also important that you remove your US phone number from the list of forwarding phone numbers in Skype. If you’re still forwarding to your US phone number, the same thing might be happening there. But instead of going to a Thai person, the calls may be going straight to your voicemail and you’ll have no way to check them.

Now, when you go back to the US to visit or to move back. You’ll need to adjust a couple of settings as well. The first thing you’ll need to do is, go to a local cell phone store and get a Cell phone. Then, login to Google Voice and add the new phone as a forwarding number. Next, you’ll want to “uncheck” but not remove the SkypeOnline number. What this will do is:

1. All your friends that have your Google Voice Number can now still call the same number they’ve been calling you for the whole while you were traveling or living overseas.
2. They can send you SMS messages to the same Google Voice Number as before
3. Banks and Credit card companies and Business Contacts will still be able to reach your phone number
4. You’ve now cut out Skype as the middle man and no longer have to pay any SkypeOut rates for your calls. (You’ll still have the Skype Online number though)

Then, when you’re ready to go traveling again, just login to Skype. Add your new phone numbers for whatever country you’re in. And Login to Google Voice and remove any temporary phone numbers there and re-enable your Skype Online connection. Another tip I have is to disable “Call Screening” on Google voice. This adds a few extra seconds to every call and may be enough to make all your calls go to Voicemail with this setup. With all the extra hops that your calls go through, every second counts.

With this setup, I find it makes communicating with your friends and family a lot easier. They no longer have to think twice about calling you. You end up paying a little more per year, but building and maintaining relationships with your loved ones is something you can’t really put a price on.

 

I nearly died today…. Twice.

Monday, December 28th, 2009

I went scuba diving today and nearly died… Twice. Here’s the first story.

I’m in Thailand currently for a wedding in Koh Samui. (Great place BTW) and decided to go scuba diving one of the days I’m here for.

We went to Koh Tao via a speed boat. On my first dive down. I saw this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bull_shark

A bull shark. It was off in the distance about 40-50 feet away and in murkey water. Pretty cool. I whipped out my camera and snapped a pic. Then it came back a second time and then a third time. Each time getting closer. The last round it was about 20-30 feet away and it was huge, probably around 5-6 feet long.

After the second spotting, I put away my camera and pulled out my knife. This was probably the biggest predator I’ve ever seen while diving.

My scuba instructor seemed genuinely awed and alert, so I was scared. But he didn’t seem scared so I wasn’t too worried. Now that I’ve gotten on shore and looked up the type of shark it was… I feel really fortuneate to have experienced such a creature and walked away from it.

Calling all you foodies – ChefDB

Friday, November 20th, 2009

The film industry has IMDB. Now the food industry has ChefDB. What a brilliant idea. It’s a database of restaurants, who works in them, where they’ve worked and related links.

Genius.

Now, you can track your favorite chefs. See when ratings started going up or down.. and why. You can see where else these same people have worked in the past, to find other restaurants that you might want to go to as well. Or where they are headed to in the future, so you can bookmark that as a place you want to try out.

Pure Genius.

http://www.chefdb.com/

Durians + Booze = Fail

Friday, September 18th, 2009

I can’t believe this is true. I’ve heard this myth a ton of times and always thought it to be a old wive’s tale. Who knew.

NewScientist

Wait a while.

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

I hear this phrase quite a bit and have no idea what to make of it.

“Please, wait a while.”

When ever you’re in a situation that necessitates you to wait any amount of time at all, Singaporeans use that phrase. The most recent occurance of this happened last week at the doctors office.

I had just seen the doctor and was at the reception desk. I still needed to get a MC (Medical Certificate). I signed the forms that I needed, then asked the receptionist about the note.

“Please, wait a while.”

What does that mean? I was standing at the reception desk, if it was going to be a while, should I take a seat? If it was only going to take a few seconds, wouldn’t she have said, “Please, wait a second.” or “Please, wait a moment”

If it was going to take a while truly, she wasn’t going to have me wait and block the reception desk right?

In the end, I waited about 2-3 minutes at the desk. More than the standard amount of time that would have prompted “Please, have a seat.”

I’m still confused. How long is a while?

The most incredible grapes

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

These are the both the most expensive and the best grapes I’ve ever had.

Kyoho grapes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoho_grape

They are best known in Japan. But Taiwan and Korea have them as well. If you look at the packaging in the picture below, the price is correct. S$85 for a small box of them. That’s nearly $60 USD. So about 1-2 dollars A GRAPE!!

The best way to describe them is to describe them in terms of candy they sell in the US. Imagine the flavor of Japanese chewing gum crossed with the texture of gummy bears.

They have a very thick skin and have a seed or two each. But they are worth every dollar. You can pick up some of the cheaper varieties for about 1/4 the price. But, the difference is astounding.

RED MANGO IS HERE!

Friday, June 19th, 2009

My goal of transplanting all the things I miss from the US to Singapore got a step closer today. I was reading around the local food blogs and came across this little jem.

Camemberu

Basically, RED MANGO IS HERE!!! It’s been here the whole time I’ve been in Singapore almost. But its tucked away in a corner of one of the millions of malls in this city. I’m going to have to make a trip there this weekend and see if it’s the same as in the US.

#01-140G, Tasty Treatz
Suntec City Mall
3 Temasek Boulevard
Singapore
Open 10am to 10pm

Crazy taxi story #3

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

One last crazy taxi story.

This also happened to my friend. I swear she has the worst luck with taxis.

While waiting in a taxi stand one night after work, my friend realized that she had no cash on her. She did have a credit card though. Not all taxis take credit cards though. So my friend waited in the the taxi queue and asked each taxi as they pulled up if they had a credit card machine. If they didn’t, she let someone go first and waited for the next one.

She let a few go by, and then one came by and he asked the driver, “Do you have a credit card machine in your taxi?”

“Have. Got machine.”

So she told the driver to take her to “The Bayshore.” Upon reaching her condo, she presented him with her credit card. He then proceeded to try swiping it a few times. Then handed the card back to her.

He then told her that the antenna doesn’t work and asked her for cash. At which point she became livid.

“What do you mean the antenna doesn’t work? I asked if you had a credit card machine!”

“Have! Have machine!!”

Basically, he answered her question that yes, he does have a machine. But she never asked him if it actually worked.

When she told him she had no cash, he drover her to a ATM. But, made her pay to take her there. Crazy.

Crazy taxi story #2

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Calling for a taxi can be just as harrowing an experience. Here’s a story a friend of mine shared with me.

My friend lives in a condo called “The Bayshore.” Next door is another condo complex called “Bayshore Park”

This is how the conversation went:
F = My friend
O = The cab Operator.

Ring-Ring
O: Hello, this is the taxi company. How can I help you?
F: I would like to call for a taxi.
O: Where would you like to be picked up at?
F: I live at “The Bayshore” Can you send a taxi here? Now, just to make sure, send the taxi here and not “The Bayshore Park” ok? Some taxi drivers get the two confused.
O: Ok. I think I understand. But let me repeat it just in case. You would like a taxi to “Not The Bayshore Park” is that correct?
F: Huh? Where are you sending the taxi?
O: “Not The Bayshore Park”
F: No!!! I live at “The Bayshore” not “The Bayshore Park”
O: We are sending the taxi to (proceeds to spell the next part) “N-O-T T-H-E B-A-Y-S-H-O-R-E P-A-R-K”
Is that correct?
F: Who the hell lives at a place call “Not The Bayshore Park?” I live at “The Bayshore”
O: I don’t think I understand.
F: Thats ok. Forget about it. I don’t need a taxi.
O: Good bye.

I shit you not. This is how the conversation went. Crazy right?

Crazy taxi stories

Friday, May 15th, 2009

I’ve collected a number of interesting taxi stories in the last year that I’ve been here. And I’m going to share the best ones with you.

To understand these stories you will need to know that Taxis are a constant source of aggrevation, pain, joy, and gossip for Singaporeans and expats alike.

Taxis here are plentiful. It makes owning a car almost pointless. However, in Singapore, I’ve had taxi drivers refuse to drive me. Where they learned this habit, I have no idea. It goes a little something like this:

Standing on the side of the road, I flag a cab down. The driver pulls up and opens his window. He then asks me where I’m headed to. I’ll tell him a destination like City Hall. Then he’ll say,”That’s too far. Take the next cab.”

And then I’m left on the side of the road, speechless as he drives off. Seriously. When was the last time you heard a taxi driver say a destination is too far for him? They make money depending on how far they travel. I would think a far destination would be good. Would a banker tell you that you’ve got too much money and to go to the next bank? Ludicrous.