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So What Is Google Voice, Anyway?
Simply put, Google Voice is a mobile and web app that lets you make and receive calls and texts to actual phone numbers anywhere in the world. It’s not the only service that offers this, but the combination of a few specific features and its low-to-no cost approach makes it unique for travelers.
Specifically, it lets you do the following for free:
- have a US-based phone number assigned to you (and if you’re from the US, transfer your existing number to Google Voice).
- receive calls and texts on that number anywhere in the world via the app or website
- receive voicemail, including voice-to-text transcripts
- make calls and send texts to most standard US or Canadian numbers via the app or website
- forward calls to a different US-based number
- forward texts and/or voicemails to email
The only thing you pay for when you have a US number is making calls and sending texts to a few premium North American numbers, and other numbers around the world. Typically, you’ll pay a few cents per minute/text to do so.
That’s a lot of useful features for a mostly-free product!
Google Voice is also available in a few other countries, but only to GSuite (ie, business) customers at a fee.
3. Set up your new Skype number as a phone in Google Voice
Once you have your new Skype number, go back to Google Voice and add it as a telephone – Settings->Phones->Add a new phone. I call mine ‘Skype’. You don’t want to receive SMS messages on this phone, because you’re already receiving them in your email, so choose ‘Home’ as your phone type. Make sure you’re signed into Skype right now.
Adding Skype Number to Google Voice
You’ll receive a call on Skype asking you to input a two digit number. You’ll have to open the digital keypad to input the number.
Skype – Keypad Button
At this point, you should delete your old number in Google Voice and turn off ‘Do Not Disturb’, so that Google Voice begins forwarding your calls again. If someone calls your Google Voice number, you will receive the call on Skype, as long as you are signed in.
5. Set up a do not disturb schedule in Google Voice (optional)
This is pretty good, but there’s one last optimization I made. If you are worried about people calling who don’t know you’re out of the country and waking you up in the middle of the night, you can set up Google Voice to only ring your phone during the daytime in your timezone; otherwise, calls go straight to voicemail. This has already saved me twice when my bank called to ask me some survey questions.
a. Set the time zone for your Google account
First, make sure your Google account is set up for the right time zone. Go to Settings->Account and select your time zone from the drop down menu.
Setting the Google Account Timezone
b. Create a custom ring schedule
Then, to set up a custom ring schedule for your phone, go to Settings->Phones->Skype and click the ‘Edit’ button.
Google Voice – Editing the Skype Phone
Finally, click ‘Show Advanced Settings’ and go down to the Ring Schedule settings. Here, you can get as fancy as you want. I have mine set up to not ring from midnight until 6am on weekdays and from 1am to 7am on weekends.
Google Voice – Custom Ring Schedules