Telephone Services for the Expat in the Philippines

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When you live in the Philippines, or elsewhere overseas, you may wish to maintain a telephone number in the U.S.  For example, because I use my U.S. credit card overseas they sometimes call me with a “fraud inquiry” to find out if I authorized a particular charge.  There are many other circumstances where you may wish to have a permanent U.S. phone number so that people can reach you by phone or fax no matter where you may be in the world.

There are a number of options for maintaining a U.S. phone number.  Vonage, Skype and other VOIP vendors offer such numbers.  I have had a Skype U.S. number, but now use Maxemail (www.maxemail.com) because it’s cheap and reliable.   I found the Skype answering system to be unreliable and besides, more expensive.  Especially annoying was that it would constantly “lose” our personalized message and so play a generic one.  Callers are reassured if they hear a personalized message in your own voice.  Getting a computer-generated generic message can raise more questions.

With Maxemail, you can choose a number in a specific city (that costs more) or you can accept whatever number they assign you.  With the proliferation of cell phones, having a number in the area code where you live has become pretty irrelevant.  I use the “Lite” versions of Maxemail which costs $24.95 per year.

Once you have your account with Maxemail, you can record a personal message  in your voice which will be played when someone calls your number.  Callers will be given the option of leaving a voice message or sending a fax.  The messages they leave are saved and immediately sent to your e-mail address.  There will be an e-mail in your inbox with an attached audio recording of the telephone voice message.  You can choose which audio format works best for you.  I use Real Audio.

If you receive a fax, it will be converted into a PDF file and sent to your e-mail address.  You can also send faxes (at a small extra charge) using the Maxemail service.  Supported file types include: .doc, .xls, .txt, .pdf, .tif, .html, .htm, .gif, .jpg and others.  I almost always use PDF.

We don’t have any interest in Maxemail, except that it works well for us.

Comments (8) Write a comment

    • David, I am an avid Skype user too. Sometimes Microsoft would sell loads to your MS account. I bought quite a bit. I like Maxemail because it only costs about $15 per year and gives me a U.S. voicemail and fax number. Bob

      Reply

  1. My wife and I will be moving to Iloilo around the first of the year, and want to use Google Voice to make calls back to the U.S, but I don’t know how to do this. It’s my understand that you have to have a U.S. phone number to get a Google number, and that’s my problem how do I do this.
    Thanks for your help,
    Doug

    Reply

    • Doug,

      While you are still in the U.S. go to https://www.google.com/voice? and sign up. If you don’t already have a Google account, you will have to create one. Yes, you do need a U.S. phone number, but only for initial set-up. They will use your U.S. number to confirm your identity, perhaps to prevent the rest of the world from signing up? I did manage to sign up from the Philippines using a Skype number in the U.S.

      If you want to make calls, you will have to give Google a credit card number. Last time I used it, Google voice calls to the U.S. were free. As is typical in the Philippines, our internet connection is not the best. The quality of our Google Voice/Talk calling deteriorated, probably due to our Globe WiMax connection. We have found that Skype gives us considerably better call quality. Google did give us a permanent U.S. number. We still use it to receive voice mail but use Skype to return our calls. You’ll just have to see when you get to Iloilo, which is better for you.

      Since the Voice number and voicemail are free, why not!

      Just let me know if you have any problems and best wishes on your relocation to Iloilo. I’m guessing your wife is an Illongga?

      Bob

      Reply

  2. I’m using a professional-grade VoIP service, which allows me to connect multiple telephones using multiple numbers (hardphones, such as Cisco Linksys SPA-941, etc. or adapters such as the SPA-3000 series that allow you to connect a normal phone to both VoIP and landline services).

    IP-based hard phones ($100-ish) tend to require a bit more configuration (and getting used to if you’re not technologically inclined).

    The simple (SPA-3000) adapters can be bought on ebay for about $30, and professional-grade VoIP service costs me about $25/month (we have tremendous overkill, 6 different inbound numbers including 2x 1-800 numbers) but the service is excellent and the call quality greatly exceeds that of either Skype or MagicJack — to the point where most people I talk to don’t even realize I’m using an Internet-based service.

    Reply

    • J.R.,

      Sounds idyllic! You have a great internet connection but many (most) of us don’t. What do you think the best VOIP solution for those of us with lower quality connections. While the speed of my WiMax connection is low, the ping is ok enough so that VOIP more or less works. On this connection, Skype seem to work a bit better than Google Voice but Google Voice calls to the U.S. are free, so that’s what I use. I have never had a MagicJack so I can’t compare. Since I managed to get a U.S. phone number free through Google Voice (using a VPN) and the calls are free, I have stuck with Voice.

      Bob

      Reply

    • Magic Jack is very popular with expats living in Philippines. I have not yet tried one as Skype meets my needs and I don’t have to buy anything.

      Reply

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