Saturday, July 7, 2012

Google Voice vs. Skype for international calling (Obi100)


Calling home for cheap




Google voice is a cheap alternative to Skype. Offering calling rates that are often below Skype's internet calling service, this service will keep you connected  wherever you are in the world. If .02 USD/minute for most calls isn't good enough, Google Voice offers US registered users unlimited free calling to phone numbers in the US.
  1. Register a Google account or use your pre-existing Google account. If you'd like to get the free US calling, your account must indicate that you are located in the US.
  2. Choose a US phone number. This number will be your personal phone number. Choose something you can remember easilly and share with friends or choose a number based on an area code you'd like to have, such as New York City or Los Angeles.
  3. Load your account with a few dollars using a credit card. 
  4. Log in to your Gmail account and look for "call phone" button under your Google Talk bar. Click the button and start making calls from your computer.
Compare Google Voice rates here and Skype's here. Keep in mind that Skype calls apply a "connection fee" that makes it difficult to do a flat out comparison of the two services.

Making Google Voice your permanent phone


If you're staying somewhere more permanently, such as a study abroad or extended travel, consider a VOIP router, such as this Obi100 and Obi110 device that has been proven to work fantastically with Google Voice. This "OBi100 VoIP Telephone Adapter and Voice Service Bridge" is connected to your modem or router and allows you to plug in a regular phone into a phone jack in the back. After the initial set up, you'll be able to pick up and dial via your Google Voice account, and you'll be able to receive calls through your Google Voice number (US phone number). This is ideal if you are abroad for extended periods of time. 

Low cost options:

1. Amazon ($39.00 - $49.00)

             

Free access to the internet using Amazon's Kindle


Free Global Internet? Yes



It's a little known secret that Amazon's Kindles come with a "experimental" browser that allows you to surf the web in most countries, for free. Although primitive and quite slow, the Kindle's browser lets you check and draft emails, in addition to browsing basic web pages. The Kindle connects via Amazon's "whispernet", the same connection that allows you to download/purchase books from Amazon in nearly 150 countries. Amazon's wireless coverage map can be viewed here [click the "Kindle (Free 3G)" link and then select the"WorldWide" tab]. This service isn't going to be around forever. It appears that Amazon is testing and experiminting its browser for future Kindle versions or a for-fee based service.


With internet cafe rates hitting 2 Euro/hour in Western Europe, the Kindle will let you keep up with emails to home and lighten your load. This "Kindel Touch 3G" and the "Kindel Keyboard 3G" are the only Kindles that still carry Amazon's experimental browser that will allow global web surfing.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Top Four Ways to Save Money While Traveling



  1. The right ATM card. If your in Rio de Janeiro or Karachi, you'll likely need to pull out local currency once your in country. You do this by avoiding the high rip-off risk exchange houses, exchange men, banks, etc by getting an ATM card that allows you to withdraw funds from ANY ATM without paying an ATM fee. For example, you arrive in Bangkok, and need about $150 in local currency to get to your hostel and pay for cab fair. Use your Fidelity Visa Debit card and extract the funds from ANY ATM that is able to work on the VISA system (nearly all atms). The ATM may say you'll be charged a $5 fee. Have no fear, you'll be reimbursed. Easy and absolutely no fees to maintain an account with Fidelity, no minimum. 
  2. Luggage Scale. Buy a luggage scale for under $11. This scale will surely save you over $50 USD by making sure your bag stays low weight when its placed on the scale before boarding a budget air carrier flight. Make sure you check load your carry on (usually not weighed) with the heaviest items.
  3. Filter water bottle.  If your traversing the Acropolis in Athens or batteling the heat and beggers in Bangalore, you'll definately be drinking water. Bottled and safe drinking water can be a luxury and often quite pricey. Fill these bottles at your hostel and save at least $5 a day on water purchases. Note that these bottles are not your normal throw away bottle. They include filters that will keep your water clean and keep you healthy.
  4. Buy a phone. Get an unlocked quad band SIM card enable basic phone that will alow you to plug in a local sim cellular card a chat like a local. This wills surely save you on texts and calls to home but will also keep you at par with the locals and give you the ability to call hostels and other contacts at the local rates. A time and money saver.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Five Tips to Find the Lowest International Airfare

If you're using Kayak.com, you are probably paying way to much for your airfare. Each search engine has its blind spots.

If this is your strategy for finding a lowed airfare has been a search on Kayak and a slight tweek of the travel dates then you are paying too much. Here are five tips to consider when making your next purchase.



1.     Prioritize your options. Look at a map and make a list of all of the possible ways to fly your route. For example, if you are searching for a low cost flight to Istanbul from the New York City area you'd make the following list from most desirable route to least desirable route. Be sure to take advantage of http://www.kayak.com/explore/ to examine which destinations may offer low cost flights from your departure location. Note that I've factored in the time and cost of arriving/departing from those alternate airports.

  • Flight from JFK to IST (Istanbul)
  • Alternate NYC (New York City) Area airport to IST
  • Alternate NYC airport to Sofia (12 hours + 60 USD by train), Thessaloniki (14 hours + $80 USD by train), Ankara (5 hours + $35 USD by bus), etc

2.    Find the right travel search engines. Each search engine has its blind spots. No search engine is alike. Some search engines only work with airlines that pay them commissions and others specialize on a specific part of the world. Each part of the world has its own engine. However, in general, the following travel search engines have most of the global routes covered:

  • Google.com/flights
  • Kayak.com
  • Mobissimo.com
  • Momondo.com
  • Webjet.com
  • Ixigo.com - India
  • Makemytrip.com - Asia
Open these search engines in multiple windows and begin conducting searches for the prioritized list of travel option you've compiled in step one. Get a piece of paper and keep track of the prices and travel time for each search. Use multiple search engines to search each route.

3.     Look for a better option. If you're traveling to high traffic destinations you may be able to secure a better deal via Priceline's Name Your Own Price option. This website lets you literally name your own price for your proposed travel dates and destinations. However, you'll be signing away your ability to select stopover aiports, departure times, etc. Its a gamble. Its definately worth the risk if your budget is limited and you have a lot of flexibility. Keep in mind that yous should not bid more than the lowest doable option found in step 2.

4.    Get cash back. There's more money to be saved. If you've found your ideal ticket, check to see if the website you are purchasing from provides cash back. Search for your site on Fatwallet.com and Ebates.com. Note that Priceline.com, orbitz.com and other sites all offer cashback for flight purchases made by clicking through the Ebates or Fatwallet site's link. The only thing you have to do is set up an account and click through their provided links. The cashback is deposited to your account via paypal automatically after 60-90 days.

5.    Register your ticket on Yapta.com. If youre ticket changes or is provided by the airline at a lower rate at a later date, yapta.com will let you know. Depending on where you've purchased the ticket, Yapta will help you get the ticket price difference back. Apparently this is part of most airlines' ticketing rules: If the prices drop before departure, the passenger can seek to pay the lower price.