How to keep a low phone bill while traveling in Peru


Anyone who has ever traveled internationally with an iPhone or Blackberry knows how horrendous the bills can be once you get home. A friend of mine told me he got a $600 phone bill after a vacation in Europe with his wife. The mobile phone bill was roughly the price of one of his air tickets. That’s just absurd.

My solution is somewhat jury-rigged, but it works and for a fraction of the price. I have my regular American landline and mobile numbers forwarded to Skype. If I happen to be at my computer, I receive the calls, in Peru or in Timbuktu, at absolutely no cost. If I leave the computer to go into town, enjoy a meal, or just unplug for a while, Skype will automatically re-forward my incoming calls to my prepaid Peruvian mobile phone — which cost me a whopping $20 in Paijan.

I pay nothing in Peru to receive calls (in most countries outside of the United States, incoming calls do not count as billable minutes, only outgoing calls). I do have to pay Skype the long distance rate for calling a Peruvian cell phone from the United States. That runs a rather steep $0.30 per minute. But, in an emergency, be it business or personal, I’m happy to pay $0.30 per minute. And for nonemergency calls, I simply tell the caller that I’ll call them back when I get home — which costs me nothing if done via Skype.

Though I’d like to take credit for coming up with this on my own, I should give credit where it is due. I took this system verbatim from Timothy Ferriss, author of the entertaining and insanely useful book, The 4-Hour Workweek. Despite the somewhat flippant title, Ferriss’s book is a practical guide for increasing your personal and business productivity.

Back to my own mobile telecom solution, let’s take a look at how much money I spend:

•    $30 – Total cost of Skype subscription per year
•    $20 – Cost of disposable Peruvian prepaid mobile phone
•    $10-$50 – Total costs of long distance for forwarded calls to Peru in a given month (this would be significantly cheaper in many other countries, particularly in Europe)

So, for $50 in yearly fixed costs and $10-$50 in monthly usage fees, I can work from the road indefinitely, researching, writing, and managing client accounts. Isn’t technology wonderful?

Charles Sizemore, CFA, is a financial writer and portfolio manager. He recently wrote about coming to Peru for his wife’s birth. To see what else Charles has to say, visit his blog.