Going abroad but staying in touch
September 20, 2012 10:26 PM   Subscribe

How can I make sure I receive and can check voicemail while in Italy?

I have an AT&T iPhone 4s with unlimited data. I'm in the US, but am leaving tomorrow morning to go to Italy for two weeks. I need to be able to access my voicemail while there (and I need others to be able to leave me a voicemail on my cell number).

Google says this is difficult / expensive. How can I make it happen without paying exorbitant fees?

posted by mingodingo to Technology (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Call AT&T or go online and sign up for an international calling plan (a few dollars a month). That will take the per-minute cost down to something totally reasonable. Also sign up for an international data plan (if I recall correctly, about $35 / month). That will keep visual voicemail up and running.

Shouldn't be a problem.
posted by charmcityblues at 10:40 PM on September 20, 2012

If you use a Google Voice number or use GV as your voice mail for your phone, you can access the voice mails via a web browser. Not sure about AT&T, but on Verizon you can access your voice mail in a web browser. If your phone has wi-fi, you could go into airplane mode, turn off your data and use wi-fi only to get voice mails. I did this on my iPad while traveling in both Caribbean and Europe.

Or, to make is easier and seamless, follow charmcityblues' directions above.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:04 PM on September 20, 2012

Sign up for Google Voice and set up the voicemail forwarding to go to the Google Voice number. MP3s of voicemails (and transcripts, if the voicemail was in English) will be emailed to you immediately after they are recorded. Your phone does not need to be on (i.e. it works even when you pop in a different SIM card).

I've been getting voicemail for my US AT&T cell like that for years when traveling and living abroad without incurring any fees.
posted by halogen at 11:11 PM on September 20, 2012

Yes, use Google Voice as your voicemail. I did this while I was living abroad in Ireland. It takes 10 minutes max to set up.

(You can always switch back to your regular AT&T voicemail after you come back from Italy.)
posted by Xere at 12:06 AM on September 21, 2012

The thing Google Voice is supplying is known as Visual Voicemail. Search for that if you want more info and alternatives.

Transcripts to email are probably going to be best. I guess you could script something to summarize and SMS you but otherwise it's gonna be WiFi checking your emails or buying a local sim and using 3G.
posted by jago25_98 at 3:13 AM on September 21, 2012

Transcripts to email are probably going to be best. I guess you could script something to summarize and SMS you but otherwise it's gonna be WiFi checking your emails or buying a local sim and using 3G.

For reference (though not so much for the OP), Google Voice sends transcripts via SMS, but I don't think it can send SMS to an Italian phone.

I redirected my phone's voicemail to Google Voice this summer to avoid having to switch on my phone in Japan, where the roaming rates are incredibly expensive and in Canada, where they are less so. I liked not having to listen to voicemail enough that I've kept forwarding my voicemail. Be warned that the transcription gets a bit ropey when someone's phoning while outside or somewhere with background noise, but the transcript is generally intelligible (and you could, of course, listen to the recording). It also flat out doesn't attempt to transcribe my mother, I assume because she isn't American and it can't understand her. So if people with accents other than American ones call you, be prepared to have to listen to the messages, not just check email. One downside to keeping my phone off is that text messages seem to have a time limit before they just disappear if they've not been delivered. Telling people to email or text the Google Voice number is the solution, but it's a wee bit annoying.
posted by hoyland at 5:56 AM on September 21, 2012

If you leave international roaming off but have international calling you can use voicemail like you do on old school phones. That is you see the notification and you dial in enter your pin and hear them. The rates are subject to your international calling plan.
posted by birdherder at 6:53 AM on September 21, 2012

If you can unlock your phone, when you get to Italy you can buy a replacement SIM card with reasonable rate for calls to North America, then call your normal cell phone number to pick up messages. I just did this for a trip to Ireland. AT&T unlocked my 3GS as it was out of contract and for 10€ I picked up a pay-as-you-go SIM card with 0.15€ rate for calls to North America.
posted by ShooBoo at 7:11 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Halogen's solution is what I've used for many, many overseas trips.
posted by Brittanie at 11:01 AM on September 21, 2012

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