Some great questions from a friend of mine striking off internationally / mobile.
Also, you had some tips for this lifestyle. What are they? My
biggest questions are:
1) Receiving phone calls. I imagine there are good (even free) Voice Over IP services that will allow me to
Take my old local calls and transfer them to the Internet;
Forward the calls to whatever local number I'm using in whatever country I happen to be;
Transfer voice mail and SMS messages to e-mail.
1. Google Voice is good for getting a USA number ported. I don't know about Europe... maybe you can port it to SkypeIn (a nice product), or maybe to Grasshopper if they're working in Europe. Get Google Voice though definitely, it's free and good and does what you want.
2) I assume you use Skype to make most international calls, but what about receiving mobile calls in whatever local country you happen to be? Do you just get a temporary sim card in the local country?
2. Yeah, temporary SIM card. If people know you're in and out of a region, they just regularly update your number. People just start using email more when you're in and out anyways. I prefer to not use a phone anyways when I can avoid it.
3) I imagine the ideal service would just blindly open my sensitive paper mail, scan it and put it into my Dropbox folder. What do you do?
3. Earth Class Mail is what you're looking for, and I had it for a while. Now I just don't do paper mail. I'm basically paperless, and maybe I miss a document or two per year, but who cares? You can always have really important stuff sent to a friend or family member, or the apartment or hotel you're at when traveling. Hotels will take mail for you even if you're not there, as long as you stayed for a while and treated people well.
4) Any experience with opening international bank accounts? Based on my experiences until now I imagine it's an incredible hassle to open up a bank account as a tourist with a temporary Visa. Any tips? What do you do?
4. Depends on the country. Some places are very liberal about letting anyone open bank accounts, some tightly control it. But I just use the American Schwab Investor Checking (excellent product) which has free rebates on ATM fees and no currency conversion costs, and then I use my Schwab card at the ATM and get local cash out. It works surprisingly easily and well, I don't have any non-American bank accounts.
If you have interesting suggestions, your answers might be interesting to your online audience too.
5. Good idea.
Your questions in the comments?
Okay - having done this a lot:
1) For phone I use my Vonage as I can plug it in wherever I am and it routes my 'home' calls to it. I also get a virtual number.
2) I get a SIM for my mobile in the country (normally pay as you go until I figure out the country rules)
3) International banking - I love HSBC. I have 5 banks I use and they are the only one which does a good job of handling multiple banks, transfers from other countries etc. My wife lost her USA CC in the UK, they were going to send it to our USA postal address (Earthclass mail) and instead overnighted it to us in the UK.
4) Your mobile should be a smart phone - I use ms secure to save my passwords etc... maps etc. Using the temporary SIM I can do the data exchange
5) Make sure you use a global email system - hotmail or gmail - I prefer hotmail as I can pay for it which means they do have some obligation to take care of me
6) I travel with a wireless router that I hookup for my vonage and also for all my other devices - in USA I just use a wireless access point
7) Have wallets for different countries (I have one with all my UK accounts, one for USA, one for Asia).
8) Have a filing system at your home base with a section for each country you have permanent assets in...
Cheers, I'll check out HSBC. I'll ask if they can give any of the Premier features to people without that much money (yeah, hoping to get to that level within the next few years!) - here in the UK banks give a few special offers to entice students to open accounts with them, knowing they don't often switch when they're older.
Let me put my 2 cents in International Banking thread. I would say HSBC rules. For sure they screw up once in a while but 85% percent of the time I am extremely happy with them. They have PREMIER service which is incredibly useful tool for travelling entrepreneur. It costs a lot to get started (1 million HKD or 500 000RMB in China). In Aus, CAD etc it can be 200 000 USD+. They call it relationship balance. However when it drops below that amount then you pay monthly fees. They differ on country.
The good thing is, once you are Premier, You can open premier in pretty much any country in the world and use their worldtransfer service (for eligible countries). It allows you to send money from account to account without fees and lightning fast. You also have better rate for currency conversion. How to get started. My suggestions. Option Number 1. Money. If you have minimum required amount for your country, just deposit and then you can have it back, however, check how much you would have to pay in monthly fees, then while you travel, open account in a country that have lower requirements and open an account there. Now you have 2 accounts. Make one that has lower fees your primary branch. Now you will pay lower monthly fee. Option 2. Sometimes HK has promotions for existing clients. You can upgrade to premier without money and don't pay for a year. However I have no idea where to get this information. I overheard 2 girls in Teller line. Ask me if you have any questions about HSBC.
We use EarthClassMail for both personal and business use and have found it to be excellent. They scan and email us all of the mail we receive. We can also forward/ship that mail to us anywhere in the world. They've recently added a service that will even accept and deposit checks into your bank account...really cool.
I forward my Google Voice to my Skype number. If my computer is open I answer it there...otherwise it forwards to my cell.
Seb might disagree with this, but as an American I find it worthwhile to register with the State Dept. You'll get email updates about any changes in status in the country you're in. Living in Mindanao it's good to know about security or violence issues that are going on down here and to avoid the hot spots.
I have a tip- I use twilio's openvbx.com to power my US and UK phone numbers, for pennies a minute I have it forward to my local number where ever I am in the world. So I share those numbers with friends and family, then just buy burner sim's in each country. But I also carry a TruPhone and Mobal SIM's to make sure I always have phone service if I need it.
For european numbers check ovh.com, for less than 2€ a month you get a SIP number with unlimited calls to a bunch of country
If someone can suggest a good solution for British/European people, I'd be all ears. Had so many problems trying to administer my UK bank accounts while based in Asia.
1. People don't set firm plans with people who own telephones.
"Okay, I'll call you around 3, and maybe we'll meet at like 7, or I don't know, I'll let you know at 5 if..."
"Sorry dude, I don't have a phone. Are we on for 7 or not?"
I love that.
Summary: If you do a lot of international travel, apply for an account online.
I've mentioned Ally Bank twice already for having the best savings/money market and checking accounts, but that is not quite true. If you use their savings account, then it doesn't make sense not to get their checking account out of convenience, seeing that it's free and almost certainly comes with less fees than your current one. But what about when you're outside the US?
Ally’s checking account charges much less than most banks for foreign ATM and transaction fees,
$1.50 +1% for ATM withdrawals and 1% for foreign purchases to be exact. But when you're somewhere like the Philippines where ATMs can charge $5-$10 per withdrawal, the last thing you want is more stinky fees.