Content of the material
- Use Voice messaging for 1:1 conversations only
- How to Use Google Voice While Traveling
- Using Services like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb
- Getting Security Verification Texts and Calls
- Getting Updates from Airlines
- Free Phone Calls to North America
- Cheap Calls to Everywhere Else
- Being Contactable by Old-School Companies
- Not Being Dependent on One Device
- Reply to a text message
Use Voice messaging for 1:1 conversations only
Due to carrier limitations and to protect against spam, Google Voice messaging is intended only for 1:1, personal conversations. It is not intended for bulk messaging, which can result in messages being flagged as spam and blocked. If you have blocked messages, refer to the “Why can’t I send text messages?” section below.
If you’re a teacher and need to send bulk announcements or notifications, we recommend using email, your school’s website, social media sites, or other apps for teacher communication.
If you haven’t yet, download the Google Voice app on your Android device.
How to Use Google Voice While Traveling
So those features all sound great, but it’s how they function in the real world that matters. Fortunately, for the most part, they work pretty well.
Because Google Voice works internationally just like it does in the US, having a number that’s available across devices anywhere in the world comes in very handy. It works on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, using any Wi-Fi network or cellular data you have access to.
Here are several examples of how Google Voice has been particularly useful to me on the road.
Using Services like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb
No matter where I am in the world, as soon as I get a data connection, I’m contactable by drivers and hosts.
Sure, in some cases they could get in touch with me via the app, but Uber/Lyft drivers in particular much prefer to call you to confirm details. I’ve answered dozens of calls and texts asking about my exact location, or when I’ll arrive at my accommodation.
Also, since Lyft is only available in the US, it wants you to have a US phone number when creating your account. The first time I tried to do so with a Google Voice number, it refused to accept it, but when I returned to the US a couple of years later, the same number worked just fine. What changed? I’ve no idea.
Getting Security Verification Texts and Calls
Probably the best aspect for me is the ability to receive verification texts and calls from any company that wants to send them. I get authentication texts or phone calls from my bank, several apps, and Google itself, all on my phone or in my browser, any time, anywhere.
Whether I’m sending money to someone, resetting my password, or just logging in from a different location, verification is quick and easy.
That said, some banks and apps have started detecting virtual numbers in recent years, and either refusing to let you use them or silently not sending the text. It’s frustrating, but if it’s prevented by the company, there’s little you can do about it other than use a normal carrier number instead.
You may be able to request a verification phone call instead (it’s worked for me on occasion when the text failed,) but not all services provide this option. Such calls could also have the same issue if the company decides to block virtual numbers with those as well, so it’s not a guaranteed workaround.
Getting Updates from Airlines
I always enter my Google Voice number when booking plane tickets, since many carriers will text updates on flight delays or cancelations. As long as I’ve got Wi-Fi or cell data, they’ll pop up as if they’re a standard SMS, and I’ll know what’s happening immediately.
Free Phone Calls to North America
I don’t need to call US or Canadian numbers particularly often, but it does happen a few times a year. When it does, not having to pay a cent for it is rather nice, especially if it’s a company where I’ll sit on hold for 20 minutes before talking to someone. If I had family in North America, I’d use this service all the time.
Cheap Calls to Everywhere Else
While traveling life would be a lot easier if you could do everything online, sometimes you just have to pick up the phone. With the exception of a few obscure destinations, calls to most places with Google Voice are pretty cheap per minute, and call quality is good as long as you’ve got a half-decent internet connection.
Being Contactable by Old-School Companies
While most companies will happily contact you by email or through their app, there are a few old-school ones that won’t. Hello banks, I’m looking at you.
One of my banks absolutely loves to block my debit card, and then call to tell me about it. Without Google Voice, I wouldn’t have a working phone number on record, and the process would be even more annoying than it already is.
Not Being Dependent on One Device
Phones break or get lost all the time, especially while traveling. It happened to me in Thailand just a couple of months ago, but because Google Voice works in a browser as well, my texts and calls kept arriving just fine.
It sounds wonderful and in some ways it is, but Google Voice isn’t perfect. Not every text message arrives, even after repeated tries. Sometimes a call won’t ring on my phone or in the browser, and goes straight to voicemail even if I’m sitting in front of my phone or laptop at the time.
That’s a frustration, but one I accept given (a) I’m not paying for that part of the service, and (b) there are no alternatives that offer as many features, paid or otherwise.
Another minor issue is that transcription of voicemails is obviously automated, and varies between pretty accurate and almost incomprehensible. I find myself needing to download and listen to the actual voicemail over half the time.
Reply to a text message
- On your Android device, open the Voice app .
- Open the tab for Messages .
- Tap the text message you want to reply to.
- At the bottom, enter your message, and tap Send .