But Skyping sounds Dirty!

It dawned on me that I have mastered the art of communication in my few months of being here. I think of myself as extremely tech savvy, and I can peruse the internet with the best of 'em to find what I need, or see what exists to make everything easier. I've been in Korea for 13 weeks now, and one of the first things I did and continue to do is abuse my Skype account. My friends and I use the phrases, "Hey, wanna Skype later?" and "Do you ever think that Skyping sounds dirty?" constantly.

Skype offers a lot of extremely useful services as a VoiP (Voice over Internet Protocol) - Skype Out, Skype In, Skype To Go, Skype Pro, etc etc etc. and its hard to navigate. I'll be honest, it took me months to really figure out what everything was because I don't think Skype's website is entirely helpful at the start. So here I am to spell it all out for you.

First things first - create a free Skype account to start using your computer as your phone. Download the service, create a username, and it'll set up a Buddy List (a la, AIM, MSN, g-chat, etc). Calling from computer to computer is free - so urge your friends just to download the service and use their microphones/webcams.

Second, figure out your needs. If you plan on making a lot of international phone calls, Skype Out is probably the only thing you need. Just buy Skype Out Credit (usually about $10 worth) and then you can make outgoing phone calls to anywhere in the world for a really cheap rate as a declining balance (as close to being like a phone card as you can get).

However, if you're like me, and will talk to a lot of friends and family at home, that becomes a bit costly after awhile. The next best thing to do is get Skype In. Skype In is this amazing feature that allows you to get a local phone number back home, from any area that you wish, and therefore anyone can call that number at no charge to them. It's safe to say that 100% of my friends have cell phones with national calling plans so I personally picked an area code that my older family members could call for free from their landlines. I believe it is roughly $18 for 3 months or $60 for a year to purchase a number. I do not believe that this feature is available in Canada or Europe yet, unfortunately.

Then there's Skype Pro - for the avid user. Basically this is a service that is just adding perks to the two basic programs (Skype In/Out). If you're going to shell out the money and make the commitment for Skype In, there's no real reason not to by Skype Pro. It is $3 a month taken directly out of your Skype Out credit, and for that monthly fee you will receive free voice mail, discounts on all Skype products, and your Skype In service will be given to you at a reduced rate of $12 for 3 months or $24 for 12 months.

Skype also offers a Skype To Go feature, which will allow you to create another phone number for where you currently are (i.e. I could get a Korean phone number) and have that be directed to a phone number you call most at home (i.e. your parents, or a significant other) from your cell phone here. It is only available in specific countries though - the US, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan for example, and I don't think of it as a necessary feature anyway.

Having all of this basically should take care of all your phoning needs. I have a cell phone here, but I barely use it other than to make the occasional, "Hey, what's the plan for tonight" phone call so it only costs me $10 a month. Skype is definitely my preferred talking plan, and seems to be the consensus amongst all foreigners I've come in contact with. People do use other services, Yahoo Messenger, for example, I hear is pretty reliable. It is a bit cheaper to make international calls, but Skype has the best all around package and the most options. It even lets you send some text messages which is a neat little feature.

Hope this helps - and have a good time Skyping ;)