Google Voice Abroad

I’ve already written one post about how much I love Google Voice.  Since coming to Japan, I’ve grown to love it even more.  Here’s why: I can make calls, send and receive texts, and listen to voice mails from my iPhone.  The great thing is that My US contacts can still directly contact me through my US phone number as if I never left.  This is convenient for everybody!  Of course it’s super easy to keep in touch with friends through any of the hundreds of social networks like Twitter and Facebook, but there’s something about a text message and a phone call that brings us much closer.

If you live abroad and would like to use Google Voice, here is a quick guide!

1. Get an iPhone or Android-based phone.  You will need to run the official Google Voice app and at least one other.

2. Sign up for Google Voice.  If you are still in the US, this is cake.  Just visit and follow the steps.  If you are abroad, however, you must have someone login to you google account or create one from a US IP address.  The website will not let you create a Google Voice phone number from abroad.  There is of course the option to connect to a US IP via VPN, but that could get difficult just for a quick registration.

3. Download the Google Voice App here and install. The google voice app will let you do everything but make a phone call.  You will even receive missed call alerts.  Use this app to send text messages listen to voice mail and everything else. With alerts turned on, you will have nice real time alerts of text messages, including the name of the contact.

4. For making calls, you will have to use the phone function of web version gmail. They recently banned any 3rd party access to the calls.

If you are not completely familiar with Google Voice, you can check out my previous post.



  1. amyewest · · Reply

    Trevor, I am moving to Japan, too and wondering about making calls since my Iphone does not unlock. I was going to suspend my Verizon service and just use my phone like an ipod around wireless. Question: Will Google Voice still work for me if I do not have a carrier in the US

    (I already have a google voice account that I forward my Verizon # to). But if anyone calls my Verizon # once I move to Japan and suspend my account- they will get a “not in service” message. If I have them call my Google Voice #- will that reach me?? And if so, must I be connected to the internet.

    Thank you for your help. I knew there would be someone out there trying to stay connected to the US from Japan.

  2. moira · · Reply

    Hi amyewest,
    My son too is moving to Japan next month and I’ve been researching about the mobile phone situations in Japan. From what I’ve learned, if you have a Wifi connection, you can receive calls real time via Google Voice, if your friends/family calls on your Google voice # and you are not connected with wifi at that time, they can leave a message.

    1. Thank you for the comments! You can use google voice phone functions, including the free calls if you are on a computer connected to the Internet. Just access it through gmail.

  3. I live in Japan. I use a proxy, saying I’m in America. But when I go to get a Google Voice number, it asks me to add a forwarding phone.

    Before choosing a Google Voice number, please add a forwarding phone that will ring when that number is called. You can add more forwarding phones later.

    How do you get by this restriction?

    1. Just to set it up, use someone’s phone number back home and you can delete it afterwards. I don’t have any forwarding numbers but I can still make calls from gmail.

  4. Jinwoo Kim · · Reply

    This is very insightful, Trevor. We’re heading to Japan and Korea in a few weeks. Do you have any updates on using GV from Japan to call back to the US? Or are you still happy with GV and Talkatone? Is the broadband bandwidth generally good enough in Japan for adequate voice quality? Thanks in advance for your feedback.

    1. I just took a quick look at the app. Everything works well and the apps voice quality has improved a bit over time. I’ve used it over 3G in the past, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so. Quality is only good ver wifi. I hope things work out smoothly for you! I actually don’t use this much with my loved ones on FaceTime and such now 😉

  5. Sarah · · Reply

    My sister lives in Japan and was using Google Voice on her iPhone 3G but now has a new samsung galaxy 2 and is unable to download the google voice app on her new device. Is there a way to trick google play into letting her download the app other than with VPN?

  6. Kurt · · Reply

    I am moving to Japan in a few weeks and I dont know what I should do for my cell phone. I do not have a smart phone and I was wondering what I should buy and do so that I can make calls in Japan as well as receive calls from back home with google voice or some other service. Any suggestions would be appreciated

    1. Just register google voice before leaving. You can still make phone calls from gmail if you don’t want a smartphone…

  7. Kira · · Reply

    It seems that you can’t download Google voice app anymore if you have a phone bought in Japan. I was able to install with through the apk package. I already have a google voice account and the app wants to verify my phone number (Which of course doesn’t work since it’s a Japanese phone number). How were you able to bypass this?

    1. I used my brothers phone number just to set it up, then just don’t allow any calls to be forwarded. Once you disable it there should be no problem taking calls in gmail and sending text messages via the app. Does that answer your question?

  8. How about for a Japanese visiting the US? A friend will take his KDDI AU handset (from work so not sure if A or I) phone and he’ll text me when he arrives. what prep should he do, to ensure that I’d receive his text? I have Sprint and GV (not tied). And Skype and Google Hangouts but he may not have these (remember company-issued)

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