Should You Bring The Kitchen Sink?

CONTRIBUTED BY MEREDITH NOVARIO

We started out with Skype and we loved Skype and we got all of our friends and family on board, bought a webcam and phoned happily for months.

And then we heard whisperings of Vonage which sounded better than Skype because the calls came through an actual phone and not the computer meaning we were mobile and not glued to a computer monitor. Multi-tasking was possible with Vonage. Doing dishes AND dishing with old friends compatible at long last! Also the monthly rate for unlimited minutes is fixed. $24.99. So we made the switch which involved some sketchy gymnastics about where to send the Vonage equipment as it had to be delivered Stateside. Nothing a little help from Mom didn’t fix. The starter equipment runs between nothing and 110 bucks depending on what suits your fancy.

We don’t miss Skype HOWEVER Vonage isn’t perfect either. The weather can play dirty tricks on our phone connection. Perhaps that has more to do with our internet since Vonage runs through the internet. That pesky internet, a topic for a new day.

And how do you phone home?

58 COMMENTS

  1. So if i have an iPhone through Verizon here in the states , what do i do with it when im in Oki. I have orders to report there this november. I was assuming i would freeze my number and my line ( im in a family plan) and then just find a way to make local calls in Oki when i get there. What is the best options for me – If i was to use Magicjack do i take my cell phone with me and continue to pay monthly through verizon? Im just really confused about calling home and which way is easiest. THanks!

  2. Hi I’ve searched and can’t find any info that says what the rules on cordless phones are. It used to be people said we could not use cordless phones at all but they sell them at the bx now. Does anyone know the limits and requirements? Have they changed?
    Thanks!

  3. When we first got here in 2009, we got vonage. We used the international plan and paid 32$ per month. Then we heard about majicjack, but we couldn’t switch since we were in a one year contract. We had a lot of problems with vonage. We got a lot of random calls and a lot of 1800 numbers calling us.
    Now we have switched to majicjack and now pay 19$ a year. We now save over 350$ per year. So far it has been great. I also got 10$ credit on it to make international calls. With that i get about 200 minutes to make local calls in Okinawa.
    Please remember to not use cordless phones here. They mess us with your calls.

  4. I’m trying to get a Vonage phone with the two number option (one U.S. number for the family, and one base number for here).

    Can anybody give me any information on how to go about getting the “base number”? Vonage said I need a U.S. number with area code. I’m so confused

  5. Had Vonage and HATED it! The connection could be very sketchy, and their customer service is horrible! A warning bell should have sounded in my head when the customer service rep was overly pushy and insistent. If anything goes wrong with your equipment, good luck getting someone in their customer service department to help you. After we had already signed-up, I read the user reviews on Vonage and they were not good- I mean tons of bad reviews! Other companies received much better reviews. I wish I would have read this before getting Vonage.

    My husband’s dad bought us a Skype phone for Christmas last year. It is so much better than Vonage!

  6. Magic jack is the way to go, paid 39 bucks at foster PX. then 20 bucks a year. Better deal than vonage. check it out on line to find out more. Weve had it for two months and no problems..And you don’t have to give your credit card number till you renew service

  7. We will be moving to Okinawa this July and I have researched the long distance calling and I was wondering, does anyone use Broadvoice?? I have had a friend in Germany who uses this and it is also availabe in Okinawa but I do not want to invest in anything that does not work well. It sounds alot like Vonage but slightly cheaper. Thanks for any help that will help make this move a smooth one.

  8. MagicJack…You pay for the Jack and hook it to the computer and pay for your yearly service which is much cheaper than Vonage and you have a phone. You can choose a US number and get to choose the area code too, so if all your family lives in an area code make it easy and free for them to call you and choose that area code. Life saver for us.

  9. Well we got soft bank have had it for 1 year and always get dropped calls and to top it off. My husband was in main land and video called me alot and guess what we now have a $1300.00 phone bill and they wont charge to a card no can we pay on line or with debit card….. Cash or Yen.
    Dont use video

  10. Robyn,

    Your family and friends who call you on your Vonage phoneline will not get charged the international fees because of the foreign internet provider. It’s just as calling someone in the states. The same goes for when you call someone stateside.

  11. The land line jacks are the same. You definitely want to have a local number (be it on base or off) because no businesses on base will call a non local number (their phones can barely call cell phones in most cases).

  12. We’re moving there this April and will go the Skype route, so we’ll get a phone that doesnt require the computer on all the time. Since we should get a landline as well, I see they even have a dual-mode phone (Netgear SPH200D) that allows you to use it for BOTH landline and skype calls, you just easily plug in the phone line and the router line into the unit. So I’m wondering, are the landline phone jacks the same out there as the states? Any special adaptors needed? (I suppose it would be the same thing if we ended up bring a separate landline phone with us to use at home)

  13. Hi! I just ordered Vonage for when we get to Okinawa in June. I am keeping my existing phone number from here in Nebraska. So, the customer service couldn’t seem to answer my question, maybe one of you can. We plan on living on base and using Vonage. Will my familiy and friends from the states be able to call us without getting charged international rates? They will be calling from cell phones and landlines. I have heard rumors that they will get charged international because they internet provider will be international.

  14. We use Yahoo Messenger w/webcam. They have great rates and I can text message my friend’s cell phones in the States, PI, Thailand, and several other countries from it as well for free. I only have to give them a credit card number if I want to dial to a phone but we mostly dial to computer so we can talk for free and see our family at the same time.

    If need to use the phone to call someone, we just use a calling card, they have great rates and I don’t have to mess with monthly fees at all. We just don’t call that much anymore…mostly text or IM, or email so the monthly fees would be a waste for us. We live offbase with a fiber connection so it is very fast and reliable.

  15. I didn’t read everyone replies but you can use Skype on a remote phone with your computer off (not attached in any way to the computer) and you can set up vonage on a normal everyday remote phone too (no special phone needed.

  16. Charity,

    I actually use Skype as well and have the $9.95 world calling plan on it. I had heard that you can get a number for people in the states to call you, but I don’t know how to set it up get a stateside number. I’d appreciate it if you could tell me how! Thanks!

  17. For us, Skype was a no-brainer. It’s $9.95/month for a stateside number with the Japan plan. PLUS we have webcam and chat, which are not choices with Vonage. We opted to not get a regular phone with Skype because we like knowing that if someone forgets the time difference, they aren’t waking us up by calling in the middle of he night! It goes straight to voicemail when the computer is off.

  18. I had to have Macys call my cell phone from the states, when I had a problem there. To dial out of the states and the Japan number is 011-81 (then leave the first 0 off of the area code) and continue with the rest of the number. That’s how it works for cell phones. My business card has my office number to dial internationally off base and it’s the same, except for the 645 part changes numbers so people off base can call, it changes to 970 and I work on Foster, so I don’t know if home base phones first 3 numbers change too or just stay the 6##. But for cell phones 011-81-area code minus 0-####-####.

  19. Does anyone know what numbers our families have to dial when they are trying to call us in Oki? My mother can’t seem to get through and can’t seem to find the right combination of prefixes to dial to get to us.

  20. MAGICJACK — WoW!! I am very surprised to see that no one at all has mention MagicJack,, I had VONAGE before, and my overall experience with it was so-so.. Is much cheaper then a normal phone line service at home, but is not aaalllll that great IMO..

    A good friend of mine who has had MagicJack for about a year told me about it, and ofcourse since it sounded too good to be truth I initially ignored it.. Then I got orders to OKI and shortly after since we were paying so much at home in california for phone service around $68 dollars a month, I decided to look into it and to my surprice I not only order it, but I order two of them..

    To make a long story a bit shorter, I have one at home and I have one here in OKI with me, and all I have to pay is $20 dollars a YEAR for each one.. Yes, one more time,, only $20 a year for each one.. For those that are out here ofcourse u would only need one, but for me, paying for two of these babies, is more then worth it and much better overall then paying $25 dollars a month for Vonage,

    You do have to use your computer because the MagicJack system connects to it via USB, but other then that, your normal phone connects to the MagicJack and its like having a normal phone system at your home with a local number from anywhere in the states with UNLIMITED calls and everything else that comes with it..

    Unless there is anything better out there that is really worth it, I highly recommend MAGICJACK….

  21. We live off base and use Vonage for stateside calls, we also use Skype for webcam calls and chatting. The only problem that we had with vonage was during the set up. The Vonage router needed to be configured by our internet provider (which is Sunny-Net and they did it quickly and for no fee). It took me a few hours to figure this out (as I couldn’t get the thing to work), but once I called Sunny-Net support, they helped me out.

    We also have ADSL through Sunny-net and will eventually switch to fiberoptic once they drop a ne wline in our neighborhood. The ADSL works fine and due to that, we also ended up with a Japanese local number. SO, all in all, we also have 4 numbers (which is crazy), but it is nice to feel connected everywhere! 🙂

  22. We have vonage and love it! We were warned that it wasn’t going to work and that we would have all kinds of problems but that hasn’t been the case AT ALL. We also use skype for our webcam calls but have had many problems with the grandparents not understanding what to do and we have walked them through it over the vonage phone. I don’t know what we would do if we didn’t have the vonage line except have to pay the per minute rate which isn’t bad for us but then our family couldn’t call whenever they wanted to just chit chat. It has made staying close with family and friends very easy!
    I have heard rumblings of the base phone system switching over to stateside numbers. I don’t know what that will mean but am excited about the possibilities!

  23. We use Skype on base. Both Vonage and Skype provide a stateside phone #. If you call your skype or vonage # from your local okinawan #, it will be a international call. On base local phones are DSN lines. Just remember, any loss of power, no Vonage or Skype. The DSN or cell phone is a must.

  24. We use Vonage (off base) but also have a Japanese landline, which was way cheaper than getting the extended international plan to call within Japan. Not to mention the fact that now people can call us on that line without paying international charges themselves.

    Of course, add both of those lines to both of our cell phones, an we have 4 phone numbers altogether, which is interesting.

    Base numbers are not American ones.

  25. First of all, I must say THANK GOD I found this site. We will be moving very shortly to Oki and are starting to get overwhelmed with all the things we have to do! I was wondering, if we get Vonage would we have to get the enhanced international plan in order to call the base and other houses (since it is in Japan) or will base numbers count as american ones. Also, it seems as though people that live off base have Vonage and Skype, if I live on base will I not need these? Thanks in advance for your responses!

  26. We just moved here the end of June. We kept our VA phone number with Vonage but would pay $24.95/mo with the first 3 months free. I heard about Skype before we left but everyone said to get Vonage. We switched to Skype last month and it has been great. It cost us $99.50 for unlimited international and $24.99 to own our phone number for 12 months. Much better deal than Vonage and they all work the same. VOIP. We have a phone ($129) that does not require the computer to be on. They also have a Wi-Fi phone that you can use in any Wi-Fi area. Skype vs Vonage. First year $253 – $249, after 1st year $124.49 – $299.88 unless vonage gives you a deal. Vonage does charge a cancellation fee (about $124.00). Skype you just cancel, lose what is remaining on your subscription but no additional fees.

  27. We use the base number 990041+1+area code+number. My neighbors use Lingo which is cheaper (by a few bucks) than Vonage and they say it is better service and haven’t had any problems with it. There is also MagicJack which is SUPER cheap and you plug it into your computer (but use a phone and have a stateside phone number) – you just have to have your computer on (www.magicjack.com).

  28. We use vonage, no problems. I asked my husband about magicjack after I read someone’s comment. He said you need this and that, he was talking in what I call, the electronic talk. Couldn’t understand, but he is all about the electronics. He rather have Vonage than magicjack.

  29. We moved here in July and I so wished I had brought the vonage phone with us. Other people who did bring it had a phone in lodging but we were stuck buying calling cards. Plus if you ship it here via USPS it is slow getting here; even by priority sometimes. I recommend just ordering it stateside and packing it in your luggage! We have had no problems with ours so far and we live on base. All in all I love vonage!

  30. My mom uses a company called total call international. They have really good rates. I used them when I was in the states too. You just sign up and then you’re billed separately. You don’t even need to switch anything with your reg. phone company. Here’s the link…
    http://www.totalcallusa.com/

    Good luck:)

  31. Does anyone have any experience in using a good (cheap) calling card that can be used by the family at home to call us here in Okinawa?

  32. Has anyone tried using vonage with the option of having both a stateside number and a local Okinawa number? According to what I remember, you can have two number for a little extra fee.

  33. Does anyone have experience with MagicJack? We currently use Vonage but my neighbor just told me about MagicJack. It is $20 per YEAR as opposed to the $25 per MONTH with Vonage. I’d love some info because I’d love to save the money. Anyone?

  34. We have the Skype International plan. It is a new plan and definitely worth looking into. It costs $12.95 per month and includes free calls to 34 countries, a US Phone number and voicemail. We have 2 cordless phones that operate on both Skype and local landline. So far we have not found any call that has cost us anything extra!! We are extremely happy with the connection.

  35. Does anyone have the Asian Vonage? I’ve heard about it. I’m looking into getting it and and getting rid of our other phone. It just seems so reasonable.

  36. I still use Skype but I bought the phone number for $60.00 a year and have it forwarded to my home base phone. To call out, I just use 0041 which is about 3.2 yen per min. not bad deal if you ask me. So my family calls in for free (but cost me 2.9cents a min) and I call out for cheap. They don’t call as much as email me to tell me when it’s best to call, they are scared to wake us up.

  37. We have vonage and we love it…. when got hear we were in the westpack for 10 days and we had our vonage equipment with us and we used it in the lodge so that was nice ..We have no connection problems…..we have one 904 number and then for my husbands family we have the 800 number for people who dont live in the 904 area so its free for them….and when we move we never have to change our number…..

  38. We use skype and are very happy. You can buy skype phones that are cordless that you can make skype calls with and have your land line come through them too. We bought a stateside number through skype so family and friends don’t have to call an overseas number, 60.00 a year with unlimited time. And 2cents a minute to other phones, and free to other skype and 800 numbers. We also have a logitech webcam that we skype to family with when the kids want to see who they are talking too.

  39. moving to OKI in August 08: Looks like I should get the vonage hardware before we come. If we’re on base………is vonage the answer or are there other options? Can someone give a “top ten” on things to do to get best phone and web-cam service? Thanks everybody.

  40. I am new to Okinawa and just connected with a ISP called OCN via fiber connection. I also use vonage and have not been able to connect my vonage with this service. Any suggestions?

  41. Thank you for the quick response and support. I am still in the states so I can pick up the equipment while I am here and bring it with me. I just wanted to make sure I was not wasting my money.

  42. I am about to transfer to Oki. I used Vonage in Kuwait (and liked it), but never knew how it got hook-ed up. I understand the general principal of VOIP. When I searched about Vonage I noticed they show thier countries of service as “US, Italy, and Canada”. How do I get Vonage in Japan? Do I sign-up here, then bring it with me? When I get a Internet provider in Japan, can I just plug in and go? Please help, I leave in one month.

  43. Jon,

    You’ll need to purchase the Vonage equipment and have it sent to a Stateside address. I believe that address has to be the billing address. We did not do it this way unfortunately. That just meant that it took forever to get our equipment. Vonage does not ship to the FPO/AP addresses if I remember correctly. When we did get the equipment we were able to set it up in a jiffy through our Japanese service provider.

    I’m not sure if on-base people use Vonage as much as off-base folks. Maybe the other card options are cheaper for on-base people.

    GOod luck with your move and thanks for reaching out. Please let us know if there’s something we can help you with.

  44. We use Vonage. We have no problem with Vonage in and of itself, however our internet connection (through Sunny Net) has been really sketchy and goes out when it rains, which means no phone.

  45. We love Skype at 2 cents a minute. We actually do not miss having a state side phone number. Our parents are used to using phone cards to call us if they need us and we call them enough that they usually do not need to call us. If they were more computer savvy we would use the webcam.

  46. We got Vonage before coming to the states thanks to our friends who were stationed in Italy and loved it. Absolutely no connection problems – it’s amazing when you’re talking to a friend and it sounds like they’re down the street rather than halfway across the world! And what a bonus that we just kept our old stateside phone number, so no need to change that for dozens of loved ones and stateside businesses (i.e. banks, credit cards, etc.).

  47. Off Base w/ Vonage Baby!! We love it and have no problems but that is because we have a fiber optic connection through Sunny Net and rarely have trouble with them. In almost two years our internet has gone down only three times and the longest period of time was over night. Sunny Net was re-booting their server.
    I ordered it before we even moved here and love it!!! Now if people could only do the math Stateside and figure that dinner time for them is breakfast time here.
    -K

  48. On base I use one of the KDDI numbers like 99003 and then the number to call the states. Its only 3 cents a minute. Mostly though I webcam via MSN messenger or Yahoo Messenger. They are completely free and I am sooo enthralled with my Logitech webcam that I have convinced 20 plus people to buy one so I can call them. It’s completely invaluable with a preverbal toddler For example: Look Grandpa, Benj is walking! Mom, look at this rash— do you think it’s hand foot and mouth ? etc. etc.
    Definitely will never live without a webcam again!

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