My girlfriend got a new job that requires frequent travel to Shanghai, China. She has a Chinese phone and sometimes has Internet access. Aside from Skype/Internet communications, what's the cheapest way for me to call China? Also what is the cheapest way for her to call me? Are there any hidden fees to watch out for, depending on what method I use?
Google Voice — $0.01/min. The way it works is you can call online or call a local US number that will call the Chinese number for you (which would use your minutes or your normal per minute cost on top of the $0.02).
Your girlfriend could call you online using it as well, if you set up an account for her in the US (it can't be set up outside). That would require a second phone line though — any US number that isn't already in use by Google Voice. Once set up she can have it redirect to Gmail chat rather than the phone number, so if you have parents with a land line or something you could use that number ;)
I don't know a cheap way to call from China using a physical phone, unfortunately.
I'm just adding this in on the off chance that the US is the same as Australia, hopefully this is helpful.
If you have a place in your city like a China Town that has plenty of Chinese shops you can get very cheap calls by purchasing Chinese calling cards.
Many Chinese grocery stores have posters stuck up with call rates. This is very common in my local area as we have many Chinese overseas students.
On the back of the cards will have a number to scratch off and you register your card for first time use.
The call rates are usually very cheap.
However, be warned, some of the telcos disappear overnight so don't go and buy $50 worth of cards, we used to buy a $10 card. This might last you a week or two.
If you have any Chinese friends you can ask them to recommend a brand of card that is reputable, but most of them are good.
We now just use Skype, so haven't used cards for a couple of years.
I second the calling card suggestion, but it will be easier for your girlfriend (and for you) if you just google search and buy them off of the internet. You don't need the physical card for calls -- just the codes.
Just pick any of the top google hits and you should be ok- you'll be able to use it within 2 minutes of purchase, and the rates are comparable to skype rates for calling mobile or land lines.
If you speak with your girlfriend for extended periods of time and do not want to be hassled with dialing 25-digit calling cards and be on the clock every time, I would recommend Vonage World. They offer unlimited calling to China (landline + mobile), and, from personal experience, the call clarity is excellent. It does come at a cost though - be prepared to spend US $30-35 per month. They do have some introductory offers for lower rates.
I would also checkout Rebtel. Its like a calling card, but you can assign friends special numbers so you don't have to enter a code. Alternatively, you can hang up within 10 seconds (which is free) and get your friend to call you back. They will see a local number, so you both only pay for local calls and Rebtel will charge nothing. Note that if you don't have a local SIM, your service provider will still add roaming charges. They support China.
I haven't actually used them yet.
italkbb offers this service.
You can call back from china with no cost. I have this service few year now, it work for me. you can call 24/7 any time for $24.95
My suggestion would be to use the Betamax comparison website. Right now you can call Chinese mobile numbers for as low as 0.2 cents per minute with Cheapvoip.com. Ignore the "free" call offers as they are usually equivalent to a subscription.
If you use their callback service you don't even need an Internet connection, though you would be charged an extra 0.2 cents for getting a call to your AT&T number. Overall it would cost 0.4 cents/minute that way.
You can also use any Betamax provider to top up phone credit in China, in case your girlfriend's mobile phone account runs out.