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Moving to the UK from the US: suggestions on a phone plan?

I'm moving to the UK and I'm a bit stumped about what to do about a phone. A friend recommended getting a travel phone. When I've traveled in the past, I just relied on WiFi and turned off my data with my carrier, to avoid charges. Any suggestions? Thanks!

4 Answers

top answer by
Alex from London

Hi Stephanie,

I'm with Paige on this.  It will be much cheaper for you to get a local phone. Depending on what you are using your phone for, there are a few options:

If you have an unlocked phone already:

Just buy a pay-as-you go SIM card (if you are here for a short period) from Orange, O2, 3, Vodaphone, EE, etc. You can check out prices for each company online before buying. Tesco is a good cheap option too.

If you need a phone:

Get a pay-as-you-go or monthly plan from a mobile provider that allows you to get a free phone with your plan.  But make sure you sign-up for the correct time period or you may be stuck paying for your plan after leaving the UK.

Naturally, you can also buy a phone from amazon or carphone warehouse but if you need a sim card it usually works out the same or cheaper to go direct to Orange, Three, Vodaphone, etc.

If you travel and talk much:

Each mobile provider will have different plans for calling while roaming. I find that for my travels in Europe, vodaphone has the best deal whereas you pay 3GBP/day flat fee to call from anywhere to anywhere in Europe.

For US calls:

There are also ad-ons that give you 'free' minutes to the US but, to be honest, I think they still make your plans too expensive.  Easier to use wifi and call with skype, viber, google, facetime, etc.

If you intend to buy a pay-as-you-go sim while travelling then do make sure that your phone is 'unlocked' or that you take it to a store to unlock it before leaving.

Good luck!

3 thanks

answered by
Jacqui from London


There are many mobile phone companies in the UK. I would recommend O2 for coverage, but Three has just introduced "at home" countries, which mean you can use your plan in many countries around Europe for no extra cost! 

If you are moving to the UK and you plan to work you will also need to apply for a NI (National Insurance) number and register with a local GP. You can find out more about how to find a place to live, how to open a bank account and more here: 

I am currently living in London, so let me know if you are in the area and I can show you around :) 

2 thanks

answered first by
Paige from Raleigh, North Carolina

I've used a travel phone before but when I lived in Northern Ireland for a year I discovered it was MUCH more expensive than simply getting something there. They have a lot more monthly plan/paygo options and are sooo cheap... what I did was use GiffGaff and they sent me a free sim card and I put it in my iphone 4 (which I got unlocked). Places like GiffGaff and Tesco Mobile are good because they also sell phones pretty cheap. And for a modest amount of talk, text, and data I only paid 10 pounds. I had some friends who just wanted simple talk and text and they only paid 5 pounds a month. GiffGaff and Tesco Mobile were much cheaper than anything I could get in the US so I'd recommend getting one of their sim cards or even a new phone from them as it'll save you the 30 pounds you have to use to top up an expensive travel phone.

2 thanks

answered by
Kemkem from Malaga

The best advice given before is great, bring your own phone. Have it unlocked before you leave, not Sprint though, as you can not swap. We did that when we moved to Malta, it saved a lot of problems, we just bought a SIM card at the airport upon arrival, and was good to go. Looking for apartments, etc..etc..requires a lot of calls, so it was nice to be able to give a call back number. Assuming you will be calling the U.S a lot, the best bang for your buck is Magicjack - Canada Inc. I don't know if they still offer the first year free, you can check online, but it only costs $20 per year. You get your own telephone number to give to friends and relatives so they can call you on it, and that is your only cost. It only works with wifi, but totally worth it. If you don't answer the call or check your voicemail, you get an email, and you can listen to the message right online. I use it all the time, as l check up on our rental properties, Banks etc. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Magicjack - Canada Inc (attraction)

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