Mobile phones and calling home

If you’re coming from outside of the UK, getting a UK mobile phone SIM could save you money.

Primary page content

Mobile phones

If you’re arriving from outside of the European Union (EU), a monthly or pay-as-you-go/pre-pay contract with a UK mobile network will almost always be less expensive than paying international roaming charges from your home country’s networks.

EU roaming charges were abolished in 2017 so if you are coming from an EU country you will be able to use your phone free of charge in the UK. This only applies for short visits to other countries and not for extended stays, which could include your time in the UK as a student. Also, some mobile phone companies are applying ‘fair use’ clauses, limiting the amount of data/minutes that can be used. EU roaming fee rules will apply to the UK until 31 December 2020 – the end of the transition period following the UK’s exit from the EU.

There are several mobile network providers in the UK, including Three, O2, EE, VodafoneTesco Mobile and GiffGaff, who provide similar services in different packages. SIM cards are readily available to buy at major airports, in supermarkets and many local shops.

SIM only 

If you’re happy to keep your current phone then a SIM only deal is usually the cheapest way to go. Your phone may need to be unlocked – check with your current provider.

You can buy a SIM card and a 30-day contract with it, which you can choose to extend or opt-out of. Goldsmiths students we’ve spoken to recommend GiffGaff for this, but all mobile phone providers offer this type of contract.

Two ways to pay for mobile phone service in the UK

Pay monthly

If you think you’ll need an unlimited amount of minutes, texts and a large data allowance this may be the best deal for you.

Paying monthly means taking up a 12-24 month contract, so you should think about if you want to commit to this length of time.

Pay as you go (PAYG)

Pay as you go means buying a handset then topping up with credit as and when you need it.

This means you can track how much you spend; however, if you need to use the internet on your phone it may work out more expensive than pay monthly.

Keeping in touch with home

Being able to contact home whenever you want is important. However, making international calls and sending texts to non-EU countries can be very expensive if you don’t look for a mobile deal that offers them as part of their service.

Companies such as Lebara and Lycamobile specialise in international calling and texting packages. Many UK providers also offer international call packages, which can be added to UK mobile phone contracts.

With free Wi-Fi on campus and in Goldsmiths-managed accommodation, Skype, WhatsApp and other messaging apps offer free or inexpensive alternatives for contacting home from the UK.