One of the biggest questions—aside from where to live, how to open a bank account and how to get a job—is of course what’s the best option for phone plans, sim cards and international calling when moving to London.
Moving to London means your Australian (or home countries) sim is now obsolete and you’re going to need to figure out whether a pre-paid sim card or a phone plan is the best way forward. You’re going to need to factor in costs, data and how you make international calls—because sometimes not everyone has Whatsapp or Viber.
During my European summer holiday before my arriving in London I actually dropped and smashed my phone on a night out in Switzerland. Moving to London not only did I need to figure out phone plan vs pre-paid I also had to get a new phone with no credit history and no job lined up! Here’s my experience in moving to London and sorting a phone plan, sim card and international calling to help you with your move to London.
Enjoy, and don’t forget to leave me a comment about your experience moving to London. R x
Pre-paid (pay as you go) sim cards
When you first move to London or the United Kingdom, you’re going to want to get a sim card sorted ASAP and the best way to do that is a pre-paid (pay as you go) sim card. When I first arrived I went with 3 who at the time had an amazing deal of 30 days of unlimited data for £25.
The plan also came with minutes for calls, but as I wasn’t calling anyone domestically I didn’t pay much attention to how many minutes I received. Besides, unlimited data?! You had me at more than 4GB for an extra $20 every month. Australia! Wake up to yourself and your overpriced data.
The plan has now changed from when I bought it, but unlimited data is still on offer so for me this is the best deal.
The other amazing thing about a 3 sim card is that you can use it abroad for no extra cost and the data works across Europe. The data doesn’t work in every European country, but in a good selection of countries including France, Spain and Italy which is fantastic if you’re travelling.
British phone plans
While the monthly pay as you go sim kept me going for a while, because I had smashed and completely broken my phone while in Europe I needed to get in a plan and get a new phone. So how did I use a pre-paid sim card if I didn’t have a phone I hear you ask? Well sometimes we have all moments of genius and me packing for London was one of these moments.
My Samsung Galaxy was coming up to two years old when it was time to move to London, so know it was already on the fritz I packed an old phone I had purchased when my phone was sent off for an insurance claim. The phone was slow with a yellow tinge to the screen but it got me through those first few months in London.
While I did have a working phone and unlimited data I knew I needed a new phone and so I was on the hunt for the best British phone plan. Searching across 3, Giff Gaff, Virgin Mobile, EE and Orange I settled on EE. They were offering the brand new iPhone 6S in rose gold with unlimited data for £70. While that is quite high for a phone plan, for unlimited data I knew it was a winner. And at the time for the brand new iPhone 6S it was actually on the cheaper side!
Deciding on which provider was actually the hardest part! Getting the phone plan couldn’t have been simpler and here’s how you can do it.
How to get a phone plan in London with no credit history
- The first thing you’re going to need is a bank account. For me my London to do list went: get a job so I can open a bank account so I can get a new phone.
- With a bank account open—to allow for the direct debits—I simply rang EE and answered the sales persons credit check questions.
- Having only living in England for two months there wasn’t much of (any!) credit history for EE so they couldn’t give me the phone. Luckily I’m not the only expat in the country so they have come up with a really good alternative. Simply pay £100 up front at the time of signing the plan. The £100 is then dedicated off your bill each month before the direct debits kick in.
- Having answered all the questions and paid £100 towards future bills, my new iPhone 6s was in the mail and on it’s way to me.
Making international phone calls
For most people, making international phone calls will be done online through Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, Skype, hell these days you can call through Snapchat. While this works in 99.9% of cases, there is that small percentage of people who don’t have a smart phone.
Yes I know it seems crazy for someone to not have a smart phone, I mean do they even still make non-smart phones any more? Well the answer is yes they do! My dad is a prime example.
Before I moved to London I decked him out with a tablet so we could email and he could receive photos, but we kept his trusty old Nokia as his phone in case he had any issues with his smart phone while I was gone.
Dad’s phone plan allows him 60 minutes of international minutes a month, so for him to call me isn’t a problem. But if I want to call him, how do I do it?
Before leaving Australia this one really stressed me out. We’re so dependent now on apps and smart phones it took a bit of work to figure out how to call a non-smart phone internationally.
With my detective skills honed and after a lot of investigation I realised that both Skype and Viber allow you to buy international calling credit. This credit is really similar to buying a sim card with international call minutes, only a lot cheaper.
In the end I went with Viber as at £0.10 / minute to an Australian mobile it was the cheapest option for international call credit. Viber Out as it’s referred to, as regular Viber is free and done over data, offers three credit plans, £0.99, £4.99 and £9.99. In October I purchased £9.99 worth of credit and after eight phone calls I still have £4.
Well that’s my experience moving to London and sorting my phone plans, sim card and international calling minutes. I hope my experience in sorting out my London phone helps you in your expat and traveller journey.