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cell phone plan for Scotland?

I left this much too late, but am going to Glasgow and Edinburgh on aug 15: am a very new cellphone user, have a samsung 7s I'm just learning on with Consumer Cellular.Is there any way I can be in communication in Scotland with airbnbs and taxis for example?
A very non techy octogenarian.
Only asset is, as I was born there, I speak the language!
Thank you.

Posted by
956 posts

Hi, vlfriendly727,

I am a non cell phone user/owner here in the U.S., but I make very frequent trips to Scotland. As a technophobe (some may call me a Luddite), I dislike all of these modern communication devices, which have taken the place of direct communication.

However, I had noticed on my frequent trips to Scotland that phone boxes were getting harder to find. And many that I did find had been either vandalized or used as a toilet (or both). So I bit the bullet about 15 years ago, and purchased an inexpensive cell phone (mobile) for use in Scotland.

On subsequent trips, I simply purchase a "Big Value" bundle from Vodafone (one of the carriers in Britain), which allows me 250 minutes of calling plus unlimited texting for only 10 pounds. The bundle lasts for 30 days, and can be easily renewed if you're in Scotland for a longer period of time. For calling back to the U.S., I purchase a calling card from Tesco (a supermarket chain), which gives me 500 minutes of calling for three pounds.

So for a grand total of 13 pounds, I'm able to call ahead to hotels and B&Bs, call for shop and museum opening times, and keep in touch with the folks back home.

I hope that gives you some ideas, in case your new cell phone won't work in Scotland. You have inspired me! I thought that I'd be no longer traveling to Scotland once I reach my mid 70s, but here you are!

Best wishes for your trip home!

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: If you do decide to purchase a mobile in Scotland, and use it for subsequent trips home, you'll probably want to purchase an additional car charger, so that you can charge your phone prior to leaving the U.S. Fully charging the phone once a year or so isn't a bad idea, either.

Posted by
11288 posts

First, you're not the only one who has difficulty. It's not your imagination, and it's not just about age. It IS a confusing subject, and it changes all the time.

Here's Consumer Cellular's page on international roaming:

Looking at Consumer Cellular's website, it seems their plans and phones now do roam in the UK. Your cost is $0.30 per talk minute, $0.10 per text message, and $0.25 per MB of data usage.

What that means in lay terms is: The occasional call or text is a good deal. A lot of calls or texts will start to add up fast. And using data will break you.

If all you want to do is make a few short calls to taxis or Airbnb's, you're set. You do have to turn on international service, and they recommend that you do this two weeks before travel, so do this today by calling (888) 345-5509.

You can also use your phone on Wi-Fi at no charge, or at only the charge for the Wi-Fi itself (for instance, my Edinburgh Travelodge Hotel is charging £3 per day for Wi-Fi).

If you want to use a phone for anything other than calls, texts, and Wi-Fi, let us know, so we can figure out other options for you.

You can program numbers in your phone now so they will work with your phone when you're in the UK. Program in the number as +44, then the area code (omitting the initial zero), then the number. For instance, my Glasgow hotel's front desk was 0141 357 5155. So, it goes into my phone as +44 141 357 5155 (the phone will put in spaces or dashes automatically). To get the plus sign, just press and hold the zero. Once a number is entered this way, it will dial correctly from wherever you are, so be careful not to dial it from the US, as you'll have to pay Consumer Cellular's international rates.

Posted by
4933 posts

In addition to the excellent advice above, let me suggest installing the WhatsApp app on your phone. This is free calling app - you can make free calls (or send texts) to others who also have WhatsApp installed on their devices. You will want to use it only WiFi though - as Harold says, Consumer Cellular's data rates are very expensive. WhatsApp is very popular in Europe, so many of the AirBnBs you contact may already be on it. Saves you 30 cents a minute in calling costs.

Another handy app to have on your phone is Google Hangouts. This, like WhatsApp, is a calling app, but it lets you call actual phones, even landlines. More importantly, Google Hangouts let you make FREE voice calls to US numbers. So say you need to call your bank or your airline and are on hold for a while - you can call with Hangouts and not worry about the 30 cents/minute it's costing you, because the call is completely free, as long as you are on WiFi! Just install Hangouts (and another called Hangouts Dialer on your Android phone) and play with Hangouts before you leave the US. Make a call to someone. It is a different way to dial than your "regular" phone calls. It's pretty simple once you've made a call once or twice.

In fact, I would probably turn off data for your entire trip (this is a setting in your phone - pretty simple once you find it) and just use the phone on WiFi where it is available. You can still make receive/calls though. But you won't wind up paying the huge cost of mobile data.

You could also look at buying your own SIM card on the UK, but if your Consumer Cellular phone is "locked" (bought it from them?), you won't be able to do it unless you get them to unlock the phone.