We're deciding last-minute what type of international plan to get for our iPhone. Living in a rural area, we know that cell service can be spotty. We'll be on Skye plus Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides, how consistent is the cell service in those areas?
I can't say for the Outer Hebrides, but here on Skye the best signal is with ee. Vodafone is particularly bad. I think there is an ee mast on Lewis too, so ee would probably be OK over there. However, coverage is not 100% and there are places on Skye with no reliable signal. Edited to add - many cafes and pretty much all B&Bs have free wifi, so that might actually be the best way to stay in touch, do emails, and make restaurant reservations etc.
I don't mean to get all Luddite on you, but why would you be worrying about cell phone service on Skye and the Outer Hebrides? I mean, here you are going to be in some of the most beautiful and spectacular places on Earth, and you're going to be talking on a cell phone? Go there, relax, enjoy the beauty, and escape being on the (inter)national grid for a few days.
Take time to smell the roses (or gorse).
We had our USA cell phone enabled for the UK, and I don't remember having trouble on Skye, but we might not have made any calls that day (cf. comment from Mike - Auchterless).
I do remember on another trip, when we had a UK SIM card from CarPhone Warehouse, we absolutely could not make a call to Inveraray from anyplace until we got there and were standing half a block from our hotel. So I do understand your concern -- if you've got a reservation on Skye or Lewis & Harris, you might be wanting to call and confirm it.
We have T-Mobile in the US and our plan has free international texting and data with calls at $.25 per minute. I can’t speak to making phone calls but we found we could text on quite a bit of Skye. We just returned from three weeks in Shetland and we noticed much better service than when we were there last year. Hopefully that will be the case for you as well.
We have been pleasantly surprised with the service available throughout much of Scotland. Ironically, the worst area we’ve found in the UK is London. Several trips there and always have a devil of a time finding a good signal.
For my 10 days on the Outer Hebrides, EE was very good for both telephone and data. Not always 4G LTE, but I never had a problem. Of course when I was hiking, I wasn’t checking the coverage, but EE does have arguably the best network. Be sure your phones are unlocked. The coverage checker is below so you can see the coverage.
EE pay as you go SIMs: https://shop.ee.co.uk/sim-only/pay-as-you-go-phones
EE coverage checker map: https://ee.co.uk/why-ee/mobile-coverage
The £10-15 SIMs should have enough data for you, without horrifying our dear Mike too much. 🙂
If your lodging has WIFI you won’t need a huge amount anyway. EE also supports tethering. The Outer Hebrides are amazing, I hope you have ample time to see them all. Each island discloses its own beauty.