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Cell phones, recommendations

My daughter is studying in London this summer with her university. What is the best way to equip her with a cell phone? Through our US domestic provider or through a foreign provider - phone and SIM card?

Posted by
9363 posts

The best thing for her to do is stop at a Carphone Wrehouse when she gets there and pick up a cheap pay as you go phone.

Posted by
106 posts

There are a couple of options. First, as the prior poster mentions is to get a UK pay as you go phone. This is probably a cheap option and she'll have the advantage of having a UK phone number which makes it easier/cheaper for folks there to call her. Since it's pay as you go, you don't run the risk of accidentally running up a huge bill. You simply stop being able to make calls/use data if you use up your credit for the phone. I've not used a UK pay as you go phone, so I'm not up on all the brands and the pros and cons of different services, but Orange, Vodaphone, O2, and T-Mobile are some options in the UK.

Alternatively, U.S. T-Mobile now offers no data roaming or international texting charges and phone calls are only $.20/minute. So, if you're already with T-Mobile, that might be an ok option, assuming she uses skype/facetime/etc and not the cell phone to make long calls home, since it sounds like she'll just be there for the summer. Most other U.S. carriers' roaming charges would probably be more than you'd want to pay for 2-3 months of usage. If you have Sprint or Verizon, you'd have to investigate whether her phone would work in the UK. Sprint and Verizon use a network technology that's not available in Europe, but some models of phones they sell can work on GSM technology used in Europe. You'd just need to investigate the specifics of her phone.

Posted by
783 posts

Do you expect that she will need to make a lot of calls/texts to other people that live in London? if that is the case, it is probably best for her to get a cell once over there. Do you want a way for her to communicate with you while she is abroad? if this is your main concern, I would consider keeping her US phone with her US plan and do the following
- take advantage of the abundant free wifi and communicate with things like FaceTime/Skype or instant messaging/email. There are also some apps where you can text using wifi.
-text message home or other people in London with restraint. For ATT (my carrier) it is 25-50cents to text and receive texts from US numbers. It is 50cents-1 dollar for international.
-make a phone call only in emergency and keep it short.

If a smart phone, make sure data roaming and automatic updates are turned off.
Using this method, my bills are about 5-10 dollars more per week of international travel. For me, this is always cheaper than what I would have to pay for an extra international plan. That might not be the case for your daughter since she will be there for awhile. But you can do the math.

Posted by
2 posts

I studied abroad last summer in London. I brought my regular cell phone and used an app called Viber to call and text home while on wifi. There is wifi just about everywhere so it was extremely convenient for me and I was able to FaceTime with my mom as often as she liked (which was every day...surprise). I also brought an older iPhone and swapped out the SIM card over there. It was just about £20, and I used it mostly for navigation when I was out and about by myself. Hope that helps!

Posted by
742 posts

A local SIM will get you a much better deal.
The PAYG phones they almost give away,orange has them for £2.99,plus £10 credit.
PAYG tarrifs are expensive though 20p a min,an overseas will be likely worse than a US carriers plan, they soon get thier money back
An unlocked phone,£15,lets you pick a 1month package an is easily the cheapest route.
Lebara and giffgaff have great deals on data and call packages,calls to US 5c a min.
$15 gives about 500mins UK calls ,unlimited UK txt,and 1GB of data.
Users on same network also get free calls to each other
But all all the main carriers in earlier posts do monthly deals,I assume your daughter is over for more than a week or two?

Posted by
3 posts

I did extensive research about phones, service providers and SIM-Cards before traveling through Europe. There are a lot of companies out there and a lot of decent apps, but I found that offers the best deals in regards to roaming charges and extensive coverage. The simple pay-as-you-go plan allows me to use data and minutes as I need them, instead of being stuck with an expensive contract or bundle that I don’t use. The service is cheap compared to home carriers with your global SIM-Card and really flexible. I definitely recommend to anyone traveling abroad.