Can anyone recommend a reliable, inexpensive company that rents cell phones for use in England and Austria?
You can rent at Vodafone, but you might want to look at Mobal phones, www.mobal.com. They rent phones, but you might find that purchasing might be a better deal for you.
Mobal provides a permanent UK phone number and an international SIM card -- you don't have to change SIM cards for each country -- that works in 140 countries. The cheapest model is $49.
Oh, and there's no "topping up" -- all calls are billed to your credit card so you never run out of minutes.
If you want a phone before getting to Europe, go on ebay and got an UN-LOCKED phone. Its important that its un=locked, and Make sure the phone you get has the correct frequency. Cell phones in Europe work on GSM 900 or 1800. If you get a GSM Trimode phone, you should be ok.
You can get a SIM card online or when you get there. My friend has O2 and i Have Virgin MObile UK. You can top up your card at most convenience store with the "Top up" logo, and some will even let you do it at the ATM.
There's other popular companies like Vodafone. When you get to Austria, I am sure you can find a mobile phone company to get another SIM chip, or, stick with the UK one. IT may cost you a few pennies more to use, but at least you can stick with 1 phone number, and that will be helpful when booking reservations and the clerk asks for a phone number. I keep just my UK one and my family has that number to reach me 24/7.
This is less of an answer but more of a related question. I'll be working/living in Oxoford, Enland for a few months (and taking a few trips to surrounding countries). I wasn't planning on getting a cell. Do you think this is crazy or is it possible to not get one. Are payphones still pretty regular over there?
I agree with Ennis. Payphones are hard to find now everywhere.
My advice is to get a cell phone - Europeans have been far ahead of the US in this regard and even children have had them for years. It is more and more difficult to get public phones although there are some. People communicate constantly via the cell phone in Europe whether it is by talk or text and you will probably be expected to have the same means.