we are thinking we really may need a cellphone while traveling in the uk - we may be in remote areas of scotland, or we may get lost, and not be able to find a pay phone. so is it better to just go with the mobile phone that they offer with the car rental, or use our own cellphone? i would think the fees for using our own phone might be exorbitent since it would be like phoning from chicago every time we used it there? is it cheaper just to use the one that you rent with the car, or do they charge high rates per minute for those too? - julie
Hi Julie, if you feel more comfortable having a cell phone it would be better to get one there instead of using your own. You shouldn't worry about getting lost, the locals in the UK are wonderful to help people. If you have a good map and ask for directions/help you will be fine.
Your mobile may not work in the UK, so best to get the one with the rental car. Do be aware that mobile reception in the Highlands/Islands of Scotland can be patchy - Vodafone seems to work the best, but there are dead spots no matter which company.
That said, because mobile coverage isn't ideal, there do tend to be payphones in most of the little towns, though fewer than there used to be. In a pinch or in an emergency, you can probably pop into a shop or post office branch to get help or directions.
If you have a GSM phone (Cingular, T-Mobile to name 2) you can buy a UK "pay as you go" SIM for your phone. You will need to "unlock" your phone, which your provider will do for you.
We did that on our last trip 2 years ago and it worked great, so I've ordered another one for our trip next month. I found the SIM on E-Bay (search UK SIM) for a very resonable price ($14 including shipping). You can register the card and put time on the phone and top it off while you're on the road.
Virgin charges 5p/minute for in country calls and 20p/minute to call the US. So it's very affordable. The best part is you have your phone number before you step on the plane.