Choosing a mobile phone carrier after moving to London deserves as much forethought and planning as any other aspect of your move: You don’t want to get stuck with a two-year plan that doesn’t suit you, or a service provider with shoddy coverage in your neighborhood. So how do you choose, especially when you’re planning everything from thousands of miles away?
International Roaming: Do. Not. Use. Really, I can’t stress this enough, mostly because I’ve been hit with massive data charges when travelling abroad and that was just keeping the apps on my phone running; not using them. (Smart phones are downright sneaky sometimes!)
You need to get connected to a UK mobile phone carrier as soon as you step off the plane. I do quite a bit of travel and I have a little pouch with SIM cards for different countries. As soon as I’m on the plane I switch out the country of origin SIM and insert the destination country SIM into my phone: I’m connected as we’re landing – it’s so much easier than paying a phone bill of $3000!
Just take a look at some of the great expat forums on the Internet and you’ll notice that a common complaint is “being refused for a cell phone because you don’t have proof of residency”. Its very prevelant in the UK – where some mobile phone companies require you to have been in the country for 3 years and have a solid credit rating before they’ll approve a phone contract.
Rates, special offers and packages vary all the time at different mobile phone companies: This is our list of the best ones, but here’s a neat tip for you: Go to a phone store at Heathrow when you arrive. You may be jet lagged and looking for the closest bed to get some shuteye, but the airport stores are geared up for visitors from around the world. They’ll answer your questions, get you set up with a SIM and make sure you’re connected before you leave the airport.
Virgin Mobile: International company and super helpful customer service.
T-Mobile: Also by EE – they have exceptional offers on broadband packages.
Talk Talk: Great prices on phones! I consider this more of a ‘local’ site.
Vodafone: Giant of mobile phone carriers – this makes it more difficult to get great service in my opinion. The website is tricky to use and the sign up process is lengthy. However, they have great coverage in central London.
Unless you have a new home address, bank account and some accounts or bills to prove that you’re now living in the UK, you won’t be able to get a contract phone and honestly, why would want to? Until you have time to assess phone carriers and possibly get a data/internet/TV bundled package, you don’t want to tie yourself down to a company for any length of time.
Pay As You Go rates ARE slightly more expensive, but the mobile phone market in the UK is extremely competitive (some SIM Cards are actually free at some stores!) so you’ll be able to pick up a good deal, without making a lengthy commitment and have a UK mobile number that you can use as a contact when applying for many different things after your arrival.
Now, strictly speaking, you’re not coming to the UK as a tourist, though if it’s your first time in London or you are bringing your family with you, you should take a look at this website immediately. The Visit Britain Shop is the official shop of the British Tourist Authority and they have 3 great packages that they’ll deliver to you via DHL (for a fee) before you arrive. They have some great travel essentials available and have stores around the world.
On the mobile connection front, they offer 3 packages:
It’s worth the investment and being able to have a mobile number in the UK active and available before you arrive.
Just one more “To Do” to check off your list when you’re moving to London.
Keep connected – Belinda