International Student Support


Keeping in touch

London is one of the most well connected cities in the world and you will find it really easy to stay in touch with your family back home and with your new friends in the UK.

Mobile phones in the UK

Thanks to London’s excellent mobile phone coverage, there are plenty of providers and different packages you can choose from. There are three ways in which you can pay for a mobile phone service in the UK:

Pay monthly
Pay as you go (PAYG)
SIM only

There are currently four major mobile phone providers in the UK: 3, O2, EE and Vodafone. However, some of the smaller providers, such as Tesco Mobile and Giff Gaff are also worth checking out. Each provider has its own range of packages so it is important to shop around when you are deciding on the best option for you.

The first thing you need to consider is whether you actually need a new phone handset. If you don’t, you could make a big saving by opting for a SIM only deal. If you have brought your phone with you, it may be worth continuing to use that phone but with a UK SIM card. You may need to get your phone unlocked as some phones are locked to the network from which the handset is purchased. Speak to your provider about this – some providers may charge a fee to unlock your phone. Alternatively you could buy a new phone handset in the UK.

Before deciding, take a look at an Ofcom approved price comparison site, like MobilePhoneChecker or HandsetExpert – these are easy to use sites where you can compare deals across several networks and compare the different services (pay as you go, pay monthly and SIM only). Take a look – you’ll see you can often get a SIM only deal for half the price of a pay monthly contract!

The Carphone Warehouse is a shop in the UK that caters for all mobile networks so may also be a good starting point for comparing the various options.

When you are researching your mobile options, make sure you take into account whether they offer an international calling plan if you expect to make regular international calls. Many providers will offer this as an extra service on top of a monthly subscription, but some are available to PAYG customers too.

Understanding what is included in your mobile tariff

When you’re looking into phone deals and tariff options, you’ll notice they use a lot of the same terminology. We’ve broken down the most common options below:

Inclusive minutes
Inclusive texts
Data allowance
Other charges
Comparison sites

Don't forget to consider the following:

  • Do you really need a new phone? Does it have to be a smart phone? Could you just go for a SIM only deal and save money?
  • What do you use your phone for more than anything else? Calling friends in the UK? Checking social media? Calling family back at home? Make sure you find the deal that best fits your needs!
  • If you're signing a contract, how long is it for? What is the cancellation policy?
  • Is this really the best deal? Shop around! Don't feel pressured into agreeing to anything until you're sure it is the best option for you

Broadband internet access

In addition to having internet on your mobile phone, you are likely to want to have internet access at home.

Living in UCL managed accommodation?
Staying in private accommodation?

Staying in touch with your friends and family back home

Calling international numbers from the UK can be expensive, especially if you decide to use your mobile. Some alternative ways to stay in touch with your family and friends back home include: 

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
Calling plans from your landline provider
International calling cards
Simply Dial
Mobile plans