When coming to the UK to study English, it is likely that you will want to buy a SIM card or a UK phone, depending on how long you intend to stay. However, before you make your purchase we would advise following these simple steps to narrow down your options, and make the process easier:
1. Decide whether you want a SIM card or a new handset
A SIM card is the card that connects to your chosen network and is located inside your current phone. You can replace this with a UK network SIM card without having to buy a new handset.
A handset is the name for the phone itself, and can be bought along with a SIM card if you don’t want to use your current phone.
2. Know the UK networks
The main UK networks are O2, EE, Vodafone and Virgin. All have different offers and contracts available throughout the year.
3. Ask about network coverage
Generally, network coverage is quite good for all networks in London, Manchester, York and Edinburgh, and tends to be more temperamental in the countryside; however, some networks are better than others in certain regions, so the shop will be able to tell you if you will get good coverage in your specific area.
4. Know what type of phone contract you want
Are you staying for a week, a month or a year? Depending on the length of your stay, you will be looking for a different type of phone set-up:
Pay as you go: Good for short-term visits, you can buy a SIM card to put in your current phone, and top up the amount as and when you need.
Rolling contract: This means that you pay a certain amount each month, and after 30 days you can cancel the contract. It is a good option if you are staying for a longer period of time but are not sure how long for.
Fixed term contract: This is a contract where you pay a fixed amount every month for 12 or 24 months, and would only be advisable if you know for sure that you are staying for a year or more. If you decide to cancel within the 12 or 24 months, you will have to pay a cancellation fee.
For a rolling or fixed term contract, you will need to provide official proof of address in order to complete your purchase.
5. Be aware of the international rates
If you are going to use your phone to call or text friends and family abroad, it is important to know how much it costs to communicate internationally. Be aware that with some networks, you will be charged for receiving a text or call, as well as for sending them.
Lebara is a good international phone company that offers discounted international rates.
6. Ask about special offers
There are normally special offers available, but you won’t necessarily be told about them, so don’t be afraid to ask! If you are an existing customer, you have more leeway to negotiate on contracts, and this is common practice in the UK.
If you are studying at Hampstead School of English, there is a shop called Carphone Warehouse located only 1 minute away from the school, where you can buy SIM cards or a new handset. Carphone Warehouse is a nationwide company, and you will also be able to find them in Manchester, York and Edinburgh.