How to get a mobile phone number and a SIM card in the UK

There are some things that will make you feel settled in the UK such as getting a local SIM card and organising your UK mobile phone number.

In case you’re a new arrival, you’ll be happy to know that the UK boasts decent 4G coverage and a whole host of mobile phone operators to select from.

However with so much choice, it may be difficult for expats and guests alike to know which mobile operator to decide on. To help ensure you get the fitting SIM card for you, our useful guide to getting a mobile phone within the UK contains the following info:


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The mobile network within the UK

The UK is home to a reasonably decent mobile network that makes use of the GSM mobile network, as opposed to the CDMA network. Which means generally speaking, foreign arrivals to the UK ought to have the ability to connect with native networks with out too much drawback.

Even when you come from a country that makes use of the CDMA network, your smartphone ought to still work within the UK.

In terms of networks, a lot of the nation has 4G or 4G+ connectivity, significantly in towns and cities. Some cities even have 5G connectivity, though that is currently restricted to the largest cities.

In additional rural areas, particularly within the Scottish highlands and islands, central Wales, and more isolated parts of England and Northern Ireland, you could solely have access to 2G or 3G.

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Can I use my mobile phone within the UK?

Most guests and expats arriving in the UK will have the ability to connect to the nation’s mobile networks. The one exception could also be those arriving from a country that makes use of the CDMA network. This contains Japan, parts of the US, and Canada.

Nonetheless, many smartphones will nonetheless join on arrival, though it is best to check the costs beforehand with your operator.

Should your cellphone not be able to connect to the UK network, you should buy a pre-paid mobile on arrival. Basic models are typically fairly cheap and may often be picked up simply at international airports and stations.

Alternatively, you may pick up a world phone in your personal country before traveling

Roaming charges within the EU had been abolished in 2017. Though the UK technically left the EU in January 2020, these expenses will proceed to be waived during the transition period.

Nonetheless, this period is scheduled to finish on the end of 2020, at which point roaming expenses could also be applied to EU visitors within the UK. Check in case your operator before travel to keep away from any unexpected costs.

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Prepaid vs mobile contracts

Expats arriving in the UK have a choice in terms of phones. They’ll choose either a prepaid SIM card or a cell phone contract. In case your phone is unlocked and suitable with the local network, you have the freedom to choose an operator.

Nonetheless, if your previous operator has a presence within the UK, it may be preferable to stick with them.

Nonetheless, some expats prefer to have the safety and savings of a cellular contract. Usually speaking, calls, texts, and data will work out cheaper on a contract when you use your phone a lot. This is usually a good option when you’re planning on staying within the UK for a longer term.

Read also: Tips for Getting Along with British people in UK

Cell phone plans within the UK

A contract will often provide cheaper rates than pre-paid SIM cards and sometimes include cheaper calls, texts, and internet use. These offers can be even better when you go for a mobile package that includes TV, home phone, and internet connection.

These can be found from the UK’s bigger providers, including Sky, BT, and Virgin.

UK mobile contracts are both SIM-only or include a handset and can be found for one, two, and even three years. Month-to-month expenses will rely on usage and contract. These funds are often collected from your checking account month-to-month through direct debit.

You can even buy additional minutes or data should you use up your month-to-month allowance.

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The right way to get a cell phone contract within the UK

Selected the right operator for you? Now all you might want to do is sign up for a UK mobile phone contract. Fortunately, signing up is relatively simple and will be done both online or in-store.

Should you order on-line, your SIM card and/or handset should be delivered to your UK address within a week.

Requirements for signing up differ between operators, however generally speaking, you’ll likely need the following:

  • proof of identity
  • proof of address in the UK (e.g., a utility bill)
  • UK bank account for fee

Bear in mind that some mobile operators could even choose to run a credit check before accepting you for a mobile phone contract. In the event you don’t already have a UK bank account, you may sign up for one in minutes with a mobile banking app such as Starling or Monzo.

If you’re moving to the UK, you’ll find it easier to have a UK bank account.

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Prepaid SIM cards within the UK

Prepaid SIM cards offer you more freedom, however charges tend to be more expensive in the UK than a phone contract. Nonetheless, if you don’t expect to use your mobile phone a lot, then pre-paid SIMs is usually a cheaper and easier choice.

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Getting a SIM card is fast and painless. You can buy one on-line or in a cell phone store. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll want a UK address to obtain the SIM card should you order it on-line.

You can even decide up a prepaid SIM in some supermarkets and most convenience shops.

These shops will usually show the title of a phone operator outside. In these outlets, you’ll have the ability to buy a SIM card and have a working phone connection in minutes.

After you have a prepaid SIM card in your phone, topping up is straightforward. You may both top-up in a mobile phone store or at most convenience shops and supermarkets.

Alternatively, you may top-up on-line or using your phone.

Most SIM cards will include credit already loaded onto it; that is often £10, £25, or more.

Check out the official UK Site here.


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