Making phone calls in the United Kingdom
Updated last year

The United Kingdom has a very competitive market, and this extends to telephone network operators. They offer several types of telephone services tailored to meet your needs. To get the best deal regularly, you may need to review all available offer and shop around.  

Mobile phones in the UK

The use of mobile phones is more widespread than landlines or payphones in the United Kingdom. This can be attributed to competitive rates offered along with hassle-free subscriptions. There are several mobile network operators in the UK, offering a wide range of competitive services at lucrative prices, so make sure to research well and compare prices and offers before subscribing.

Buying a pay-as-you-go SIM is the easiest way to get a UK mobile number as an expat. This is one of the first things expats usually do on reaching the UK. In fact, you won't need proof of address or a UK bank account.

In the past few years, offers for UK Sim cards have significantly improved. You can, therefore, make a lot of calls, send messages, and access the internet at affordable rates. You can buy a SIM card from any phone shop, or online. Payment can be made in cash or with an international bank card.

If you want to sign up for a phone contract, on the other hand, you will need a valid address in the UK, a bank account, and proof that you have lived for at least three years in the country. Subscription can be done either online or at a phone shop. Many citizens in the UK sign a contract with a phone and eventually pay off the phone as part of a monthly payment plan.


Make sure you read the entire contract and understand the conditions and duration. In some cases, it may be valid for up t 24 months.

If you already have a phone and you are coming from an EU country, a UK sim is expected to work normally. Otherwise, you will have to unlock your phone before travelling. Your current phone company can help with the process. If you cannot unlock it, consider buying another. Phone prices in the UK range from £20 to £300.

Useful links:

Price comparison website
List of UK phone providers

How to obtain a landline in the UK

Expatriates usually find it more complicated to get a landline in the UK. In general, your residence permit will be requested. Most buildings in the UK are already equipped with a landline. If it's not the case, you can contact British Telecom (BT) to help you install a line in your new home for a fee.

Your phone company can check if whether your accommodation already has a landline, and if not they can send a BT agent to help install one. If you get a better deal, you don't necessarily have to choose BT as your service provider.

Good to know:

Usually, phone companies will always try to convince you to sign up for the complete package including landline, cable TV, Wi-Fi, mobile contract, and international calls. Hence you need to choose the package that suits you best.

Useful links:

BT - leading landline service provider
Money Saving Expert - Price comparison and expert advice
Compare the market - Price comparison

Payphones in the UK

You can find famous public payphones in almost every street in the UK, especially in big cities. All you need is a prepaid card which can be purchased from most shops and online. Although rare, you can also find coin phones in some areas.

Making phone calls in the UK

To call overseas from the UK, you have to dial '00' followed by your country code and the full mobile number without the original '0' to make a call abroad.

You can activate international roaming on your mobile phone if you will be spending a few days in the UK. You should check however check the call rates.

Otherwise, applications like Whatsapp or Viber are excellent options to make international calls for free. There are several free public and private Wi-Fi spots like libraries, cafes, coworking spaces and parks where you can go in the first few days to contact your friends and family.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.