Find out how to use your cellphone if you’re visiting or moving to the UK (the United Kingdom).

Whether you’re visiting the UK on a short-term trip, or moving there longer-term for study or for work, it’s easy to use your cell phone on the mobile networks in the United Kingdom.

In this article, we’ll discuss cell phone compatibility with UK cellular mobile networks. We’ll then compare the two different ways of using your cell phone in the UK: either using your normal domestic SIM card and international roaming, or using a local SIM card that’s been purchased in the UK. Finally, we’ll compare the best value prepaid SIM cards that are available for tourists, visitors and new residents to the UK.

Cell Phone & Network Compatibility

Network Frequencies & Bands

  • EE
  • O2
  • Three
  • Vodafone

In the UK, there are four companies providing cellular mobile coverage: EE, O2, Three & Vodafone. Each of them offers about 99% population coverage across the UK using 2G (GSM), 3G (WCDMA & HSPA) and 4G (LTE) technology. In addition, 5G coverage (NR) is now available in a number of major UK towns and cities.

The four cellular coverage providers utilise the following bands and frequencies in the UK:

Coverage Provider 5G Bands 4G Bands 3G Frequencies 2G Frequencies
EE 5G NR Band n78 LTE bands 3, 7, 20, 1, 38 2100MHz 1800MHz
O2 5G NR Band n78 LTE bands 20, 1, 3, 8, 40 2100MHz, 900MHz 900MHz
Three 5G NR Band n78 LTE bands 3, 20, 1, 32 2100MHz
Vodafone 5G NR Band n78 LTE bands 7, 20, 1, 3, 8, 32, 38 2100MHz, 900MHz 900MHz

The most important “core bands” are shown in bold, whereas “additional bands and frequencies” are shown in italics. For your cellphone to work on UK networks, we’d recommend that it supports at least the core bands and frequencies for the type of coverage you’d like to use.

In addition to the four cellular coverage providers, there are a number of mobile virtual network operators (or MVNOs). These MVNOs “piggyback” on signal from one of four cellular coverage providers. Major examples include giffgaff (which uses coverage from O2) and VOXI (which uses coverage from Vodafone). On MVNOs, you’ll get the same coverage as on the underlying provider, but often at a lower price or with additional features.

If you’re not sure about the bands and frequencies supported on your cellphone, you should consult your handset manufacturer’s documentation or product specifications.

Roaming VS Using A UK SIM Card

There are two ways to use your cellphone in the UK: either roaming on your normal domestic SIM card or using a locally-obtained SIM card from one of the UK networks.

If you’re only visiting the UK for a short amount of time, roaming on your normal SIM card can often be the simplest solution. In advance of your travel to the UK, you should check with your cellular provider on the costs of using your phone in the UK. You should also ensure that international roaming is enabled on your account.

If you’re planning to stay in the UK for a little bit longer, or if you’re likely to use your phone fairly regularly whilst you’re there, it might be worthwhile getting a local UK SIM card. This will probably be more convenient and is usually cheaper than roaming on your normal domestic SIM card. In the UK, prices start from about £10 for one month’s usage on a local SIM card. This will also cover your cellphone usage in other European countries. You’ll get a UK-based phone number on your UK SIM card (starting with +44).

Getting a UK SIM Card

In the UK, it’s a straightforward process getting a prepaid SIM card. There’s no need for you to be a UK resident, and you won’t need to provide any identification documents. You do, however, need to ensure your cellphone is unlocked from your carrier before your arrival in the UK.

Where possible, we’d strongly recommend ordering your UK SIM card in advance. This will give you a wider choice of options and you’ll normally also save money by ordering the SIM card in advance. It also means there’ll be one less thing to do upon your arrival in the UK as you’ll have a SIM card that’s already charged and ready-to-use.

At present, giffgaff is our recommended SIM card for anyone who is visiting or moving to the UK. Unlike most other networks, they offer international delivery for free on all of their SIM cards. On giffgaff, it’s also possible to top-up your SIM card using a credit card or debit card that’s registered outside the UK. This differs from many other networks, which require you to use a UK-based bank card when topping up.

giffgaff

  • Free international delivery & top-up using international credit/debit cards.
  • £10 top-up buys: Unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 6GB data.
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

giffgaff is our recommended prepaid network for anyone who is visiting or moving to the UK.

As one of the UK’s most popular cellular network brands, giffgaff is unique in offering free international SIM card delivery. This means you can have a SIM card packed and ready to go before you even leave for the airport. giffgaff will also allow you to top-up online using an international credit card or debit card (whereas most other networks will only accept payment cards from the UK).

On giffgaff, a £10 top-up will give you 6GB of data along with unlimited UK minutes and unlimited UK texts. You’ll be able to use the SIM card in Europe at no extra cost, with international phone calls (from the UK to other countries) being available at a small additional cost. You can tether or use personal hotspot to share your data allowance with other devices.

For customers wanting a larger allowance of data, giffgaff offers 10GB of data for £12, 15GB of data for £15 or 40GB of data for £20. For £25, you can get Always-On data for one month (unlimited downloads with the first 40GB per month at full 4G download speeds).

Order giffgaff SIM card (Free) →

giffgaff uses O2 as their cellular network coverage provider. This means you can use a giffgaff SIM card in any handset supporting GSM 900, WCDMA 2100 or LTE band 20.

If you’re not able to order a SIM card from giffgaff in advance, it’s also possible to get a SIM card in person after your arrival in the UK.

If possible, it’s best to avoid getting your SIM card at the airport (e.g. at Heathrow or Gatwick). This is because SIM cards at the airport are normally grossly overpriced. Instead, wait until you arrive in the city and make a visit to the nearest cell phone store, grocery store or gas station (also known as a mobile phone shop, supermarket or petrol station in the local lingo). You should expect to pay a couple of pounds to get your SIM card in-person, and then £10 or £15 for your initial top-up or charge. Our full guide to prepaid SIM cards in the UK will give you a full overview of all the available options.

As a word of warning, it’s worth noting that most UK networks will not allow you to top-up online or by phone when using a payment card that’s registered outside the UK. Therefore, unless you’re on giffgaff or on another network that supports international top-ups, the only way for you to recharge your account will be making an in-person visit to locations showing the green “top-up” logo.

At the end of your trip to the UK, it’s worth holding on to your SIM card. Typically, your prepaid SIM card will remain active for another 6 months after the last chargeable usage on your SIM card. Therefore, if you’re planning to visit the UK again on a future trip (as we hope you will), it might be possible to re-use your SIM card.

Note on Pay Monthly deals: If you’re moving to the UK on a longer-term basis, you may be tempted to get a Pay Monthly SIM card on contract. Before you can do this, you’ll need to be a UK resident and you’ll need to be able to pass a UK credit check. You’ll also need a UK bank account from which your monthly Direct Debit payments can be taken. For this reason, unless you’ve already lived in the UK for a significant amount of time, we’d always recommend getting a prepaid deal such as giffgaff which doesn’t require you to pass a UK credit check.

Using Your Phone In Europe

If you’re combining a trip to the UK with a trip to mainland Europe, you can continue using your prepaid SIM card whilst you’re there at no extra cost. This is because the EU’s Roam Like At Home policy allows you to use your UK allowances at no extra charge.

Your prepaid UK SIM card can be used at no additional cost in the following European countries:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy (includes Sardinia and Sicily), Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal (includes Azores and Madeira), the Republic of Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (includes Canary Islands and Balearic Islands) and Sweden

Likewise, if you have a SIM card from another European country, you can use it in the UK at no additional charge.

If you’re travelling to Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Monaco or Switzerland, you should check whether your usage there will be covered by European roaming.

Some UK networks go beyond inclusive roaming in Europe. For instance, a prepaid SIM card from Three can be used at no extra cost in 71 destinations. This includes the USA, Australia, Brazil, Singapore and more.

Other Useful Information

Terminology

In the UK, cellphones are known as ‘mobile phones’.

In the UK and Europe, the cellular industry tends to use different terminology to North American countries. Namely:

  • Cellphones are normally referred to as mobile phones in day-to-day usage.
  • Carriers or cellular networks are more commonly referred to as mobile networks.
  • Prepaid SIM cards are normally advertised as Pay As You Go SIM cards.
  • Instead of re-filling or re-charging your prepaid plan, people normally talk about topping up their Pay As You Go account.

When shopping or comparing price plans, it’s also worth knowing that taxes are already included in the price. In the UK, this primarily refers to value added tax (VAT), which is similar to sales tax in other countries.

International Dialling

If you’re using a UK SIM card, you’ll be assigned a new UK-based phone number on the SIM card. The phone number will be 11-digits long and will always start with 07 (e.g. 07123 456 789).

If your friends or family members would like to call you from outside the UK, you’ll need to replace the zero at the start of your phone number with +44. This will give you your international phone number (so, for instance, 07123 456 789 becomes +44 7123 456 789).

Similarly, if you’re calling abroad from a UK SIM card, you’ll need to add the relevant international calling prefix before dialling out to that number.

Useful Resources

In the UK, the emergency services phone number is 999. This is a single phone number for all emergency services including the police, ambulance and fire services. The pan-European emergency phone number (112) will also work when you’re in the UK.

If you’re making phone calls on a UK SIM card, your inclusive allowance of minutes will normally allow you to call other UK landline and mobile numbers (most phone numbers beginning with 01, 02, 03 and 07). If you’re calling a different phone number that isn’t included in this range, find out how much the phone call will cost.

If you’re looking to get connected to the internet without using a cellular data connection, many locations now offer a free wi-fi connection (including many coffee shops, grocery stores, train stations and more). The main providers of public wi-fi in the UK are BT Wi-Fi, O2 Wi-Fi and Sky Wi-Fi (The Cloud).

For getting around, it’s worth using the Transport for London (TfL) and National Rail Enquiries websites. They’re both invaluable for providing you with information on how to get around the UK (TfL covers public transport services in London whereas National Rail Enquiries covers rail travel across the rest of the UK). You can also use Google Maps for transit directions, as well as CityMapper in major urban areas.

We hope you have a fantastic time in the UK and a very enjoyable trip!

Your Comments 332 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 332 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Hey Ken, another great post. I did a lot of research myself on this subject, as I live in Canada but visit Scotland often. I came to the conclusion that giffgaff was the best option so ordered a SIM card. It arrived promptly and the process of paying for and its subsequent use in Scotland this past September went very well, so I would also recommend this route if you are going to the UK and want to be mobile-ready as soon as you land. As you have indicated Ken, this may be the only provider which will allow this immediacy unless you roam with your current plan.

    I’m planning on maintaining my account to use the SIM again in Scotland next September, which apparently means I’ll have to use it once every six months. Their “Goody Bags” don’t support international calling so I just loaded the account with credit in order to be able to do this from here in Canada. It’s a little more expensive per use with this method, but if you moderate your phone use (especially, I suspect, your data) it can still be economical. Guess I’ll have to wait until next year to see if my long term plan works out as well as it sounds!

  • I’m coming from USA to the UK for a couple of weeks, i found that Smarty would be the cheapest option for calling and texting back to the USA (they are cheaper than Giffgaff).

  • Trying to order sim from giffgaff in the US for the UK when I arrive but says it needs a UK address? Thought it was international delivery.

    • Hi Eva,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a glitch on the giffgaff website which means you’ll sometimes need to open a new tab, visit giffgaff.com by typing it in the address bar and then ordering your SIM card from there. When you do that, it should accept your US address.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

        • Hi Norazi,
          Thanks for your comment. I think the giffgaff website is still a little bit glitchy. If you type giffgaff.com in your web browser and order the SIM card from there, it should hopefully allow you to enter an international address?
          Ken

  • I will be traveling to UK for 9 days and would need to order 10 GBP data card for use on IPhone 8.
    Will your sim work on LTE ?.
    Will that be shipped to Saudi Arabia without any problem and in how many days usually ? Can we track the shipment ?

    • Hi Saj,
      Thanks for your comment. Assuming you’re asking about a SIM card from giffgaff, this will work on 4G LTE mobile networks in the UK. I believe they do ship out to Saudi Arabia, but I’m not sure any tracking is offered on the delivery.
      Ken

  • Michael Than said:

    I live in Canada and travel to the UK for 3-4 weeks every year. The giffgaff pre-paid card looks ideal for my needs. Is there any way I can retain the sim card and the phone number and re-activate the following year? Thanks.

    • Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it should be possible for you to do this. However, you just need to make sure you comply with giffgaff’s inactivity policy which means using your SIM card for a chargeable activity at least once every 6 months. This could simply be sending a text message or something.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

    • Hi Briscoe,
      Thanks for your comment. There’s a bit of a glitch with the giffgaff website sometimes. If you go directly to their homepage at giffgaff.com, you should be able to order a SIM card there with a US address.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • We are a Canadian couple, retired, just returned from Australia, considering the month of October in England, Scotland & Ireland.

    Lets assume we go with GiffGaff for our trip. We have two SIM cards sent to us before we leave. Some questions that are hard to find on your URL:

    1. Does a 15-pound 8-GB package include international texts and if so, does this include both SMS and MMS? If it does not include MMS then I assume there must be a surcharge for MMS? If so how much and how does one go about paying the surcharge?

    2. If the package is prepaid, does this include a limited number of international calls to Canada. If not then we have to assume that a deposit of some sort has to made in advance to cover the costs of a call to Canada? If so how does one go about this?

    3. I noted that there are various prices for calling various countries. How do you assure that you get the cheapest price?

    • Hi Jack,
      Thanks for your comment. October in the UK is lovely, and definitely a great idea in my opinion! 😉
      1. Unfortunately, the bundle doesn’t include international text messages. The inclusive allowance can only be used for calling and texting UK-based numbers beginning with +44 (except from when you’re travelling in the EU, in which case you can call or text any European number). If you’d like to call or text a non-UK phone number, the charges can be found on this page (e.g. it would be 2p/minute and 8p/text to a Canadian phone number). Note that you can side-step these charges by using a voice-over-IP solution such as WhatsApp for calling and texting.
      2. The charges for international calling and texting will need to be paid from your Pay As You Go credit. To give an example, you might top-up your SIM card with £20 of credit. You could then convert £15 to buy a one-month goodybag that gives you 8GB of data. That would leave you with £5 of credit to pay for any non-inclusive services (e.g. international calling).
      3. On giffgaff, there’s no need to do anything to get the lowest prices for international calling. Just make the phone call as normal as you’ll get the lowest available rates that are listed on their site.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Eve Martin said:

    I shall be buying a tourist 30 day EE sim card for my iPhone when I arrive at Manchester Airport in June. Will I be able to have full internet access for emails, Google, etc., as well as calls and messages?

    Regards,
    Eve

    • Hi Robert,
      It’s really up to you! If you’re ordering a SIM card from giffgaff, it’s absolutely fine to do this several months before you travel (you would just activate it upon your arrival in the UK).
      Ken

      • robert sinclair replied:

        My credit card company wants my phone number to contact me if they have concerns when I’m in the UK. My giffgaff card says to activate when landing in the UK. Any repercussions if I try to activate here in the US? I travel August 6th.

        • Hi Robert,
          Thanks for your comment. You can certainly give it a go to see whether the SIM card will successfully activate in the US. However, if you do this, make sure to add your top-up as Pay As You Go credit (you can later convert this into a goodybag bundle). You wouldn’t want to start your goodybag bundle immediately, as you’d then be paying for a month of service that you can’t actually use!
          If you’re unable to activate the SIM card in the US (which is possible as you won’t actually be to connected to giffgaff’s network), would it be possible to provide your US phone number temporarily and then to perhaps update the card company once you’ve arrived in the UK?
          Ken

    • Hi Gillian,
      There is a bug on giffgaff’s website which means you can’t always enter a US address. The best workaround is to visit giffgaff.com in your web browser and to order a SIM card from there which should hopefully work.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    Thank you for your very useful information. Your response to those questions are also helpful. You answered my questions which were posted by others.

  • Leanna Wolfe said:

    I fly into London Gatwick. What’s the best place to pick up a giffgaff sim card and purchase the 10 pound sterling package?

    • Hi Leanna,
      Thanks for your comment. In my opinion, you’re probably best off ordering a SIM card in advance from their website – the SIM card will be sent out to you free of charge wherever you’re based! If you’d like to pick up a SIM card in person, this should also be possible. There are some fairly expensive vending machines at the airport (I’d try and stay away from them if possible), or you can find one in your nearest supermarket or mobile phone store (albeit, there is likely to be a small charge for the SIM card here).
      Ken

      • Leanna Wolfe replied:

        I did find a way to order the SIM card in advance. Being that I will be staying with locals via Airbnb, it’s important to me to have a local number so they don’t incur charges returning my calls and texts.

  • Rene Staubmacher said:

    Hi Ken

    I come to London for two days in March and then for 10 days in April, I want Sim without unlimited talk time and Internet without a contract, what is the most worthwhile?

    • Hi Rene,
      I’d probably recommend having a look at the SIM card from giffgaff. You’ll get unlimited minutes without the need for a contract, as well as an allowance of data (e.g. 3GB for £10).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • I’m visiting the UK and I’m trying to find a SIM/plan that allows international texting.. EE have an international pack that offers international minutes.. it says 500 texts, but doesn’t say about international texts? Now Lebara has unlimited calling both national and international calls, but only has UK texting.. we are offered unlimited worldwide texts in Canada.. but how do you go about it here?

    • Hi Dani,
      Unfortunately, I’m not currently aware of any UK mobile network that offers a plan with international texting (SMS). Are there any reasons you wouldn’t be able to use a messaging application like WhatsApp? This would allow you to send messages to people in any country at no charge regardless of which mobile network you choose.
      Ken

      • Dani Porten replied:

        Hey,

        Thanks for the reply.

        I can use what’s app, just not everyone else uses it or they use something else, such as snap chat, or fb messenger, I just like to have everything in one place, OCD lol. I’ll manage, thanks again.

  • Hi Ken,
    We aim to be in London arriving by fast train from Paris early August. If I get giffgaff to send me a SIM card can I load ten quid package on it without activating it but need it to “live” as soon as we arrive at fast train terminal so we can ring relatives to let them know we have arrived and still have 4 weeks phone service available. It is too dear to use call roaming with our Australian telcos. Will have a dedicated phone (Nokia) with all necessary UK numbers installed. Would appreciate your input.
    Cheers..Geoff Brown

    • Hi Geoff,
      Thanks for your comment. The best thing to do would probably be to activate your giffgaff SIM card with £10 of credit (as opposed to buying a £10 goodybag straight away). You can then purchase a goodybag from your credit at any time using the ‘my giffgaff’ website or application. For instance, you could use the application to purchase your goodybag from credit in the morning over hotel/Eurostar wi-fi just before you arrive in London.
      Hope this helps and have a fantastic trip!
      Ken

      • Geoff Brown replied:

        Cheers Ken… That has made the issue a little clearer. Just a little more research then order free SIM card
        Thanks for prompt reply
        Geoff

  • Hi Ken – great site! I have a couple of questions which I hope you are able to advise on:

    My situation is that I visit the UK from the USA usually a couple of times a year, typically for 5-week periods. I recently purchased a dual-SIM phone (OnePlus 6) so that I could keep using my US SIM (with wi-fi calling to keep the roaming charges down to near-zero) and then purchase a UK PAYG sim to make calls to my local UK and European friends and contacts.

    1. When selecting a mobile service provider, do you know if the MVNOs support wi-fi calling (so that I can keep using my UK PAYG sim back in the USA should I receive a call from a UK/Europe contact without incurring roaming charges in the USA on the UK number), or do I need to stick to one of the ‘big four’ providers? I couldn’t find any info on this on the GiffGaff or other MVNO sites that I checked.

    2. If I am in the UK for 5 weeks, when I arrive and purchase a 1-month bucket (e.g. unlimited calls and texts, plus 5Gb data), after the end of the month, for the remaining week are there any good choices e.g. a cheaper 1-week or daily buckets, rather than having to purchase a second full month, or having to revert to the more expensive per-minute and per-megabyte rates?

    Ideally, I’d prefer an option where my unused minutes and data roll over into the second month and can be used in some way without purchasing another month, or a way to defer it to my next trip 4-5 months later.

    What are my best options to get as close as possible to this? I’d appreciate your thoughts on these points.

    • Hi Gary,
      Thanks for your comment. In response to your questions:
      1. Wi-Fi Calling is available on a few UK mobile networks but I believe it is only Three that supports it on Pay As You Go (you’ll probably need to use the inTouch application). Unfortunately, most UK networks also restrict the use of Wi-Fi Calling so it only works in the UK, so you can’t use this as a way to get around roaming charges. As an alternative, have you considered a VoIP-based application that can give you a UK-based phone number (e.g. SkypeIn)?
      2. That’s a very good question! Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any good solutions for getting exactly 5 weeks of usage, except the two options you mentioned. How many days will you be in the UK, past the cut-off for your bundle? If it’s a full week, you can probably buy a bundle in the second month with significantly less data (e.g. 1GB rather than 5GB, as it only needs to last you one week). Alternatively, if it’s just two or three days, get the Vodafone Pay As You Go 1 SIM card where you pay £1/day for unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and up to 500MB of data per day. It should tide you over for the days that remain (and any credit that you don’t use can be kept for a subsequent trip). O2 and Three would also allow you to use data at 1p/MB on Pay As You Go.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Hi Ken, thanks for the detailed reply.

        It’s a shame that they restrict wi-fi calling. Amazingly, that’s one thing that the US providers don’t seem to do (although I don’t want them to read this and get any bad ideas) and I can use wi-fi calling anywhere as if I were in the USA.

        I was going to be in the UK for 5 days past the 1-month period but circumstances being what they are, I’ll now be there for exactly one month so that issue has gone away.

        I recently found out that I will be returning in June for another month, in which csae, the Smarty deal which you posted about at Xmas seems like a very good option for me with 3 months for the price of one, but only *if* I can put it on hold at the end of February. On the Smarty site it says that you can pause the plan from month-to-month, and if that includes the free period (i.e. pause at end of Feb, restart with the second discounted month at the start of June), then it’s a great deal.

        Can your superior knowledge of how these providers work to decipher whether that’s the case. Unless it’s definitely not, I’m happy to risk £10 or £15 to be the guinea pig…

        • Hi Gary,
          Thanks for your comment. That’s a really good question, and unfortunately, I don’t know whether SMARTY will allow you to do this. My assumption is they probably wouldn’t allow you to keep your “2 free months” after a pause of a couple of months, but I might be wrong as I haven’t been able to test it. If you’d like a definitive answer, it might be worth asking Smarty customer support via their website.
          One word of note: SMARTY does a check of your billing details when you sign up for a plan. Last time I checked, they do require you to have a UK-based credit card or debit card, so it may not actually be possible for you to sign up for their plan. I typically recommend giffgaff for visitors to the UK, as they’ll definitely allow you to top-up with a non-UK based card.
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

          • Thanks for the follow-up Ken. I do have the use of a UK credit card so that’s not a problem. I will contact their customer support about the account pause functionality. Thanks again!

  • Hi Ken, my daughter is studying in England for the next 8 months. She has already gotten her international sim card. My question is, do we suspend her US number on our verizon account (to save on our monthly bill)since she will technically not be using it, or will this make her phone unusable?

    Thank you

    • Hi Cynthia,
      Thanks for your comment. That’s a very good question and unfortunately, I don’t know the answer. If you suspend the account, it’s possible you’ll lose the phone number. Typically, the actual handset doesn’t stop working if it’s a GSM device (as the handset is separate entity from the SIM card), but I don’t know whether this is also the case for the CDMA handsets that Verizon sells in the US.
      Your best bet would probably be to contact Verizon Customer Services and to see what options are available to you if you’d like to reduce the monthly bill (e.g. moving to pre-paid or moving to a plan with less data).
      Ken

  • Hello.
    We are visiting London for a week. Would like to stay connected to the internet. Can I order 4 for all members of my family? And what is the best plan for about 10 days. Thanks

    • Hi Clem,
      There’s no limit on how many SIM cards you can have, but some mobile networks may have a limit on how many they’ll happily send out to you (as it’s rare that people activate so many SIM cards at one time, and they might suspect someone spamming them and trying to waste postage fees). There’s definitely no harm in trying, however, and if they don’t arrive then you can always pick up a SIM card in person when you arrive (albeit with a small additional cost).
      With regards to the best plan for 10 days usage, I would probably continue to recommend giffgaff for the reasons listed above 🙂
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    I will be working in Newquay during January and February of next year. I am from the US and would like to get the giff gaff card to use on a Samsung S6. I have done this previously in Spain, and had to add an Access Point Name in order to get mobile data. Will I need to do this again? If so, does the giff gaff card come with instructions to add this?

    Thank you

    • Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your comment. I think most phones will now automatically recognise the giffgaff SIM card and will automatically apply the APN settings. However, if your phone doesn’t do this, you can input the APN settings as described on this page.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Kathryn Lyons said:

    Hi Ken,
    We are planning a UK and Ireland driving trip in May next year (we live in Australia) We have Samsung S8 phones on a 2 year contract with our Optus network. Will the giff gaff sim card be recognised or will our phones be locked because of the plan? We think we’ll need good access to maps while on the road.
    Thanks, Kathryn

  • What certain travellers to the UK can also opt in for (once you arrive here) is a prepaid sim from O2 or Three. Both of these companies offer a 3-2-1 deal where phone calls are 3p per minute(to other UK cellphone numbers not necessarily Of the same mobile network and UK home phone numbers) SMS at 2p per text and 1p per megabyte of data. Both companies allow you to take this particular deal across other countries in the EU so should you decide to do a European Tour, your tariff remains the same. Three also allow you to take your tariff back to the US with you to benefit from making calls on a UK number in the US and also receiving calls on your UK number for FREE.

    • Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for your comment! I agree that the deals from O2 and Three are worth a look at, charging 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB. However, it’s worth noting this is actually a fairly expensive rate for data (£10 per gigabyte, and that’s before you include the cost of phone calls & text messages). There are also complications topping up online with a non-UK card. For this reason, I typically continue to recommend giffgaff as customers get 3GB of data & unlimited minutes, plus the ability to easily top up with a non-UK card.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,
    I am travelling to London next fall. The last time I was there I didnt get a sim card and my phone bill was OUTRAGEOUS for just using data. I plan on using my phone when I am there to find my way around, so I assume I need a sim card.

    I use att now and have an iphone, do you recommend I get a different phone to use this sim card from giffgaff in? I am alittle confused on how this whole process works.
    Once I get the card and a phone, do I then need to get a service plan??
    sorry!

    • Hi Salena,
      Thanks for your comment. If your iPhone is unlocked for use on other networks, it should be possible for you to insert a giffgaff SIM card when you arrive in the UK. You should then activate your SIM card online to add a goodybag package or credit to your SIM.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Under “Using your phone in Europe” I notice that you do not mention Ireland. We are visiting Ireland and the UK next year and would like to get a SIM card that can be used in both countries. Will giffgaff work or what would you recommend?

    • Hi Martin,
      Thanks for your comment. You can use any UK SIM card at no extra cost when travelling in Ireland, including the one from giffgaff. My apologies for the confusion here, as “Ireland” has been listed under the full name of the “Republic of Ireland”.
      Ken

  • Hello,
    I know someone from the U.S. who just got back from a trip to Iceland and had issues trying to use a prepaid international SIM from 3 (i.e. the U.K. phone network). After inserting the 3 network SIM it asked if they wanted to port their current/U.S. number. She did not and when she got home Verizon said it was good she did not agree to port her number, because she might not have been able to keep her original U.S. number. The 3 SIM did not activate w/out porting the number, so my friend wasted her money, however had she ported it she might have lost her U.S. number.

    Will this happen with a giffgaff SIM? Was this a Verizon or a 3 network quirk?

    I use H20 network here in the US and they do not offer roaming, so I have to get a SIM and unfortunately I don’t have a backup smartphone, so would need to put a UK SIM in my current phone which like many people, is indispensable to me. I am crossing my fingers giffgaff will work, and won’t ask me to port my number.

    • Hi Cynthia,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe the problem here is probably that your friend was using a CDMA handset (I believe Sprint and Verizon use this technology in the US, unlike AT&T and T-Mobile which use GSM technology). All UK mobile networks are designed to work with GSM technology, and as such, they will only work on a GSM handset. On GSM, the phone number is linked to the SIM card itself so there’s no need to port your phone number. It’s likely you’ll need to purchase an unlocked GSM handset if you’d like to use your mobile phone in Europe with a local SIM card, either from giffgaff or Three.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Your article says I can order from the States, but the “get your free sim card” application won’t let that happen.

    • Hi James,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a glitch on the giffgaff website, meaning the link doesn’t always work if you’re outside the UK. You can normally solve this by visiting giffgaff.com in your web browser and ordering your SIM card from there.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Hi there! I have a further question for you. I’ve bought a new SIM card from Three UK in one mobile shop which, however, wasn’t branch of Three UK shops. I paid “pay as you go” for data, minutes and texts. I got a SIM card and a new UK phone number. I didn’t sign any contract. I would like to buy the Giffgaff SIM card and I don’t know if I need to inform Three about it in any way or just take the SIM card out. Thank you.

  • I live in the US. Am hoping I can order and receive a giffgaff card within 1 week from now before leaving for the UK on a 2 week holiday. Is that possible?

    Also, is there anything else that needs to be done besides “popping the sim card into the phone”? Seems too simple – even here in the US, SIM card providers/carriers (AT&T, Consumer Cellular) need a technician to set up a few things on the phone before the SIM will work completely. This would be for an Android phone.

    • Hi DodgeDart,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m not 100% sure that your giffgaff SIM card will arrive in time, given the timescales for sending something through the post internationally. However, it’s worth a try (or you can try and find one in a UK grocery store on arrival, though there’ll be a small charge if you decide to go down that route).
      With regards to getting going with the SIM, you just need to insert the SIM card into a compatible, unlocked GSM handset. No need for a technician to do anything (I assume this is more for CDMA handsets rather than GSM handsets?).
      Ken

  • Christopher Bird said:

    Great information, thank you.

    I have one further question for you. If I want to keep my giffgaff card active, the instructions are to use it at least once per month. If I don’t visit the UK every month ) I live in the USA and travel occasionally), can I use the Giffgaff SIM in the USA once per month to keep the account active? Or does it have to be used in the UK or Europe?

    Thanks
    Chris

    • Hi Christopher,
      Many thanks for your comment. There’s no need to use your giffgaff SIM card every month: if you’re on traditional Pay As You Go (e.g. without an active goodybag), it’s only necessary to use your SIM card at least once every six months. As far as I know, it’s totally fine doing this from abroad (you can either do something like sending a text message, or you could add a new top-up to your account).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Question:

    My son is studying in Manchester for 3.5 months. He would like a SIM with data, text and minutes. He is in London now and would like to take care of purchasing this today. It seems that you cannot purchase packages unless you have a UK bank account, which he does not have. GIFGAF seems like it would have been perfect, but it is too late to purchase unless he waits until he arrives at the university next week. Can you purchase packages without a UK bank account from any other carriers? Thanks!

    • Hi Julie,
      Many thanks for your comment. As someone who is new to the UK, without a UK bank account and credit history, it will only be possible to get a Pay As You Go deal. This is because Pay Monthly contracts are a credit-based product, where you need to set up a Direct Debit from your UK bank account and undergo a UK credit check.
      He will be able to get a SIM card from giffgaff as they work on a pre-paid basis. It’s also possible to get a SIM card from any other mobile network listed on this page.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Hi, when I top up my card with giff gaff, how long is the credit valid for?

    Is there a sim that does not have a time limit for using credit?

    Thanks

    • Hi Anna,
      Many thanks for your comment. I’ve discussed this in more detail in this article, but in short: your giffgaff credit will never expire providing your SIM card remains active (which means using it for a chargeable activity at least once every 6 months). If you convert your credit into a giffgaff goodybag, those allowances will last for 30 days.
      Ken

  • I am coming to the Uk for a six week visit and after reading your advice decided to go with Giffgaff and order a free SIM card before leaving home but the order page only wants a Uk postal code.I cannot find a Giffgaff site to help me? Any advice…

    • Hi Brenda,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, there’s occasionally a bit of a glitch on the giffgaff website. If you aren’t able to input your address, try visiting giffgaff.com on a new tab in your web browser, and it should normally allow you to input a non-UK address.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • James Crossland said:

    Hi I am looking to tour Europe for 9 months is there any way or company that allows me to use my mobile continualy abroad please

    • Hi James,
      Most SIM cards from a country in the European Union should work across the EU, albeit with the possibility of some surcharges. The only thing to watch out for is a small number of networks that don’t provide international roaming. If you’re choosing a UK SIM card, I’d probably recommend giffgaff for simplicity due to the reasons listed above.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Can I pay cash to buy Giffgaff sim card or have to get with International credit card? If with International credit card how to cancel it?

    • Hi Ash,
      You can order a SIM card online for free, or you can buy one in most UK supermarkets for around £1. With regards to topping up, the easiest way to do this is by using your credit card. This is just a one-off top-up onto your account, with no automatic renewal unless you decide to enable this feature. As an alternative, you can also top-up with cash by visiting a UK supermarket or convenience store and buying a top-up voucher.
      Ken

  • this is very helpful, but as I research what to do with my daughter’s phone for her trip to London, I keep seeing advice that the phone must be unlocked for a sim card to work.. what does that mean and is it true? if so, how do I do that? she has a Verizon phone.

    • Hi Sandy,
      Many thanks for your comment. To be totally honest, I’m not sure whether her Verizon phone will work here in the UK, as I believe Verizon uses a CDMA-based network rather than GSM-based network. “Unlocking” is a more common concept for GSM-based handsets, which essentially mean it can be used with a SIM card from any mobile network.
      Ken

  • Peter Simon said:

    Hi Cindy,
    How long does the sim card take to arrive. My daughter is leaving for London in a weeks time. Thanks you

  • I was impressed with the report on Giffgaff so I checked their website. There seems to be a disconnect somewhere.
    You suggest Giffgaff for overseas visitors, but their Sim Only plans are ALL monthly plans–I don’t see how paying 12 months for a 2 – 3 week visit is any sort of bargain.
    Am I missing something?

    • Hi Doc,
      Many thanks for your comment. There’s no need to sign up for 12 months: you can simply buy a one-month goodybag to cover your 2-3 week trip. Once that ends, there is no need to continue paying for the SIM card if you’re not staying in the UK.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Marvin Wofford said:

    Hi Ken. My wife and I will be travelling to the UK for 10 days, starting July 10. We would like to get sim cards before we leave the US, so that they will be active as soon as we arrive at Heathrow. The taxi company that will pick us up at the airport wants our mobile number so that they can contact us after we land. We really only use our phones for calls and texts, and a small amount of data while we’re over there. Should we use the giffgaff as mentioned in your article? If we put the sim cards in our phones as soon as we arrive at Heathrow, will they be immediately active?
    Thanks,
    Marvin

    • Hi Marvin,
      Many thanks for your comment. Yes, giffgaff is a good option for you and your wife. As long as you’ve activated your SIM card by topping it up online, it should work as soon as you arrive in Heathrow.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken! My daughter will be leaving Texas to study abroad in London for a month this summer from July to August. On the weekends they plan to travel to Denmark, Netherlands, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, France, Italy, and Ireland. As a college student, the most important thing for her will be a big data plan. What SIM card would you recommend for an iPhone 8 that would be most beneficial for her data needs and traveling variety? Thanks for your advice!

    • Hi Kelly,
      Thanks for your message. That sounds like the quite the trip! My recommendation would probably be to go with giffgaff, as discussed in the article above. They have some fairly decent data packages like 9GB for £18 or Always-On data for £20, will allow you to top-up with a US credit card and have inclusive EU roaming (which means she should be able to use her phone at no extra charge when travelling to the countries you’ve listed).
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,
    I am travelling to the UK and Europe next month. Im looking at purchasing a sim plan from three – one month advanced plan for 27 pounds when I arrive in London. It will give me 30GB data, all-you-can-eat minutes and texts and Feel At Home Around the World. I am spending 3 months travelling. Do you know if I need to be a UK resident or have a UK credit card to purchase this deal? Can I top up outside of the UK without a UK credit card?
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Cindy

    • Hi Cindy,
      Many thanks for your comment. The £27/month Advanced plan you mentioned is a post-paid contract requiring you to undergo a credit check. For this reason, you won’t be able to get it unless you’re a UK resident with a UK bank account, credit history, etc.
      Instead, as a visitor to the UK, you’ll need to pick a pre-paid plan instead, like the one from giffgaff (which is preferable as you can easily top-up with a non-UK card). If you’re heart is set on Three, you can also choose their pre-paid plan giving you 30GB of data & 3000 minutes for £25/month (it’s slightly cheaper than than the post-paid version, but lacks some of the added features like Go Binge). With Three, you can top-up using cash or non-UK credit card but it’s unlikely you’ll need to do this in-person (e.g. at a grocery store or at a mobile phone shop rather than online).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

    • Hi Carl,
      Indeed – you can activate a giffgaff SIM card using a US-based credit card. I believe this can be done whilst you’re still in the US, but I’m not sure if the SIM card will work until you arrive in the UK.
      Ken

      • Carl Alexander replied:

        Ken,

        Thanks for the information. I’ve an additional question regarding activation. Would it be possible to activate the sim card add credit to the account and not purchase a goodybag, until the day before I leave for the UK. I’m expecting to receive my sim card any day soon but will be travelling to the UK July 1st for the entire month. I understand that the goodybag begins the moment you purchase it and last for 30 days.

        Thanks again
        Carl

        • Hi Carl,
          Yes – you can add credit to your account, and then you can use that credit at any time to buy a goodybag bundle. So if you wanted, you can top-up your SIM card today, and then you can use that credit to buy a goodybag once you arrive in the UK.
          Hope this helps!
          Ken

  • I am in Canada and am trying to order a giffgaff sim card online but it keeps telling me I need to enter a UK postcode. Is there a way to have it sent to Canada?

    • Hi Dorothy,
      There’s occasionally a bug on the giffgaff website, as I think they currently require you to use a different order form to send SIM cards abroad. Would it be possible to try ordering your SIM card directly on giffgaff.com, and seeing whether that makes a difference?
      Ken

      • Dorothy replied:

        Thanks Ken. I tried ordering from giifgaff.com on my MAC instead of my mobile device and it worked great! SIM card is on the way. Thank you.
        Dorothy

  • Catherine Gray said:

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for a very informative post. I just tried to order a giffgaff SIM card to be sent outside the UK (to New Zealand) and found that it wouldn’t accept my external postcode. Perhaps they no longer deliver internationally?

  • Hello! I just wanted to let you know that this article and the one on unlocked phones have been extremely helpful 🙂 I’m moving to the UK but not sure how long I’ll be staying and didn’t want to get locked into a contract yet–you’ve made everything so much easier to understand. Thanks so much!

    • Hi Briana,
      Thank you for the kind feedback, and really happy to know that the articles were of help to you. Have a smooth trip over here to the UK!
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    I am leaving for UK next Friday. If I order the SIM card here, can I get it before I take off?
    Thanks!

    • Hi Carol,
      Thanks for your comment. Are you referring to the SIM card from giffgaff? I’m not sure how long it takes for them to do international delivery, but delivery by next Friday might be a little bit of a push. It might be easier to order the SIM card to a UK address (e.g. to your hotel), or you can pick up a SIM card in person at your nearest supermarket for a small charge.
      Ken

    • Hi Nedo,
      Many thanks for your comment. Typically, I’d advise against getting your SIM card at Heathrow Airport, as you’ll likely find it to be well over-priced (e.g. you’ll often need to pay £10-£15 for a SIM card that would otherwise be available for free elsewhere). giffgaff is a great option and has international delivery if there’s enough time before the start of your journey for this. Otherwise, you can get yourself a SIM card at most supermarkets and mobile phone stores once you get into town.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,
    I am traveling in June with my 17 year old niece — can I order 2 giff-gaff sim cards, one for me and one for her? thanks!

  • Hi Ken,

    Great articles, keep it up 😉
    I’m gonna be travelling around europe all this summer and I need a sim mostly for data use.
    (route: Ireland-England-France-Germany-Greece etc..) Some not EU countries will be visited aswell.
    Please tell me which sim card I should get for data, giff gaff 3gb offer sounds great.
    ??
    Thank you.

    • Hi EvaL,
      As you say, giffgaff’s 3GB offer is probably a pretty good bet! Depending on which countries you’re travelling to outside of the EU, it may also be worth considering Three’s Feel At Home offer on Pay As You Go – they’ll give you 5GB of data for £15 (or 1GB for £10), with the ability to use the SIM card at no extra cost in 71 destinations.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Well ken wish GiffGaf worked for the USA, tried everything you had and on the web site, wants a UK phone number, and even if I had one , no where to enter it.!!
    Then in the middle of checking the international roaming situation, it pops up with a survey, as I really wanted them to know what i thought I clicked yes when I finished and of course it sent me straight to the survey!! and the final nail in its coffin is that when the short survey was completed, twice, it refused to accept it. If you are getting a kickback from these people, good luck!

  • Susan Dunning said:

    In May, I will be traveling from the USA. My flight stops in Canada, I will spend a week in London and Edinburgh, then fly to Dublin, Ireland. From Dublin we will cruise the Norwegian Fjords. My US carrier will charge $10/day to use my phone. I have a second unlocked phone. On a past trip to the UK, I used a Lebara sim card. If I purchase a sim card for my May trip, will I be able to access the data outside the UK? It sounded like I would have phone use but not data. Also, did I understand correctly that texting a US phone number is an additional charge? Thank you for your advice.

    • Hi Susan,
      Many thanks for your comment – that sounds like quite an incredible trip! Since the changes to EU mobile roaming legislation, you can now use a UK-based SIM card anywhere in the EU (includes Ireland and Norway). This includes mobile data, as well as calls & texts to other EU numbers. My recommendation, as discussed above, is probably to choose a SIM card from giffgaff.
      You’re right in saying text messages sent to a US phone number are charged additionally (e.g. on giffgaff, it’s 8p per message).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken

    Really helpful article – thanks. I used City Go (city-go.co) who offer UK SIM cards and even Oyster cards delivered free worldwide at a really reasonable cost. The SIM cards are Three TRIO SIM cards and they also work throughout Europe at no extra charge for international roaming- a good option if you want to hit the ground running as soon as you land at Heathrow!

  • Thank you Ken for an informative page. Giffgaff only delivers free SIM card within the UK. Tried typing foreign address and not recognized. I’m flying into Manchester next week to meet up with my sister. I read there is free WiFi withing the terminals so I can manage with Skype to call her so we can find each other. After that, we will pick up a rental car. Is Giffgaff only available online or is it available at grocery stores etc? If not, what would be the next best choice? I’ll be in the UK for 5 days. Will be using data more than voice. Need to search addresses on Google maps.

    • Hi Trevor,
      Many thanks for your comment. giffgaff will allow you to order SIM cards to outside the UK. Typically, they’ll only allow this if your computer is based outside the UK (or you can visit the alternative order form here which will allow you to order a SIM card to an address outside the UK).
      It is now also possible to get a giffgaff SIM card in some UK grocery stores (however, availability is still a bit more limited than some other major networks).
      Ken

      • Hi Ken,

        Thank you for the link. According to the webpage, shipping outside of Europe will take 5+ business days. That’s cutting it too close for me as we don’t have Saturday delivery.

        Will check out the vending machines at MAN airport. I can wait till I get into the city and buy one at some store.

  • Hi Ken,

    Thank you so much for sharing information regarding the various mobile plan. I will be traveling to Europe (arriving in Amsterdam then to Germany, Italy and then back to Amsterdam) for about 18 days. I will need data plan as I need to stay connected to my office during my travels and also to plan my travels. So do I pick either between Go Sim or Mobile Viking or buy separate SIM cards when I arrive and top up as I go along? Please advise what is the most cost effective way and convenient way to go about it?
    Thank you very much,
    Esther

    • Hi Esther,
      Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to advise you on Dutch SIM cards as I have absolutely zero knowledge of that market (this website is mainly focussed on UK mobile networks). One thing that’s worth noting however is that all pan-European roaming should be free on EU-based SIM cards. Therefore, you can just pick up a SIM card in your country of arrival and use it for the entirety of your trip.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    I have an unlocked Samsung S4 Mini which appears to be compatible with all the LTE bands in the UK. Once I purchase and install the SIM card in SIM2 slot is there anything else I need to do in order to use the phone for GPS, calls, internet and SMS texts?

    Regards,
    Dennis

    • Hi Dennis,
      Many thanks for your comment. No, there probably isn’t very much else you need to do to get your phone working in the UK! In some cases, you’ll just need to accept the carrier settings which will be sent to you when you power on your SIM card (if this doesn’t work, you may also need to manually input the APN settings). In most cases, however, I’d expect it to just work without any problems!
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Be careful. Usually, in dual sim phones, only slot 1 has the ability to connect you to LTE. No matter what card you insert on slot 2, you probably will not be able to use LTE with it. You have to check if both of your phone’s slots support LTE, otherwise you will end up using 3G.

        • Hi Miguel,
          Great point, thanks for highlighting! Actually, it’s even worse as I think lots of dual-SIM smartphones are 2G-only on the second SIM card slot (though newer ones potentially support 3G as well). That means you often can’t use the second SIM card slot with Three UK (as they don’t provide any 2G coverage).
          Ken

  • Hi guys can somebody help me out here ASAP can I use 3 network in a gsm mobile phone and if so what other networks can I use in that mobile phone

    • Hi Jay,
      Many thanks for your comment. You can’t use Three (or any other mobile network that uses coverage from Three) on a 2G-only handset. Therefore, if your phone is listed as supporting only GSM technology, it will not work on Three network. If your handset also supports a 3G or 4G technology (e.g. WCDMA, HSPA, LTE) then it will work on Three providing it supports the correct bands.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    My wife (A Romanian National) is moving into UK shortly with the intention of residing there on a long term basis. She holds an iPhone 6S .
    Essentially she would need a SIM with the capability to make International calls, incorporated with a good reliable Internet network with a plan with unlimited data.
    I should be able to recharge it and do necessary Top up from Saudi Arabia where I work

    What is your recommendation and how should be go about getting this organised ?

    Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Regards.

    Andi

    • Hi Andi,
      Many thanks for your comment. I have several articles around this topic which might be of interest:
      1. My guide to international calling. Look for a mobile network that gives you competitive international calling rates, to the countries which matter (the cheapest mobile network depends on which country you’re calling).
      2. My guide to Pay As You Go bundles. This shows you the available allowances at different price points (you’ll probably want to restrict your search to some of the networks above).
      3. My guide to topping up a Pay As You Go SIM. I assume you’ll be using a UK-based credit card or debit card, in which case any mobile network offering online top-up should work for you. If you’re using a bank card based in Saudi Arabia, your choice of mobile networks will be restricted to those offering international top-up (e.g. giffgaff).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

    • Hi Steve,
      Many thanks for your comment. Technically speaking, there’s no reason why a normal SIM card wouldn’t work inside a MiFi device. However, the terms and conditions of certain mobile networks prohibit you from doing this, so you’ll need to make sure you check this before going ahead and doing it. If you’re ordering a SIM card from giffgaff, there’s no problem at all using it in a MiFi.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hey, great post!
    I’ve ordered myself a gift gaff SIM card , so when should I activate it? Before leaving to uk or after my arrival? Many thanks :))

    • Hi Kayley,
      Many thanks for your comment. You can activate the SIM card whenever you like! However, so you don’t incur any additional roaming charges, it’s probably easiest to do this when you arrive in the UK (you can go to giffgaff.com/activate in your smartphone’s web browser even if you don’t have any credit on the SIM card just yet).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    We are coming to the UK for 3 weeks (from NZ) – but also going via Canada, France, and Singapore – the GiffGaff looks great when in the UK – but are there Sim only roaming options that work for the side trips. Also we are likely to call home (NZ) and want to text to home (NZ) too. Data is likely to be our biggest usage.

    Any advice welcome.

    Great site btw – thxs

    Greg

    • Hi Greg,
      Many thanks for your comment. You can use the SIM card from giffgaff at no extra charge in France, but unfortunately Canada & Singapore are not covered there. One possible alternative is to get a Pay As You Go SIM card from Three (with their Feel At Home offer, you’ll also be able to use the SIM card at no extra charge in Singapore). With Three, you’ll need to physically top-up with cash whilst you’re in the UK. I’m not aware of any PAYG deal that also works in Canada at present, so the chances are you’ll need to get a separate SIM card there.
      Hope this helps and have an amazing trip!
      Ken

  • Hi Ken
    Could you please suggest which SIM card should be used for mobile data network in Switzerland, I live in U.K. and for 5-6 days planning a trip to Switzerland.
    Thanks.

  • David Palmer said:

    Hi Ken,
    My wife and I are spending a month in UK, next month and wish to obtain a local sim card, mainly to use maps to find our way around the UK in a car, so we will need UK road maps as well. Not a lot of phone use.
    What plan should we be looking for from a provider?
    Cheers
    David

    • Hi David,
      To be honest, you’ll probably be fine getting any Pay As You Go SIM card in the UK! However, my suggestion would probably still be giffgaff based on the reasons above (e.g. being able to order a SIM card from Australia, and being able to top-up with your Australian credit card). You can get something like the £10 goodybag (approx 16AUD) which gives you 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB of data. You’ll then be able to use Google Maps when you’re on-the-go, including GPS navigation.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Pete Forman said:

    This is an excellent article but I would add two things. Visitors from the EU when roaming will pay their usual domestic rates.

    My second point, though obvious to most people, is that swapping in a UK SIM means that you cannot receive calls on your normal number.

    • Hi Pete,
      Many thanks for your feedback and input on this! I agree – these are two very important and key points – I’ve just updated the article so hopefully this is a little bit clearer!
      Thanks again,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,
    I visit the UK usually once or twice a year. I’d like to keep the same number and not bother buying a sim each time. Do you know of any payg schemes that won’t expire (usually after 12 months of non use they no longer work) but a cost effective? Thanks.

    • Hi Dinesh,
      Many thanks for your comment. Yes, take a look at my article here for a full in-depth discussion about the issue. In short, most mobile networks require you to use your phone at least once every 6 months in order to keep it active (on some networks, this goes up to 270 days). If you’re abroad, you can always keep the SIM card active by sending a text message through the roaming service.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi. Can you tell me if the Asus Zenfone Max ZC550KL works in the UK and specifically what 4G network providers it will work with in the UK? Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Tolg,
      According to GSMArena, the Asus Zenfone Max ZC550KL supports LTE bands 3, 7 and 20. If this is the case, it will work on all 4G network providers in the UK 🙂
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • I travel a lot to the UK in my work (I work offshore) and recently bought a pay-as-you-go sim card at Tesco. It worked fine for the first month but now I wanted to top it up. This proved to be more difficult than I would have thought. I could not top it up online as you need a UK address to do that and not only that, you also need a UK credit card. Nowhere in their “Terms & Conditions” could I see that I could not top it up without a UK address or UK credit card! Not only that, the pay-as-you-go sim also have a Parental control by default, a thing you cannot lift unless you have a UK address and UK credit card. So, I have really wasted £15 which I paid to get a top-up voucher and is stuck with a sim card that have restrictions when it comes to internet, I cannot go to sites that are considered not suitable for children, i.e. I cannot read the newspaper properly or click on links in Facebook etc! And Tesco Mobile want to charge me £1 to lift the Parental Control, and I can do that using a credit card but, yes you guessed, – they don’t accept non-UK credit cards! So it’s really “Catch 22”.

    I will need to get a new sim card with a provider that accepts non-UK credit cards and where you are able to top-up online as well as in a shop somewhere. I am not that concerned about calling, I need the sim card for internet. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Monica,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I’ve not looked in to see which mobile networks will allow you to top-up with an international credit card online. I believe international cards are sometimes rejected for online top-ups as there is a high chance of fraud.
      If you’re physically present in the UK, there should be lots of places where you can top-up in person (e.g. at supermarkets, petrol stations, etc). Your international credit card should be accepted here. With regards to removing parental controls, this could probably also be done through in-store document verification (that is, if you’re using one of the major mobile networks who actually have a physical store).
      Another way to side-step this might be to set up a UK-based pre-paid card (if you’re an EU citizen, this shouldn’t be too hard) or cheekily you might be able to borrow someone else’s card for the age verification process (with their permission of course!).
      So unfortunately I have to stop short of giving a concrete recommendation but hopefully this should give you a few pointers in the right direction.
      Ken

  • Hi

    Wondering if you could help me please? Currently living in Canada but will be returning to live back in the UK next spring. I have a Samsung S7 and I am not sure if it will work in the UK. Here are the specs for it:

    4G LTE : (Band 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41)
    4G UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (B1, B2, B4, B5, B8)
    2.5G (GSM): 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz

    Thanks in advance for any help 😀

    • Hi Jojo,
      You’ll be glad to know your handset will work on any UK network providing it’s unlocked. In the UK, we use the following bands:
      4G LTE: Bands 3, 7 and 20
      3G UMTS/HSPA: Band 1 (2100MHz)
      2.5G GSM: 900MHz and 1800MHz
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Hi Ken. Good day! I’ve read your article and very useful. I am currently here in UK and got a sim. May I know if this is possible to reload as I will stay here for 3 months? I read that the sim load will be usable only for a month. Your response is much appreciated. Cheers!

  • Hi there
    My phone supports 4G: FDD-LTE B1/B3/B7/B20
    I am using it perfectly on 3 network but will it support other networks as well.

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment. You’ll be glad to know the phone will work on any 4G network in the UK (we use FDD-LTE bands 3, 7 and 20).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hey Ken,

    I’ve visited this thread before – I say again, it’s very useful, thanks.

    I travelled to Scotland this past September (2016) and picked up an EE PAYG card at WHSmith’s in the Edinburgh airport. For the second year in a row the SIM cards from EE have not been recognized by my Moto G 1st gen unlocked phone. The folks at the EE store in Edinburgh couldn’t get their test SIM to work either – go figure. I replaced it with a card from O2 which did work in the phone, although I wasn’t impressed with their coverage (other than in and around urban centres). I have an old Orange card which my phone “sees” as well. I guess the claim on the EE package that the SIM card “works in all phones” may need to be taken with a grain of salt when it comes to the Moto G 1st gen!

    • Hi Ian,
      Very strange! Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure why this didn’t work (in theory, there shouldn’t be any issues with incompatibility). It sounds like it’s possibly a manufacturing issue with the EE SIM card, hence why the O2 & Orange SIM cards work in your phone. However, this doesn’t explain why EE’s tester SIM card also failed, unless the same problem occurred on both SIM card.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    I have a :

    W/CDMA 2100Mhz 3G Mobile Cell Phone Signal Repeater Booster Amplifier

    On route to the UK to help boost signal on my Lenovo X3 Vibe android 6 smart fone which works fine on Three network (contract)

    Will this work ok for a 3G signal as a bit confused because Hsdpa is listed in some comments for the 2100mhz 3g signal and not W/CDMA !?

    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Steve,
      Thanks for your comment. HSDPA is basically an improved version of WCDMA: you can treat them as more-or-less the same time in this situation. One word of warning however: I’d double check on the legality of using the repeater in the UK (if it’s an active repeater that actually broadcasts its own signal, the chances are it will be illegal to use this in the UK).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Hi Ken,

        Thanks for your reply well it most definitely works in the UK I don’t know whether its active but you do plug it into the mains and it has an aerial!

        It enhances your signal but it only has a short distance (5 meters or so) and I am only using it for camping when in remote areas as struggle to get a connection I have only tried it at home to test it so far !

        Regards, Steve

  • Cellular Networks – GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900, UMTS/HSPA+/WCDMA 850, 1700, 1900, 2100 im so confused which network i supposed to go on for right sim in the uk for my neptunepine phone watch

    • Hi Brendon,
      The good news is your device should work on all UK mobile networks! Every UK mobile network uses WCDMA 2100 for 3G. For 2G, O2 & Vodafone use GSM 900 whereas EE uses GSM 1800.
      Ken

  • Paul Wilkinson said:

    Hi Ken.

    I’ve just bought a retro Blaupunkt cassette player which has a telephone system built in.

    Looking at the specs I think this uses GSM900.

    “Telephone Standard: GSM Frequency band:Send 890 – 915 MHz/Receive 935 – 960 MHz”

    My friend thought it may be analogue and defunct. Could you advise if I can still get a SIM for this unit (credit card sized, so I may have to make one up from a smaller SIM)

    Here’s the manual..

    http://www.blaupunkt.com/fileadmin/user_upload/Service/SERVICEDOKU_ZIEL/BA/GB/7647980010001_BA_GB.pdf

    Thanks

    Paul

    • Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure whether this will still work, though in theory you can use O2 and Vodafone as they have coverage on GSM 900 (you won’t be able to use EE or Three as they definitely won’t work). Getting a SIM card from giffgaff will probably be your best option in terms of value for money (giffgaff makes use of coverage from O2).
      With regards to the credit card sized SIM cards: believe it or not, free SIM cards are normally still provided in a credit card sized format. Rather than popping out the SIM card from the centre as you normally do, just insert the entire thing into your device!
      Please do let me know if you have any success with this (this is certainly one of the most interesting comments I’ve had for a long time!)
      Ken

      • Paul Wilkinson replied:

        Thanks for the prompt reply Ken.

        I have ordered an 02 SIM card so hopefully that can be ‘trained’ as the manual suggests.

        I’ll keep you updated

        • Paul Wilkinson replied:

          Update:

          My 02 SIM card arrived (credit card sized) and after downloading the Blaupunkt user manual I managed to clone the original Blaupunkt settings onto the 02 card.

          Once this process was complete I tested the unit and was able to dial out successfully.

          I am now waiting to take delivery of the handset and microphone to complete the unit.

          Thanks for the advice Ken.

  • Hi Ken ,

    I bought a Xiaomo redmi 3 phone from China. I am with talkmobile and it doesn’t connect to mobile data. They say the phone supports the following frequenceis:
    2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
    3G: WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
    4G: FDD-LTE 1800/2100/2600MHz
    Is there any way I can it connected to mobile data, it works well otherwise.
    Many thanks.

    Ahmad

    • Hi Ahmad,
      The handset should be compatible with the Talkmobile network as they use WCDMA 2100MHz. Just wondering if you’ve got the Talkmobile internet settings? If you don’t have their APN settings, this might stop you from connecting to mobile data.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    Is there anyway of finding out which parts of the UK use Vodafone at 900MHz and which parts at 1800MHz?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Nick,
      This is a great question! Unfortunately, I don’t know of any easy way to do this, as they don’t split up their online coverage map between GSM900 and GSM1800. It might be possible to find out from Vodafone directly? I’m sure they’ll hold this information somewhere in their systems, though whether customer service will have access to it is a totally different matter.
      Ken

    • As far as I know 1800mhz is only used to provide extra capacity in city centres and other high demand areas. 900mhz is available everywhere. A 900mhz only phone will provide good coverage everywhere, 1800 only provide only very limited coverage.

  • Arlene Gunawan said:

    Hi Ken, thanks a lot for your helpful guide. I’m planning to go around Scotland including the island of Skye this July. What I need the most is the internet and GPS signal.Do you have recomendation for the one with best coverage in Scotland? And maybe some cheaper alternatives for the data plan with decent coverage in Scotland?

    Thank you very much 🙂

    • Hi Arlene,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give you any detailed advice about coverage in those areas (you might want to try a local forum for the area). I suspect it’ll be either O2 and Vodafone giving the best coverage, but this is an absolute guess! Once you’ve found out which mobile network gives the best coverage, you can see my guide on virtual network operators and Pay As You Go SIM cards.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Iain Purdie said:

    Hi.

    I’m looking into buying a Mobile Signal Booster for EE. Would one from the US for T-mobile work here?

    • Hi Iain,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t know how US mobile signal boosters work so I can’t give you a full and detailed answer. Does it pick up a signal and re-broadcast it? If so, it’s probably illegal to use this in the UK without a license (but it probably won’t work as we use different frequencies here in the UK). If it’s a femtocell, the answer is the same – if it’s just a leaky feeder or something along those lines then it should probably work fine.
      Ken

  • Hey
    I want to buy a phone from outside the UK but use here
    4G: LTE FDD-2100/1800/2600 / 800MHz (B1 / B3 / B7 / B20)
    I now use the 4G network Three, my question is whether this frequency will work with my SIM card Three 4G
    Please help

  • William Bryson said:

    Hello again Ken. I have a question Please.I am with Sprint here in the US and have bought a Three.co.uk PAYG all you can eat 30Day Sim.When I swap the Sims will I still have my contacts, apps etc. I have tried to find an answer to this but all the results just talk about switching phones not Sims.. Thank you very much I am not much of a tech person. Cheers and thhak you for a Great Site.

    • Hi William,
      Thanks for your comment and that’s a very good question! Yes, your phone book and applications should still be available after changing your SIM card. They’re normally stored on your handset’s internal storage rather than on the SIM card. For this reason, changing the SIM card will not affect it.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Terry Maker said:

    Hi Ken,

    I have an unlocked AT&T Motorola VA76r here in the UK, that only does calls, and texts, due to the bands it uses. (GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900)

    Have you any thoughts on a UK sim card that would give me internet access as well?

    My current PAYG EE sim doesn’t support it!

    Regards
    Terry

    • Hi Terry,
      Thanks for your comment! In theory, your phone should support 2G internet on those bands (assuming it has GPRS or EDGE listed on the spec sheet) but this will be super-slow (you’ll essentially get dial-up internet speeds). If you’d like to use it, the chances are you’ll need to set up the APN settings for EE. You can also use 2G internet on O2 and Vodafone (both of which use GSM 900 which is supported by your phone).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Harold Bennett replied:

        Hi Ken,

        I too have a unlocked handset purchased from the US and wanting to use it in the UK with EE.

        The info on the handset is as follows:

        GSM: 850/1900 MHz
        HSPA: 850/1900 MHz
        LTE: 700/1700/2600 MHz

        Can this device work in the UK?

        Many thanks

        • Hi Harold,
          Thanks for your comment. Are they the only bands supported by the handset? If so, it’s highly unlikely that device will work in the UK (it uses totally different bands to what the UK networks use).
          Ken

  • I am looking at buying an INEW U3 dual sim 4G phone. Will this work with Tesco Mobile 3G sim and a ‘3’ 3g/4g sim?. It seems to cover most if not all frequencies of some phones that you say will work. Thanks for you help.

    2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz(band5,band8,band3,band2)
    3G: WCDMA 900/2100MHz(band8,band1)
    4G: FDD-LTE 2100/1800/2600/900/800MHz(Band 1/3/7/8/20)

    • Hi Steve,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes – your phone should work absolutely fine on any mobile network here in the UK. Tesco Mobile (which runs on O2) uses GSM 900MHz, WCDMA 2100MHz and FDD-LTE band 20 (800MHz).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Just found you and really appreciate the effort you have made to help users. May have been caught out by buying a used HTC M8 on eBay as a share and backup to my regular M8s. This happens to be the week when many of we longstanding Three Network customers had our monthly charges doubled.
    Along with many others I’ve fallen for the Vodafone special offer of 20GB and unlimited minutes and texts for £20 per month.
    However, just discovered the Vodafone 4G SIM won’t register for 4G but ok for 3G and data.
    Long efforts with Vodafone customer service and their store teams. Phoned HTC today who identified the phone as a Taiwanese version and said absolutely nothing I can do to get 4G in UK on any network. Is there any firmware upgrade products hardware and software fix? It seemed such a bargain!

    • Hi Alan,
      Thanks for your comment. I guess this is because Vodafone uses band 20 (800MHz) LTE. Band 20 is typically used only in the EU, which explains why a Taiwanese handset may be lacking support for it. For band 3 LTE (1800MHz), your only two options in the UK are Three or EE.
      Unfortunately, there’s no way of adding support for a new band to your handset – it’s a hardware limitation of the device. Sorry to report back with the bad news 🙁
      Ken

      • Again many thanks to you Ken for all this work. Two comments in passing. When I asked HTC what I could have done to avoid buying a non-EU handset, all they could suggest was before buying to phone them with an IMEI number. Unsure how possible/practical it is in the heat of an eBay auction! Doesn’t seem to be any self-verification process that we could ask sellers to supply in advance (but I think Apple has something if you suspect phone could be stolen).

        On a lighter note. took my HTC M8 into the third Vodafone store (ever hopeful) to try for 4G coverage, and after twenty minutes one of the young sales girls (not tech support) lifted it up to look at it and instantly the 4G symbol popped up! Ran Ookla speedtest and confirmed as typical 4G speed. All excited, walked out of store as it was closing and within three minutes 4G dropped off and has never returned!

        A self-evident discovery is just how dramatically different the quality of 4G coverage is (i.e. the strength of signal, not just coverage). Within the Vodafone store ‘Ookla’ speeds of 35-39mb and uploads 40mb – assume they have a super-strength dedicated aerial within the store. Less than a km away here in Mayfair (the centre of the centre of London!) lucky to see 8-14mb 4G downloads on all my devices.

        • Hi Alan,
          Thanks for getting back to me!
          With regards to the first point, I’d personally expect the onus to be on the retailer that sells the handset (an imported or foreign model should normally be clearly marked in the description). The other tell-tale sign, of course, is the specifications listed (e.g. was it made clear that the handset was imported & that it lacks support for some LTE bands in the UK). I’m not sure how this would apply to a second-hand sale on eBay, but I would certainly expect it when buying a new device from reputable online retailers.
          With regards to you getting 4G coverage in Vodafone: that’s super, super interesting. Vodafone does actually have some 4G coverage at 2600MHz (band 7). Typically, this is only really used in conjunction with the 800MHz spectrum (band 20) to give faster speeds on LTE-Advanced (also known as 4G+ on EE and 4.5G on Vodafone). It’s possible your handset was able to pick up the 2600MHz signal, which would have given you 4G coverage for the short time you were inside the store. I wasn’t aware you could pick up this signal on its own, but if so there’s at least a glimmer of good news!
          Thanks,
          Ken

  • Hello Ken

    I have just purchased a phone watch with a micro SIM card that works only with 2G network. Is it possible to use a 3G sim card? Or what does it take to upgrade to 3G? I live in the US where 2G coverage is very spotty.
    Thank you for your help,
    Hayat

    • Hi Hayat,
      Thanks for your comment. If your phone watch is only compatible with 2G networks, unfortunately it won’t be possible to access 3G coverage (even if you had a 3G-compatible handset). If the phone watch is able to connect to 3G networks, then you can connect to 3G providing you have a 3G-ready SIM card (I’m expecting the majority of SIM cards distributed in the last 15 years should already be 3G-ready).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    Thanks for sharing such a great site! I’m from Singapore and will be traveling to UK early next month. I will buy a SIM card when I arrive at London as you have recommended. May I know would the SIM card still usable when I am at Northern Ireland?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Pearl,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes: you can use your SIM card when you go to Northern Ireland (all of the normal UK networks are available there).
      Have a lovely trip to the UK next month! 🙂
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    Firstly, thanks for this advice on this page it has been really useful.

    I was looking to buy the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge off eBay (as no shops sell it), however I can’t get my hands on a UK version. I am looking at the N915G model, which uses the following:

    GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 , HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 ,LTE 700 / 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600

    I want to buy a Giffgaff sim however I assume at the moment I can’t use O2 4g, as I believe it uses 800MHz, however will I still be able to get 3g?

    Also, I read O2 are expanding to get 1800MHz, do you know where I can see when this will be in my area?

    Any advice welcome.

    Thanks for your help
    Anna

    • Hi Anna,
      Thanks for your comment. You’re right: giffgaff/O2 uses band 20 LTE (800MHz). For this reason, it won’t work on your imported model. With regards to 1800MHz, only EE and Three have the necessary spectrum with which to offer this service. If the upcoming merger between O2 and Three is given the go-ahead, you could speculate that O2 might combine some their spectrum with Three. Saying that, the merger hasn’t yet been given the go-ahead and it may come with certain conditions (e.g. it might be necessary for the combined network to dispose of some of their spectrum).
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    This topic is so helpful. But it is almost a foreign language to me. All I know is that we have to make smart choices.

    So, I plan to buy an unlocked iphone 5 that was originally with AT&T (the provider uses GSM).

    Here are the specs from AT&T’s website
    https://www.att.com/shop/wireless/devices/apple/iphone/5-16gb-white.html

    Wireless Technology
    4G-LTE Band 4 and 17
    4G HSPA+ with enhanced backhaul
    3G – UMTS 850/900/1900/2100MHz
    GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900MHz

    Do you think it will be compatible with EE in UK? Thank you so much.

    • Hi Trang,
      Thanks for your comment. Based on the specifications listed in your comment, it won’t work on the 4G networks here in the UK (in the UK, we use band 3, band 7 and band 20 LTE). It will work on any UK network with 2G and 3G coverage, including EE who use GSM1800 and UMTS2100.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Thanks Ken for a very prompt response.

        That was what I thought, too. It seems like no US iphone could work for UK 4G. The international or UK version is the only (and safe) way to go.

        Happy holidays!

      • Hi Ken,

        I have sent you an update before but seems like it never made its way to you.
        Starting from iphone 5S (not 5), therefore including iphone 6 and iphone 6S, have specs that work fine for UK networks.

        I sent my bf in UK an iphone 5S, accepting the risk, and it worked just fine.

        http://www.apple.com/lae/iphone-5s/specs/

        Model A1533 (GSM)*: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)

        Most of iphone 5S from other carriers should work as well as I see band 20.

        Model A1533 (CDMA)*: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)
        Model A1453*: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26)
        Model A1457*: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20)
        Model A1530*: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); FDD-LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20); TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40)

  • Hi Ken,

    I recently brought a Nexus 5 D829 model (unlocked) and then realised it is the North American version of the phone. I want to use it in the UK, preferably on EE/orange network. I have included the details of the phones connectivity below. Will I be ok to use this phone in the UK?

    2G Network CDMA 800 / 1900
    GSM 850/900/1800/1900

    3G Network HSDPA 800 / 850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 / 900

    4G Network LTE 700 / 800 / 850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 / 2600

    Many thanks,

    Jo

    • Hi Joanne,
      You can use the phone in the UK on 2G and 3G (as it supports GSM 900, GSM 1800 and HSDPA 2100). For 4G, it depends on the exact bands supported by your phone. In the UK, we use band 3 LTE, band 7 LTE and band 20 LTE (1800MHz, 2600MHz and 800MHz). While the specifications in your comment list 800MHz & 2600MHz, I’m not sure these are the right bands to be used in the UK (e.g. band 18 and band 19 are also 800MHz, and coverage on 2600MHz will be super limited). If your handset supports band 20 LTE, you should be fine to use 4G in the UK.
      Ken

      • Joanne kelly replied:

        Thanks Ken that’s great. I think my contract is 3G as I only pay £15 a month for unlimited calls, texts and data on a sim only deal (I came out of contract last year and was given a good deal by EE). The 4G contracts are much more expensive I’ve noticed and I’ve not had a new contract phone for a few years now. That’s set my mind at ease as I thought the phone would be totally useless here in the UK.

        Really appreciate your help.

        Many thanks,

        Joanne

  • Hi Ken

    Great site with good advice.

    I brought two Blu Studio 6.0 HD phones from the U.S to use in the U.K

    the Phone specs are

    Technology
    GSM / HSPA
    2G bands GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 – SIM 1 & SIM 2
    3G bands HSDPA 850 / 1900 – D650a
    HSDPA 850 / 2100 – D650i
    Speed HSPA 21.1/5.76 Mbps
    GPRS Class 12
    EDGE Class 12

    Two questions really, we are not locked to any network so will any network run on these phones ?

    And is it possible to re-program the frequencies to work in U.K ? either by flashing the rom or any software add on ?

    Thank you in advance !

    • Hi James,
      Thanks for your comment. In theory, providing your handset is unlocked:
      – The D650a will only give you 2G coverage on EE, O2 and Vodafone (EE uses 1800MHz whereas O2 and Vodafone use 900MHz)
      – The D650i will give you 2G and 3G coverage (you can use any UK network as they all use 2100MHz spectrum).
      For information about virtual network operators such as giffgaff, see the article here for more information.
      Unfortunately, it’s not possible to re-program the frequencies on which your handset will work – it’s a function of the physical hardware inside of your handset.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • hi ken
    i have bought a phone from china LG G2 and after checking i found its USA t-mobile made. i live in UK so its running on 2g only not supporting 3g,4g
    any suggestion for me please

    • Hi Ali,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s worth having a look at the page here on LG’s website (it has a list of supported bands on the T-Mobile US version of the LG G2). According to the specs there, it should support 3G in the UK (it has UMTS band 1 or 2100MHz which is what we use here in the UK). 4G isn’t supported (as we use bands 3, 7 and 20 here in the UK).
      Ken

  • Dear Ken, Thanks for a most informative website. I will be traveling to the UK next year carrying a Verizon Samsung Galaxy S5 with me. You state correctly that the Verizon network uses CDMA but will my phone work in the UK? I say this because apparently the S5 has Global functionality and I believe will work on several different bands i.e. Global/CDMA/LTE/GSM/UTMS. I believe the Galaxy GSM band utilizes the 800/1900 Mhz range so it should work in the UK right?

    • Hi Peter,
      Thanks for your comment. Your smartphone should indeed work in the UK if it supports GSM 900, GSM 1800, UMTS/WCDMA 2100 or LTE band 3/7/20. If you’re planning to use your Verizon tariff here, you should double-check with them to make sure roaming is enabled. If you’re planning to get a free SIM card when you’re here in the UK, you’ll need to make sure your Galaxy S5 is unlocked for use on other networks.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • I’m considering buying a redmi note 2 but i don’t know whether it will support EE 4G
    the bands are: GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz; WCDMA: 850/900/1900/2100MHz, FDD LTE: 1800/2100/2600MHz

    thank you

    • Hi there,
      It should probably support the EE 4G network (they use LTE band 3 which is at 1800MHz). It is however worth double-checking the exact bands supported by the device: the reason being that band 9 LTE also operates on 1800MHz (if the handset only supports band 9 LTE, then it won’t work on the EE 4G network).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi… Please can you advise ? I have just brought ASUS Zenfone2 and have been advised that it will run on 4g ? Currently I have Virgin Mobile (who dont support 4G) SO I want to change to a 4g provider. Can you advise what service provider will support the following –

    Networks:
    2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
    3G: WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
    4G: FDD-LTE 1800/2100MHz

    Many thanks 🙂

  • Hi I am looking to buy a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge plus with the following specs.
    2G GSM: GSM850, GSM900, DCS1800, PCS1900
    3G UMTS: B1(2100), B2(1900), B5(850), B8(900)
    4G FDD LTE: B1(2100), B2(1900), B3(1800), B4(AWS), B5(850), B7(2600), B8(900), B12(700), B17(700), B18(800), B19(800), B20(800), B26(800)

    Will this phone work on the giff gaff network across the required bands ?

    Thanks

    • Hi Damian,
      Thanks for your comment. The phone you mentioned will indeed work on giffgaff and on the O2 network. They use the following bands to provide their service:
      2G GSM: GSM900
      3G UMTS: Band 1 (2100MHz)
      4G FDD-LTE: Band 20 (800MHz)
      It will also work on all other networks in the UK.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Moheen Mahmood said:

    Hi I want to purchase a samsung galaxy note 5 unlocked from Northern America. Here are the compatible band

    2G Modes/Bands850/900/1800/1900 MHz
    Supported 3G Modes/Bands850/1700/1900/2100 MHz
    Other Supported Modes/BandsLTE+ (Bands 2/4/5/7/12/13/17/29)

    I am in the UK using tesco mobile can you tell me if 4g or lte will work in the UK with tesco mobile on this mobile please?

    I think tesco uses 800mhz maybe band 20? How many bands are there? Will 4g work? Thanks

    • Hi Moheen,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, the handset will not work on 4G networks here in the UK (we mainly use band 3 and band 20 LTE). Tesco Mobile uses the O2 4G network which exclusively runs on band 20 LTE spectrum. In theory, you might be able to get very limited coverage on EE & Vodafone (2600MHz or band 7 LTE) but I wouldn’t rely on this as it’s practically non-existent.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken

    You are doing a great job in answering all these questions. I am considering buying the Galaxy note 5 form the USA. The seller will be able to unlock it (currently on AT&T ) and send it. The model is Samsung Galaxy Note5 SM-N920A. The spec I pulled up off the net is this:

    Frequencies and Data Type Infra: 2G GSM, 3G WCDMA, 4G LTE FDD;
    2G GSM: GSM850, GSM900, DCS1800, PCS1900;
    3G UMTS: B1(2100), B2(1900), B5(850);
    4G FDD LTE: B1(2100), B2(1900), B3(1800), B4(AWS), B5(850), B7(2600), B8(900), B17(700), B20(800)

    My question to you is what are my restrictions on 3g and 4g networks in the UK as I am curently not in a contract. Sorry for such a long message, aand thank you in advance

  • hi ken great site by the way, im thinking of buying a motorola droid turbo verizon lte from hong kong asked the seller and sait it was on these bands 2G bands GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
    CDMA 800 / 1900
    3G bands HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
    CDMA2000 1xEV-DO
    4G bands LTE band 2(1900), 3(1800), 4(1700/2100), 7(2600), 13(700)
    can you tell me if these work on any uk network providers? and will i get 4g?
    thanks mark

    • Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your comment. As mentioned above, your phone should work on any UK network providing it’s unlocked (all UK mobile networks use 2100MHz for 3G). With regards to 4G, your phone will work on EE and Three (they’re the two networks using band 3 1800MHz LTE). You won’t be able to use O2 or Vodafone 4G as they both require band 20 LTE at 800MHz.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi

    I recently returned to the UK from Thailand where I bought a LAVA iris510 and now have a tesco sim in it which texts fine but I can’t seem to get a data connection. I have checked the specs and it does do GSM 900 and 1800 and WDCMA 2100 which seems to be what the UK uses? Can you suggest anything for me to try in order to get it working?

    Thanks,
    Hannah

    • Hi Hannah,
      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you’re probably missing the Tesco Mobile APN settings. You’ll need this if you want to send a picture message or if you want to browse the mobile internet. You can find the Tesco Mobile APN settings here.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Ken,

    I have a friend who is moving to the UK from India as a student, soon!

    She’s planning to get a new phone (even sooner), as Meizu M2 Note with the following connectivity standards:

    Connectivity technologies GSM, (900/1800 MHz), WCDMA(850/900/1900/2100 MHz), TD-LTE, (1880-1920/2300-2400/2570-2620/2555-2655 MHz), FDD-LTE, (1920-1980/1710-1785/2500-2570 MHz)

    – I think she’d be able to use GSM without a glitch in the UK?
    – Would she also be able to use 4G with the phone?

    Any help/insight would be appreciated.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Sam,
      Thanks for your comment. According to the specs listed in your comment, the Meizu M2 Note should work fine in the UK on 2G and 3G (we use GSM 900, GSM 1800 and WCDMA 2100). Unfortunately, however, it wouldn’t work on the UK 4G networks (we use FDD-LTE at bands 3, 7 and 20).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi! I’m moving to the UK in two weeks from the USA. My iPhone however, just broke. Would it be wiser to buy a phone in the USA, or to wait until I’m in the UK to buy an iPhone?

    • Hi Kate,
      Thanks for your comment. You can use an unlocked iPhone from the US whilst in the UK. It’s probably also cheaper to buy the handset before go 🙂 Just make sure it’s an unlocked handset (otherwise you may have difficulty unlocking it later on).
      If you choose to buy your handset in the UK, the benefits are easier access to support and less hassle with regards to unlocking.
      Ken

  • Gabriela Opazo said:

    Hello!

    I have an LG G2 D805, I am from Chile. From LGs official website my phones characteristics are:

    GSM 850/900/1800/1900, UMTS 850/900/1900/2100, LTE 700(17)/1700(4)/2600(7)

    My phone is unlocked for any company here in Chile.

    I will be travelling to England soon, will my cellphone work with a UK SIM card?

    Thank you very much for your help!!

  • Hi
    I have just purchased an iFcane E1 mobile, it will not receive or make calls have tried 3 sim cards none work. What could be the problem?

    • Hi Sue,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve just done a quick search on Google: it looks like the iFcane E1 is a 2G-only handset. Unfortunately, you must have a 3G or 4G handset before you’re able to use the Three network. The good news is it apparently supports GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz. You should, therefore, be able to use it on other networks in the UK (e.g. you could try a free SIM card from giffgaff).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • I was given a Verizon Moto E 2nd Generation, I live in the UK. I have put a 3 (UK) sim in phone and I cannot get the phone to recognise the sim.
    I tried changing the Network from CDMA/LTE to GSM/LTE then go to the Preferred Network Mode but cannot get an option for 4G, there is only the option for LTE/CDMA?

    Can you please help me as this is beyond me now.

    • Hi Moira,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve taken an in-depth look at the specifications for the Verizon Moto E 2nd Generation. Unfortunately, it won’t work on Three in the UK. This is because Three uses WCDMA band 1 (2100MHz), LTE band 20 (800MHz EUDD) and LTE band 3 (1800MHz). The Verizon Moto E doesn’t support any of these bands.
      If you’d like to use the Moto E in the UK, try a SIM card from either EE, O2 or Vodafone (those three networks have GSM 900 & GSM 1800 which is supported on the Verizon Moto E). Please note: this is only 2G coverage – it should be fine for calling and texting… browsing is also possible but will unfortunately be super-duper slow!
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi I have a sprint iPhone 6 and I just landed in London from the U.S. I had previously called my sprint international services to see if there will be any outrages charges using texts/calls and data and they all told me no except 20 cents a minute per call. They told me to go to my settings, turn enable LTE off, turn roaming ON, and and then turn international CDMA off. And connect to a UK carrier, and the one I am connected to is O2-UK and my aunts wifi at her home. Is this all correct information? Or I will be left with a hefty bill when I come home to the U.S, I am here for a month currently. Do I need to get a temporary SIM card???? I’m so lost! I know roaming charges a lot, so why would sprint tell me to turn it on? They said there will be no additional charges.

    • Hi Yoosuf,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I can’t help you with the answer to this question: it depends on what Sprint charges you for roaming. I’d advise you to double-check these charges directly with Sprint (I’m no expert on American tariffs). The good news is you definitely won’t pay a penny when using your aunt’s wi-fi connection. For this reason, I strongly advise using wi-fi whenever you can.
      Ken

    • Alright. I just wrote a giant comment about how you should disable dataroaming, because you’re in another continent and that they definitely will charge you insane high prices, but then I found this article from April 2015:
      http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2481186,00.asp

      Leave dataroaming on then (it’s free anyways), text your homies as much as you want (it’s completely free), and calling home is really cheap (20c/min.! It’s more expensive to call from EU to EU, and you’re calling from EU to US…)

      You shouldn’t worry about using data if you’re not on WiFi, as it’s completely free, but keep in mind that you’ll only get access to the 2G network.
      2G -> GPRS / EDGE
      3G -> UMTS / HSPA
      4G -> LTE
      GPRS, EDGE and UMTS are really slow. And you won’t get anything faster than EDGE. Sending iMessages will work, Snapchat might work REALLY slowly (only photo’s, no video’s), but downloading a game or Facetiming your family… I don’t think so.
      You said you’re on Sprint: well, 2G is about the same as 1x for Sprint and Verizon. Ever had the 1x? That’s the speed you’ll get. It’s pretty useless.
      You could leave LTE off, since you won’t get any LTE reception. It looks like Sprint only has an agreement with O2’s 2G network. If can choose to only connect to 2G (Settings > Cellular data > Voice & data > 2G), than I’d reccomand you to do so. I don’t know if Sprint actually does have an agreement that allows their customers to roam on the 3G or 4G (LTE) network, but if they do, you might get charged, since they’re only talking about the 2G network in the article. You will have to have iOS 8.3 or higher for this, and your carrier must allow this (I tink all US carriers do, even without iOS 8.3, maybe it’s only for our European carriers it requires iOS 8.3).
      If you can’t find ‘Voice & Data’, or can’t find 2G, just disable LTE. You should see ‘O2-UK GPRS’ or probably ‘O2-UK E’. It’s really slow, but free.
      So don’t worry, and leave dataroamin on.

      There’s absolutely no need to get a sim card in the UK, and I’m not sure if you can get a sim card out of a CDMA phone. If you have the iPhone 6 on a contract with Sprint, it wouldn’t work anyways, since they made the iPhone work with Sprint sim cards only.

      Have a great time in the UK!
      Greetings from Belgium.

  • Hi, I am traveling to the UK and planning to use Three’s SIM card. What compatibility should I look for in an unlocked phone? Do you have any suggestions for type of phone under 100 with GPS/maps usage?

    • Hi Stacy,
      Thanks for your comment. To use your handset on Three, it needs to support 3G connectivity at 2100MHz (this may be described on the spec sheet as WCDMA 2100, HSDPA 2100, HSPA+ 2100 or something along those lines). With regards to the best value handset, I’m afraid it’s quite difficult to make a recommendation! For readers of this website, the Moto E 4G is a really popular choice (approx £90 for 4G connectivity and all of the features you mention in your comment).
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,
    I hope you can help me… I recently bought a mobile phone in the US. I am planning to move to London in a few months. I was wondering if my BLU Vivo IV will work in UK.
    Thanking you in anticipation…

    • Hi Luis,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m pleased to report the BLU Vivo IV should work fine in the UK – just be sure to make sure it’s unlocked before you leave the US. In the UK, we use GSM 900 (2G coverage on O2 and Vodafone), GSM 1800 (2G coverage on EE) and HSDPA 2100 (3G coverage on all major networks).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken

    I have just purchased a TBS3202b gps phone watch that only supports 2g GSM
    850/900/1800/1900MHz. I have tried 2 x pay as you go micro sims from EE and O2 and the watch does not recognise both cards, is there a SIM card provider in the uk that has 2g only SIM cards as I think that the cards I have are 4g compatable and the watch will not recognise the cards.
    Your help would be Much appreciated.

    Neil

    • Hi Neil,
      Thanks for your comment. Both EE and O2 still provide 2G coverage on their mobile SIM cards (on a 2G-only device, you’re still able to get 2G coverage). The only UK network not offering any 2G coverage is Three and all of the MVNOs running on Three’s network. In theory, the specs of your watch phone suggest they should work on both EE and O2 (EE uses GSM at 1800MHz whereas O2 uses GSM at 900MHz). If you’re having problems getting the smartwatch to work, you may need to contact the manufacturer.
      Ken

  • Amarjit Ranu said:

    Hi Ken
    I am thinking of buying a HTC M9+ which is available from SZ CH.
    Would I be right in assuming that as Virgin works on EE frequency I would be able to use the mobile in the UK. Or would I be best to change mobile supplier and if so which would be the best to move over to.

    Thank you for your help.

    Kind Regards

    Ami

    • Hi Amarjit,
      Thanks for your comment. Virgin uses GSM 1800 for their 2G coverage (the same as EE). For 3G, they use 2100MHz (the same as for EE and for all other networks in the UK). Hence, your HTC M9+ should work fine in the UK on Virgin Mobile. With regards to 4G: unfortunately, Virgin Mobile doesn’t give you access to EE’s 4G network. Hence, you’ll only be able to access 2G and 3G services.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    I am planning to buy a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge in HK. Will it work with my Three network when I am back at UK please?
    From Samsung HK customer service, their phone support
    FDD-LTE (4G): 700,800,850,900,1800,1900,2100,2600,AWS
    TD-LTE (4G): 1900,2300,2500,2600
    UMTS/WCDMA (3G):850,900,1900,2100
    TD-SCDMA (3G): 1880,2010
    CDMA2000 (3G): 800
    GSM (2G): 850,900,1800,1900
    CDMA (2G): 800

    From Three UK customer service, they only can say they use 800 and 1800 band. Not sure whether they match? Can you please help?

    Also will I need to do the regional locking 5mins call in HK before I leave as well?

    Many thanks,

    Karina

    • Hi Karina,
      Thanks for your comment. Three uses band 3 (1800MHz) FDD-LTE and band 20 (800MHz) FDD-LTE for their 4G services in the UK. Hence, according to the specs on the Samsung Hong Kong website, it should be OK to use the handset in the UK.
      With regards to region locking: I’m not sure whether Samsung applies this to handsets in Hong Kong (check any labels on the box to see whether it’s mentioned). To be safe, it would be best to make a 5 minute phone call in Hong Kong if possible.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi, tell me I go a new cell phone from china but the frequencies and network are: WCDMA/GSM,
    3GWCDMA900/2100
    GSM900/1800
    My micro SIM is 3G Tmobile contract will work in this cell phone or not?
    I need to know to buy this cell phone.
    Thank you
    I live in UK England

    • Hi Elsa,
      Thanks for your comment. Based on the bands you’ve described, the phone should indeed work on T-Mobile in the UK. For 2G, T-Mobile UK uses GSM 1800. For 3G, they use WCDMA 2100.
      Ken

  • Subhaan Mahmood said:

    Hey,
    I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy s6 which is an AT&T US version but it is unlocked.
    These are the frequencies:

    • GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
    • HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
    • LTE band 1(2100), 2(1900), 3(1800), 4(1700/2100), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900), 17(700), 20(800)

    Will my Three contract sim work in this phone?

    • Hi Subhaan,
      Thanks for your comment. Providing the handset is unlocked, it should work without problems on Three in the UK. For reference, Three uses HSDPA 2100 for 3G connectivity and LTE band 3 (1800MHz) for 4G connectivity. It’s worth double-checking to see whether the handset has a US region-lock before you bring it to the UK. If it does, you’ll need to make a 5 minute phone call on US networks before it’ll work in the UK.
      Ken

  • Akidcalledquest said:

    Wassup Ken

    Because I also have a HTC one M8 (only it’s a China import) , to get 4g coverage in the UK I would also have to be on either EE or Three wouldn’t I?

    • Hi there,
      I’m not entirely sure what the supported LTE bands are on the Chinese HTC One M8. However, assuming it’s the normal Asian version which supports band 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz), 7 (2600MHz), 8 (900MHz) and 28 (700MHz), you’re right: it’ll only work on EE and Three.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken, not sure if my comment was sent the first time. Basically, I purchased a Yezz Andy 5T handset in USA and want to know if it will work in the UK on my 3G contract with t-mobile. I have attached link of device.

    Many thanks

    • Hi Harold,
      Thanks for your comment. In the UK, all four mobile networks use 2100MHz for their 3G service. So yes, according to the spec sheet, the handset you mentioned should work in the UK 🙂
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken, We’re traveling to Scotland (with a 4 hr layover in Dublin) in a few weeks. We’ll be there about 8 days. I have an old iPhone 2 from AT&T that I got unlocked. Our newer iPhone 5c is thru Verizon, which uses CDMA, so decided to unlock the older phone for use. From my research online, it looks like Vodafone has best coverage where we’ll be. Would the best plan be to buy a Vodafone SIM card there, and get a top off? How expensive is it to call US from Scotland (a few short calls )? Won’t need to use much data, how much top off may be needed? Will the SIM & top off permit data and texting? Thanks for any help; no techie here!

    • Hi Carol,
      Thanks for your comment – hope you’re looking forward to the trip to the UK!
      As you say, Vodafone is a pretty good bet for coverage in rural areas. O2 is often pretty good as well: you can use the network coverage maps listed here to double check the coverage on each network.
      With regards to the Vodafone Pay As You Go tariff, I’ve reviewed this in more detail over at this page. To summarise, a £10 top-up on Freedom Freebees (Vodafone’s most popular tariff) will give you 150 UK minutes, unlimited UK texts and 500MB of 3G internet.
      Depending on how you’ll use the service, you might find it better value to get a SIM card on the International Freebee (this includes 60 minutes of free US calling with a £10 top-up). After this, for additional minutes calling the US, you’ll pay 1.5p/minute. The International Freebee tariff doesn’t come with data so you’ll need to buy these using your credit: it’s either £2/day for 50MB of internet or £5/month for 500MB (to get the latter, call 34441 to buy the add-on). More info on the tariff here.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Hi
    A friend’s brother is visiting soon from Australia, and wants to know if he will be able to get a SIM in the UK which will work in his smartphone.
    It is this phone :-
    5.0″IPS Touch Dual SIM Unlocked Dual Core Android Smart mobile phone 3G WiFi GPS

    It gives the following info, I am struggling to work out if it will operate successfully in the UK

    SIM1(Standard SIM Slot) : 2G (GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHZ)/ 3G (WCDMA 850/2100 MHz)

    SIM2(Micro SIM Slot) : 2G (GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHZ), (Don’t Support 3G Or 4G Network)

    Any help would be great, thanks.

    Chas

    • Hi Chas,
      Thanks for your comment. The phone should work fine in the UK providing it isn’t locked to a network in Australia.
      O2 and Vodafone use GSM900 for 2G.
      EE uses GSM1800 for 2G.
      All four networks (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) use WCDMA2100 for 3G.
      For other networks (e.g. giffgaff and Tesco, see my article here for more information.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Hi Ken

    I am from Singapore and would be visiting London and then Paris in early May 2015 for a total of 2 weeks.

    Would like to seek your help on the following questions:

    1. Would I be able to use a Three’s “Pay As You Go” data SIM with the “Feel At Home” offer across both countries? (I am wondering if “Feel At Home” is only meant for UK citizens traveling to other EU countries.)

    2. Would I need to change any settings on my iPhone6 for the data to come in when I am in France? (Basically, would it be a seamless network transition between 2 countries?)

    Thank you!

    • Hi Mrs Lee,
      Thanks for your comment.
      1. Yep – you can indeed use the Three SIM card in both the UK and France (just be sure to buy an All in One add-on when you get the new SIM card). There’s no need to be a UK citizen to get the Three SIM card. Simply walk in to any Three store in the UK to get one of the SIM cards or order it online for delivery to a UK address (unfortunately, Three will not dispatch the SIM card to other countries).
      2. Nope! Providing your iPhone to set to choose a network automatically, it will work seamlessly in France without any need for configuration.
      Don’t forget to unlock your iPhone before coming to the UK and enjoy a lovely trip when you visit in May!
      Ken

  • Dear Ken,

    I am from India. I recently bought Lenovo A6000. I am providing the gsmarena link here:

    http://www.gsmarena.com/lenovo_a6000-6938.php

    From your very helpful review above, I think it is going to work in UK. I shall be travelling to UK in August, and wish to use a pay-as-you-go sim of Lyca/ Lebara. Can you confirm whether the set is compatible (regarding the GSM 2G/3G bands)?

    Also, are any of the pay-as-you-go sims available in the Airports micro-sim? It seems that the mobile companies have stopped making mini-sim phones. Should I carry a mini-sim set that I know has worked well in UK (my previous set, samsung galaxy S advance is one such set)?

    I must say you are doing one hell of a job, helping all of us out here.

    • Hi Spandana,
      Thanks for your comment. I can happily confirm that the Lenovo A6000 supports 2G, 3G and 4G coverage here in the UK. For 2G coverage in the UK, you need 900MHz or 1800MHz. For 3G, you need 2100MHz (O2 and Vodafone also have some 3G coverage at 900MHz but it’s not actually necessary for your phone to support this). For 4G, you’ll need 800MHz, 1800MHz or 2600MHz (the Lenovo A6000 supports all three).
      Longer answer (if you’d like more detail):
      – Lycamobile uses coverage from O2. Required bands are GSM 900 for 2G, HSDPA 900/2100 for 3G and LTE 800 for 4G.
      – Lebara Mobile uses coverage from Vodafone. Required bands are GSM 900 for 2G and HSDPA 900/2100 for 3G. 4G coverage isn’t currently available on Lebara.
      As a side note, take a look at my comparison table for international calling using your smartphone (you might find giffgaff offers better value than both Lycamobile & Lebara Mobile).
      Finally, it shouldn’t be a problem getting a SIM card in any of the three sizes (Mini SIM, Micro SIM and Nano SIM are all easily available). Do be aware if you’re buying at the airport you’ll normally pay more for the SIM card itself (a shop in the airport may charge around £10 whereas you can get the SIM card for free elsewhere in the UK).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Hi, Ken. I’m an American considering pre-ordering a Three SIM card to use in my American mobile phone for my upcoming UK and Ireland visit. If I have one mailed to me in the US, when does the 30-day clock start: When the SIM card is sent to me, or when I first use it?

    Thanks, Michael

    • Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your comment. I presume you’re looking to get an All in One bundle on Three Pay As You Go with the Feel At Home offer so you’re also able to use your allowances in Ireland? If so, the 30 day period starts from when you activate the bundle (this will be when you arrive in the UK and when you first use the SIM card on Three’s network).
      By the way, depending on the SIM card you’ve ordered, you might need to follow the instructions here to buy the All-in-One add-on.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    Love your page. Just got a quick question about buying phones abroad as well. I planning to buy the new Samsung Note 4 when I’m on holiday in Hong Kong. Would there be any limitations on which networks I could have it on when I return back to the UK (preferable on 3g or 4g networks)?

    Thanks in advance,
    Becca

    • Hi Becca,
      Thanks for your comment. The Hong Kong version of the Galaxy Note 4 (SM-N910U) should work on all 2G and 3G networks here in the UK. With regards to 4G, it unfortunately lacks support for Band 20 LTE (800MHz). This means you’re unable to use it on the O2 4G network and the Vodafone 4G network. You still have access to Band 3 LTE (1800MHz) which will give you some coverage on EE and Three (see my article on the UK’s 4G landscape).
      One more thing: Samsung implements region locking on their Galaxy smartphones. Before you’re able to use the handset in the UK, you’ll need to activate it on a network in Hong Kong (this requires you to make a voice call of at least 5 minutes on a Hong Kong network).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Hi Ken – This is very useful information:o)

    I was wondering if you knew if the Sharp Aquos Crystal/Crystal X can be used in the UK? I am aware that it has been released in Japan and the USA, but I am not sure if it is just CDMA?

    http://www.devicespecifications.com/en/model/031a2ede – Where are the specs, but I can’t seem to find any info on the bands, the UK service providers use for 2/3/4G…

    • Hi Jay,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve taken a look at the link you provided – the handset would work on any 2G or 3G network here in the UK. For reference, O2 and Vodafone use GSM 900MHz; EE uses GSM 1800MHz. For 3G, all four networks operate on UMTS 2100MHz (O2 and Vodafone also have some UMTS 900MHz but I would generally ignore them as coverage is very limited). For 4G, the handset would only work on Three or EE (only these two networks have LTE at 1800MHz).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Hi I have a lenovo S8/S898t+
    TD-SCDMA 850/2100Mhz. it works fine on my contract talktalk Sim on 2g, but is their any other UK sims I could get to use the 3g? Thanks

    • Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment. Your Lenovo Golden Warrior S8 will only work on 2G networks here in the UK. This is because the handset supports GSM 900 and GSM 1800 (these frequencies are used for 2G in the UK).
      For 3G, we use WCDMA technology. Unfortunately, WCDMA coverage is not incompatible with the TD-SCDMA technology used by China Mobile.
      Ken

  • Hi

    I wish to know if T-Mobile in the UK will be compatible with a phone that support the following networks & frequency:

    Networking GSM/WCDMA
    Frequency
    2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
    3G: WCDMA 900/2100MHz

    Some of the research I have done suggests that it will, but I found a site that said that for 3G the phone would have to be compatible with both 1700 AND 2100 MHz, while others say just 2100 MHz, although I may be getting details for America and UK confused. At the end of the day I would to just confirm if the phone will work with T-mobile in the UK.

    Many thanks in advance for any help.

    • Hi Stephen,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad to report your phone will work fine on T-Mobile in the UK. T-Mobile in the UK uses GSM 1800MHz and WCDMA 2100MHz, both of which are supported on your handset.
      WCDMA 1700/2100MHz refers to the AWS band used by T-Mobile in the USA (it’s not applicable for users in the UK).
      Ken

      • Hi Ken

        BIG THANKS FOR YOUR QUICK FEEDBACK!

        I have had a similar reply from US-T-mobile community forum which along with your reply re-enforces my own research.

        Have good 2015.

        Regards Stephen

  • I have purchased a Motorola Nexus 6 from the US (Sprint unlocked). I live in the UK and have a micro sim that i cut to nano sim size to use in the device. This worked without any issue and i also ordered an ‘official’ nano sim from EE.

    EE deactivated my old (cut) sim and activated the new one, this however does not work.

    Is there a difference between the micro sim and the nano sim that might cause this?

    Or does the phone itself not allow it to use the uk nano sim?

    In the phone menu accessed by *#4636#*#* i only see 4 bands:

    USA Band
    Band mode 6
    Band mode 7
    Band mode 15

    I’m not sure if this is related to the SIM or phone.

    Many thanks in advance, Satnam.

    • Hi Satnam,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s really odd that the self-cut Nano SIM is working in the phone but the officially provided Nano SIM isn’t. There shouldn’t be any significant differences between the physical SIM cards so it is rather odd that things aren’t working properly. If possible, I would probably try using the new nano SIM within another handset (this will allow you to double-check the nano-SIM is working properly). You could also try using a nano-SIM from a different mobile network (this will tell you if it’s a problem specifically with the EE nano-SIM or rather a problem with nano-SIMs in general).
      Good luck in finding the solution to your problem,
      Ken

  • Hi there I have just bought a mobile phone called Xiaomi Red Note. There are 2 versions; 3g and the 4g, I purchased the 4g version. Could you tell me if this phone would work in the UK? Thank you

    • Hi Riho,
      Could you kindly provide the specifications for the handset you bought? I’ve found the GSMArena page on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G (not sure if this is the one you bought?). If so, according to that page, 3G only works with TD-SCDMA technology and 4G with TD-LTE technology. Unfortunately, in the UK, we use neither of those technologies (we use WCDMA and FDD-LTE). Hence, the handset wouldn’t work on 3G or 4G networks here in the UK. 2G connectivity should still be fine (the handset supports GSM 900 & 1800) but your download speeds will be incredibly limited.
      Ken

      • Thank you for your reply.

        I bought mine directly from China through a friend, and according to her, there are two types of 4G specifications on the phone of the same model:

        (1) TD-LTE/FDD-LTE/WCDMA/GSM and

        (2) TD-LTE/TD-SCDMA/GSM.

        The one that I bought is the (1) version with the FDD-LTE and WCDMA. Since you mentioned that the UK have both of those, I guess the phone will work here.

        • Hi Riho,
          Fantastic! Yep… WCDMA and FDD-LTE are the things you’re looking for. As well as checking the technologies, you’ll also need to check the supported frequencies. For 3G connectivity, it must support WCDMA at 2100MHz. For 4G connectivity, you’ll need FDD-LTE at 800MHz or 1800MHz (that’s band 3 or band 20). EE and Vodafone should also theoretically support band 7 FDD-LTE (2600MHz) though I’m not sure whether they’ve actually begun to roll out this type of coverage.
          Ken

  • Hi Tim,

    I have just bought a ZGPAX S8 for my son for Christmas. but I cant get the sim to work in it.

    it says on the box it is 3g compatible and works with wcdma 2100mhz

    My son has “THREE” NETWORK SIM CARD we are in the uk.

    Should this sim card work on this watch phone.

    Thank you for your time.

    Rob

    • Hi Rob,
      Thanks for getting in touch with your question. A device supporting WCDMA 2100MHz should in theory work on the Three network. Hence, I’m not totally why it isn’t working in this situation. I’d recommend trying a few things:
      1) Check the SIM card from Three is working in another device (this will rule out a problem with the SIM card).
      2) Try the device with a couple of other SIM cards (e.g. from giffgaff or another network, you can order a free SIM card here). For instance, other networks also have 2G support so they might work better in the device. For instance, a watch will have a very small antenna so may struggle to receive coverage on 3G.
      If after trying both things the watch is still failing to work, you might then need to contact the network.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken

    You seem to have offered some great advice in the comments so i hope you don’t mind if I jump in with a questions too.

    I have been using the BLU Win HD phone in the US and am coming back to the UK. Would this work back there?

    Its specs are 4G 850/1700 or 850/1900/2100.

    Many thanks

    Jim

    • Hi Jim,
      Thanks for your comment! Which version of the BLU Win HD are you planning to buy? I found the handset listed on Microsoft’s website but the specs are listed as follows:
      2G: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
      3G: HSDPA 850 / 1900
      Based on the info from Microsoft’s website, the handset would only work on 2G networks here in the UK. However, I suspect I’m probably looking at a different phone to the one you were looking at seeing as the listed specifications differ in your comment?
      Ken

  • I’m thinking of purchasing a new Nexus 6 from the US and I was wondering if it would work on the three / 3 network.
    I live in the UK and the price for the phone here is about £110 more for the 64GB model. If the unlocked model from the Google play store in the USA works on three with their 3g and 4g networks, I definitely won’t hesitate to buy one.
    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Adam,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe the North American version of the Nexus 6 (model number XT1103) should work OK on the Three network (for 3G you’ll need band 1 WCDMA; for 4G you’ll need band 3 or band 20 LTE). The North American version of the Nexus 6 supports band 1 WCDMA and band 3 LTE. However, there’s no support for band 20 LTE (800MHz) so 4G coverage could be limited or intermittent in some areas.
      Ken

      • Hi Ken! I’m planning a trip to London and Paris and I’d really love to use my Nexus 6 (U.S. version XT1103) while there (mostly for navigation and data service).

        I’d really like your advice on what brand of SIM card to get. Will it make any difference which network I choose?

        I’m looking for a pay-as-you-go SIM with the best coverage/bandwidth. I’d like to be able to top up with a non-UK credit card if possible. Most important thing to me good 4G service – cost is secondary. I’ll be making calls and texts back to the US also. Thanks!

  • Hi,

    I have a Sprint LG G3 and I am in the UK. I picked up a Three SIM card, but I have a feeling I made a mistake. Am I unable to use the Three network on my LG G3 by Sprint?

  • Hi Ken

    I am with EE now and thoroughly unsatisfied with their service/network quality. Looking to move to Voda. Do you think this is any better? In area [removed].

    Thanks
    Pooja

  • Hi

    Hope you can help. I am interested in buying a HTC One M8 from the US to use in the UK.
    My question is, would the phone actually work on the 4g network in the UK on T Mobile. I am confident it would work on 2g and 3g but have read different stories with regards to 4g.
    From looking at the spec of the US phone, I can see that it has different frequency coverage for Sprint and Verizon as per below:

    2G Network – GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 – Sprint, Verizon
    CDMA 800 / 1900 – Sprint, Verizon

    3G Network – HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100 – for Sprint
    HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 – for Verizon
    CDMA2000 1xEV-DO – for Sprint, Verizon

    4G Network – LTE 800 / 1900 / 2600 – Sprint
    LTE 700 / 1700 / 1800 / 2100 / 2300 / 2600 – Verizon

    I have checked T Mobile’s frequency which it uses for 2g, 3g and 4g and it appears that the Verizon phone would be compatible in the UK if it were to be Unlocked.
    Despite this I have read that it would still not work due to Verizon not having LTE 800 and Sprint not having LTE 2100 so neither network is compatible?
    Can you confirm if this is indeed the case and if so, if any of the other US phone networks would work in the UK.

    Thanks
    Paul

    • Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. Before I answer your question, it’s worth noting that T-Mobile doesn’t offer a 4G service here in the UK. To get 4G, you’ll need to “upgrade” to the 4GEE brand (this is true regardless of your handset).

      For 2G coverage in the UK, you’ll need to have either GSM 900 (for O2 and Vodafone) or GSM 1800 (for EE). Three doesn’t offer 2G coverage.
      For 3G coverage in the UK, you’ll need HSDPA 2100 for all of the UK networks (some limited coverage is also available on HSDPA 900 but I wouldn’t rely on it being available).
      For 4G coverage in the UK, you’ll need LTE 800 for an optimal experience (see my article on the UK’s 4G landscape) on O2 and Vodafone. For EE and Three, it’s normally best to have LTE 1800 support (they also have coverage at LTE 800 but coverage & speeds are currently more limited). LTE 2600 is yet to launch properly in the UK so isn’t useful at present.

      Concluding from this, the Verizon phone should work in the UK providing it’s unlocked. It would work on any of the 3G networks but would only work on EE and Three if you wanted 4G coverage (it doesn’t support LTE 800). The Sprint version would give you 4G coverage on Vodafone and O2 (it doesn’t have LTE 1800). A version of the phone bought in the UK would support both types of frequencies and would hence give a slightly smoother experience.

      Hope this helps!

      Ken
      Based on the specifications you’ve written in your e-mail, neither handset

      • Thanks Ken

        Answers it perfectly.

        Just out of curiosity, do you know if AT&T handsets would work in the UK if they were unlocked?

        Regards

        • Hi Paul,
          I believe it should be possible to use an unlocked AT&T handset whilst in the UK. You’ll need to make sure it’s a quad-band GSM handset (it’ll need to support the UK 2G frequencies of 900MHz and 1800MHz). For 3G connectivity, you should also check for WCDMA or HSDPA 2100 support.
          Hope this helps!
          Ken

  • Hi ken,

    I’m looking at the thl t6s as a temporary phone until the new year, but i’m still uncertain if it will support the O2 network I would appreciate some clarification as I think I will only have partial 3g coverage in London.

    Thanks,
    Gio

    • Hi Gio,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve just taken a look at the THL T6S smartphone. According to the specs, it supports quad-band GSM (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) and WCDMA (3G) at 850MHz and 2100MHz. As O2 uses 900MHz for GSM (2G) and 2100MHz for WCDMA (3G), it should support 2G and 3G fully. You won’t have access to the WCDMA service at 900MHz but in reality this shouldn’t make very much of a difference (2100MHz should be available across London).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi,
    I recently brought a mobile in India to use in UK, it has GSM/GSM dual sim phone. I did not get a chance to use it in India, when I put the sim in UK the signal is alright, i can send messages but the only problem I am facing is when I make a call I can hear the other person but they cannot hear me, do you think it could be something to do with network bands?

    • Hi Kiran,
      I’m not sure if this would happen due to network band support (unless for some reason, your handset only supports the UK downstream frequency). Have you tried making the call on another UK network? (e.g. if you’re using a 900MHz network such as O2 or Vodafone, you could try EE which uses 1800MHz). Something else to try is making the call with your hands-free kit in (this would allow you to tell if the problem is actually related to the microphone not working).
      Ken

      • Thanks for the reply Ken, the problem was with the microphone, I tried recording a video and it was recorded without any voice, though there was lot of noise when the video was recorded. So now I have asked for a replacement with the manufacturer. The good thing is it works with bluetooth and headphones.. so still been able to use it.

        Thanks,
        Kiran

  • Dear Ken,
    I will be visiting London in September 2014 for one week. I will require a sim for my ipad which I intend to use for Google Maps and other travel related apps & sites. What are the best options for me.

    • Hi Sukesh,
      Thanks for your comment. For a Pay As You Go SIM card for tablets, all of the major UK networks offer pretty much the same deal – £10 (approximately US$17) for 1GB of data and up to 30 days usage. Upon your arrival in the UK, you can buy a SIM card at any mobile retailer (e.g. retail stores from EE, O2, Three and Vodafone). If you’re able to order a SIM card for your arrival in the UK, giffgaff has a better value deal with 1GB of internet for £7.50 (you’ll need one of their gigabags). Although it’s slightly cheaper, there’s still a minimum top-up of £10 (so it’s only worth doing if you plan to leave some money on the SIM card and to re-use the SIM card on a subsequent trip to the UK).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken ,
    I will be coming to Scotland (edinburugh ) and Ireland (Dublin) in August for 15 days .
    I need SimCard for surfing (Google Maps , WhatsApp , Viber ) using my Huawei E589u-12 mobile WiFi router .
    What package/s will be ideal for my needs .
    Thanks
    Yoseph

    • Hi Yoseph,

      Thanks for your comment. As you’re using a mobile wi-fi router, you’ll need to use a mobile broadband tariff rather than the normal tariff designed for smartphones. As you’re travelling to both the UK and Ireland, my recommendation is go to with Three (they have networks in both countries and offer a deal where you can use your mobile broadband in both of the countries).

      On Pay As You Go, £10.49 gets you 1GB of data (or £20.49 gets you 3GB of data). It’s Pay As You Go so there’s no contracts to be signed (nor any need to pass a credit check in the UK). When travelling to Ireland, you can take advantage of the Feel at Home offer (continue using your mobile broadband in Ireland at no extra cost).

      Hope this helps!

      Ken

  • I will be coming to the UK from Nigeria in July for a 7 day stay, I will need a mobile line to call home regularly and data for my browsing, google map and whatsapp. I have an unlocked I phone 5 which I will bring into the UK.
    What package and which carrier will be ideal for my needs?

    • Hi Tunde,
      Thanks for your comment and hope you’re looking forward to your trip to the UK! The best deal for you would probably be Lycamobile. For calling Nigeria, it’s 1p/minute to landlines and 3p/minute to mobiles. For data, you can either buy the £5 bundle which gives you 500MB of data or the £7.50 bundle which gives you 1GB of data. The SIM card is free if you order it online (you can also pick one up in-person in the UK, though a small charge may apply for the SIM).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Hi Ken great info on ur pge. Could you help me please as I’m so confused with which is the best sim for my iPhone 4, I’m traveling from Australia in Aug 2014 to the UK spending 5wks in the UK including 1wk of that spent in France.
    I’d like a prepaid sim that I can use in the UK & France for little voice calls & lots of texting within UK & within France and texts back home to Australia. I also have my iPad 3 3G/wifi which I’ll require a data sim service for within UK & France. Or do u think I’m best to use the data on the iPhone SIM card via wifi hotspot on my iPad rather then purchasing a separate data only SIM card? What do you recommend my best options / provider would be?

    I really look forward to your reply & advice.. Many thanks in advanced 🙂

    • Hi Michelle,
      Thanks – and hope you’re looking forward to your trip to the UK! The good news is that EU roaming charges will be cut from July (so you can use any UK SIM card when travelling in France… it’ll cost you a maximum of 18p/minute, 5p/text and 19p/MB of data).
      For someone visiting the UK and France, my recommendation would be to order Three’s 321 SIM card. Once you get the SIM card, either buy the ‘All in One 10’ or the ‘All in One 15’ bundle. For £10/month, you get 100 UK minutes, 3000 texts and 500MB of data. Starting from July, France is also part of Three’s “Feel At Home” offer. Hence, with an “All in One” add-on, you can carry on using your SIM in France at no extra charge. The £15 bundle gives you unlimited UK data and up to 25GB of data in France.
      The main downside is it’s 56p/minute for calling Australia (you can of course use Skype or another app to avoid these charges).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  • Linda in Toronto Canada said:

    Hi Ken – great site! We are visiting from Canada for about 2 weeks and I’d like NOT to roam on Rogers (my carrier). I have a “locked” iphone 5 on the Rogers network and a laptop I’ll bring with me. I’d sure like to have a mobile internet connection as we’ll be camping/RVing. Can I “get” a phone with data plan there and “tether” it to my laptop? Just trying to get my head around the best options and thought you could help.

    • Hi Linda,
      Thanks for getting in touch! I’m really delighted you’ll have the chance to visit the UK and hope you’ll enjoy a really lovely time here!
      Unfortunately, as your iPhone 5 is currently locked to Rogers you won’t currently be able to use it on any UK networks. My recommendation is to first try unlocking your iPhone from Rogers. After unlocking, your iPhone should work on any of the UK networks (in this case, you simply pick up a local UK SIM card and enable the tethering function on your phone). Choose a nano-SIM when asked by your network. £10 of credit (18CAD) should easily last your 2 week trip.
      With regards to phone rentals, I don’t think this is a service commonly offered in the UK (though it may be possible at larger airports such as Heathrow). Rather, it’s more likely you’ll be asked to buy a new device on arrival (something like a Mobile Wi-Fi router will cost you around £50/91CAD on Pay As You Go). It’s rather expensive for a two week trip (though you do of course have the router for future trips abroad) so I would still recommend unlocking your iPhone!
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Anthony Luna said:

    Hi Ken,

    Its our first time to go to London and we will be there this middle of June. We will be traveling around tourist spots of interest up to Edinburg for 14 days . I am using a Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Most of our travels are on our own and its important for us to use my smart phone in obtaining maps,train & bus routes, GPS and to be able to call back home (Philippines) via Skype / Viber /Tango.

    From what I get from your previous replies we need to purchase a local SIM in London.
    Can you please explain what is the best thing for us to do?

    Thanks.

    Anthony

    • Hi Anthony,

      Thanks for getting in touch and hope you’re looking forward to your trip to the UK! First of all, I’d double check your Galaxy Note 2 is unlocked for other networks. If it’s still locked to a network in your home country, you should unlock the handset before leaving home (it’ll be much harder to unlock from the UK).

      After arriving, there are many options as to which SIM card to pick up. If you’re doing a home stay, try ordering a SIM card from giffgaff. A £10 top-up will give you 500 local minutes and 1GB of internet. Otherwise, the best thing to do is to find a phone shop near to your hotel. For a full comparison of the latest deals, please take a look at my article here. My recommended deal for a short-term visit to the UK would be Three’s 321 Pay As You Go SIM card. For £10, you’ll get 1GB of data (plus 150MB free with the top-up). You can use the 3G data for calling over Skype (it’s substantially cheaper than making an international phone call). A more expensive option is to get your SIM card from the airport (in addition to the £10 top-up, you’ll normally need to pay around £5 to £10 to get the SIM card).

      Hope this helps!

      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    Thanks for the above comment. Can you also advise what is the cost for data as I am going to UK for 10 nights and will use the data extensively such as Whatsapp, Google map, etc. Also, which provider would you recommended as I would spent time mostly in North of England and few nights in London.

    Thanks very much in advance.

    • Hi Simon,

      Thanks for your comment! As a short term visitor to the UK, I’d suggest getting a Pay As You Go SIM card. The SIM card is free but you’d need to make a minimum top-up of £10 to activate it. For 10 days of usage, I’d say the best deal is giffgaff’s £10 goodybag. You’ll get 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet. The downside is that giffgaff SIM cards aren’t available from retail stores: you’ll need to order it before you arrive (delivery by post to a UK address only). Coverage is provided by O2 (good for the North of England and London). If you wish to get your SIM card from a shop, I’d recommend going to a Three store upon your arrival. With their Pay As You Go SIM card, you can take advantage of Three’s 321 Plan. Data is just 1p/MB and you’ll get 150MB free with your top-up (£10 top-up = 1.15GB of data).

      For more information, see the table here for a comparison of PAYG rates. Also, you can see my full comparison of PAYG bundles.

      Hope this helps!

      Ken

  • I want to buy an unlocked HTC One from America to use in the UK as I am on holiday in the States soon, I would like to know if it will work? I am currently on Virgin UK.

    Thanks

    • Hi Demi,

      Thanks for leaving us a comment! If you’re buying a handset from America, be very careful to check the specifications.

      For 2G access, you’ll need GSM/GPRS/EDGE support at 900MHz (O2 & Vodafone) or 1800MHz (EE).
      For 3G access, you’ll need HSPA/WCDMA support at 2100MHz (EE, O2, Three & Vodafone).
      For 4G access, you’ll need LTE support at 800MHz, 1800MHz or 2600MHz (800MHz is best as it will work on all four networks – see the table here).

      In your case, you’re on Virgin Mobile UK which runs on top of the EE network. Hence, your imported phone will need to support the following frequencies:
      GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 1800MHz
      HSPA/WCDMA: 2100MHz

      I’ve looked up the unlocked HTC One for the US – it costs $600 and the full specs can be found on this page. Based on the specs provided, the handset will work on Virgin UK for 2G and 3G. However, you won’t be able to use 4G in the future.

      Hope this helps!

      Ken

  • I recently bought a GTmobile sim-only card for my unlocked Samsung phone with a view to phoning a friend abroad during August – now in September I still had credit on it as I kept using it for local/national calls until it stopped. I was surprised to find out that it's another virtual provider on the O2 network, but only charges 2p/min for landline and mobile networks.

    • Hi Josh,

      Unfortunately Three UK and Three Italia are two separate companies – sorry! You will not be able to use a Three UK top-up card with a Three Italy SIM card.

      Ken

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