Travel Tip: Don’t Use Your US Phone Carrier In The UK, Buy a Sim Card

After 2 years of travel, we have incurred a few thousand dollars in mobile phone charges by using our US international plan.  Yes, that’s a ridiculous amount of money.  Yes, I know what you are thinking….

“SO, MIKE AND DONNA, why don’t you use WiFi since it’s absolutely free?” If I had a penny every time someone told us that, we would have enough money to use our cell phone carrier!

We use our cell phones because we want to, that’s it.  I wish I had some elaborate story about being undercover spies, and you never know when Mr. Bond might need us for a job….but I don’t.

So are we good?  Can we move on?

As I was saying, our plan charges $10/day per phone for unlimited text and data in most countries.  In theory, this sounds like a great deal, especially if you travel for short periods like most people.  But for us, as slow travelers that usually means 4 weeks.

I hear your wheels turning—trying to do some math in your head, are you?  So 30 days, at $10/day x 2 people equals= TOO MUCH MONEY (that’s called easy math).

We tried mobile hotspots but they were a huge pain.   For one, you have to keep it turned on and on your person at all times.  That’s just too much gear to carry around all day.

Second and even worse is the dreaded throttle down.  After a certain amount of data usage, they throttle your data speed down to a snail’s pace, which is usually by noon for me.  It stays like that until a new 24 hour period.  Basically, your cell phone is useless for any data.

 

Since we travel frequently to the UK we decided to try a SIM card on our next trip to Scotland (as we speak, I am actually in Oban, Scotland) .  We have done lots of research on SIM cards.  They seemed too complicated so we just never tried.  We also didn’t want our families to have to deal with a UK number to reach us.

 

But we decided enough is enough and took the leap.   We are so happy we did! Here’s a few tips and lessons learned on our new SIM card adventure.

 

1.  WHY DIDN’T WE TRY IT SOONER!

A huge head slap for both of us.  It’s not hard at all, it’s actually very easy, and so much CHEAPER!

 

 

2.  PICK A LOCAL CARRIER

We just googled carriers in the UK and Vodafone seemed to be the big one.  No other science behind our decision…I just really love the color red.

 

3.  MAKE SURE YOUR PHONE IS UNLOCKED

I think all phones are these days, but don’t quote me on that.  Also, all this info is for iPhones only.  I have no clue with other phones.

 

4.  LOOK AT YOUR IPHONE RIGHT NOW

We didn’t even know iPhones had SIM cards 😂!  Look at your iPhone right now, hidden on the side, is a teeny slot that needs a paper clip to pop open.  Do you have one?  If you do, then there’s a SIM card in there.

5.  GO TO A VODAFONE STORE

We walked in and claimed ignorance.  Daniel, at Vodafone, St. Andrews ( who was only working there for the weekend, lucky for us) was so helpful and extremely patient!  He explained everything to us, changed out our SIM cards, changed a few settings, and VOILA!

 

6.  YOU WILL GET A VODAFONE SIM CARD

So basically, what I am saying is…he/she will hand you back your US SIM card, so don’t lose it!!!! You need to pop that baby back in when you get home!!

 

7.  PICK A PAY AS YOU GO PLAN

For 30 pounds, I got a ridiculous amount of data..20GB for 30 days, 3,000 talk minutes and a large amount of texts.  But when you use iMessage, you are actually using data, so it doesn’t count as texts.  Don’t ask me to explain it, because I can’t.  It’s like the Easter Bunny, and Santa….it just is.

Currently,  I have been using my phone without any issue at all.  No throttle downs, maybe a few spotty areas of service, but even my US carrier has that problem.  So far, it’s been great!

 

8.  YOU WILL HAVE A UK PHONE NUMBER!

Don’t panic. It’s actually okay and not a big deal really, because you have an iPhone.  Just make sure all your peeps at home in the US have the iMessage setting turned on.  Again, I am only speaking about iPhones…but who doesn’t have an iPhone lately?

You can also keep your new UK SIM card phone number indefinitely, as long as you keep it topped off, and you use it every 90 days.  So New Years Eve…January 1, I need to pop my Vodafone SIM card back in my phone, text Mike and I am good for another 3 months.

 

9.  TEXT YOUR PEEPS

We just text all our people and told them to make a new contact for us.  “MIKE-UK, DONNA-UK” and just use that to text us…and it is working splendidly.

 

10.  VODAFONE APP

There is a Vodafone app, where you can check your data, minutes, etc., and add money if you want.  I also wanted to add that Vodafone is used throughout Europe, but then you would have a UK phone number in another country, so I am not sure how that would work.

Well, that’s our SIM card adventure.  I am sure it is completely over simplified, and my info is probably not entirely accurate, but it works for us.  I can use my phone without worrying and I am very very happy…..and as the saying goes around here…”A happy wife is a happy life”.

 

That’s all for us!  Take care and 👣 Happy Trails Everyone!

~Donna~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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