London Calling!

Old Jan 22nd, 2008, 12:01 PM
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London Calling!

My family will be in London over Easter, and we need to call daily to the US. Can anyone suggest a reliable phone card or other technique? Not too worried about cost, as getting thru is the most important thing. Many of the companies that pop up on a google search look shifty. Thanks!
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Old Jan 22nd, 2008, 12:10 PM
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I plan to purchase a couple of Virgin sim cards on ebay & put them in my unlocked gsm triband phones, they sell them (the sim cards, I mean) very cheap, & according to my research, are legit.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2008, 12:13 PM
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I did as the first poster suggested, and it could not have been easier.
You must make sure that your phone is unlocked first. The sim cards are for sale everywhere, as are the cards for adding credits. I used Virgin, but I heard Orange was another good brand.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2008, 12:16 PM
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Three suggestions - I'm not a techie so I like to keep it easy:
1) Call your US cell phone company and see if your current phone can be 'unlocked' to use in London.
2) Take a look at Mobal.com They sell a "world phone" for $49. You keep it forever, have no monthly fees - just pay for the calls you make.
3) PennyTalk.com has a calling card with minutes costing 2cents from London.

Oh, and if you'll be renting a car, contact the good folks at AutoEurope.com. They provide FREE cell phone use with every auto rental abroad. I've used them several times with great success. Even if you're not renting a car, I believe the have the phones available at very reasonable prices.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2008, 12:51 PM
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I've written many times on this...the easiest question to ask is whether your current US cell phone provider is either T Mobile or AT&T...in that case you may already have the phone you need, namely a gsm phone with the 1800 mhz. frequency. If you do, you can inquire of your provider how to unlock it...if you use another provider, such as Verizon, you will have to get yourself an unlocked gsm phone on ebay...they start at around $50...what you need is a phone with the 1800 mhz. frequency although also having 900 mhz. will not hurt....such phones are called tri band phones and look at the specs...if you already have a gsm phone without the European frequencies, you can probably upgrade with your carrier or buy the phones.

Next, there are basically 2 good choices in the UK and Virgin Mobile is no longer one of them.

One is to get a sim card from T Mobile UK...you can read up on this at a site called www.yourcallworld.com. It explains how you can acquire a T Mobile UK sim card for £1 (you can also check out the T Mobile UK web site, www.tmobile.co.uk as very often, they give away sim cards for free; all you need is a UK mailing address (your first hotel?)...

With the system described above, you cann an auxilliary number and can then put calls through to the USA and much of the rest of the world at the rate of 3p/minute (BTW that is not a misprint, it is indeed 3p/minute and it most assuredly works as advertised, I was in London last week and used it)...you also get the usual stuff of gsm phones in Europe namely the free reception of calls while in the UK, a UK phone number (with a +44 country code) and T Mobile UK allows you to call both landlines and mobile phones of other networks in the UK for 15p/minute....to add more time (called topping up) they give you a card that looks like a credit card, you go into any chemist, many grocery chains, any mobile phone store, tell them you wish to top up, they run the card through a terminal much like a credit card and you pay the 5 or 10 quid or whatever. If you don't want to call the auxilliary number first, you can read up about T Mobile UK bundles whcih allow you to purchase 50 minutes of calling time to the USA and/or Canada for £2; by my math that comes out to 4p/minute.

Now also, if want to splurge a bit, you can go into any Orange mobile store and there are many in London and "purchase" a sim card called call abroad...the sim card itself is free but they require an initial investment of £10 of air time, after that you top up the same way described above. Calls to the USA and/or Canada on this plan (Australian landlines too I believe but somewhat higher to Australian mobiles) are almost twice as expensive as the T Mobile UK plan on yourcallworld above...they cost 5p/minute to the USA, Canada...no need to call the auxilliary number you just dial +1 212 555 1212 or whatever and voila you're through. Also as above you get a UK number where people can reach you24/7 and you don't pay (although they will pay somewhat more than just calling a UK landline, but with my plan on AT&T I pay 27/minute to call a UK mobile...with some research it is possible to do better.

Virgin mobile was once a great choice, but they've really raised their rates (Branson doesn't own them anymore but they retained the name) and calls to the USA on Virgin while relatively inexpensive by earlier standards at 20p/minute are now expensive compared to the above.

Also the nice thing about the T Mobile UK or Orange suggestions made above is that if you leave the UK and roam anywhere in the eu (becareful about Switzerland and Norway which are not part of the eu, this may or may not apply), you can use the phone and will pay on 34p/minute to call another eu number (not very practical I admit) but only 19p/minute to receive calls as the eu has established these rates. There are cheaper alterntives outside the UK but if you take a quick side trip say on Eurostar to Paris or Brussels, you have a phone that will work reltively inexpensively while roaming outside the UK.

The other suggestions about mobile phones such as mobal and virgin mobile were once good ones but as noted with the competition going on in the UK, T Mobile UK and Orange call abroad are the best deals and both T Mobile UK and Orange operate predominantly on 1800 mhz. so you don't really need a phone with 900 mhz. which is the other gsm frequency in use in Europe.

Also don't be put off by any peole suggesting this is difficult...it is hardly brain surgery and it is very hard to comprehend how easy it is to have a mobile phone where you can be reached 24/7 and pay only 3p/minute to call the USA and pay nothing while in the UK to have friends and associates call you...and if you go to the UK often, it is easy to keep both of these sim cards alive and kicking by simply sending 1 text message every couple of months.....
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Old Jan 22nd, 2008, 01:21 PM
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xyz123 - I plan to use our phones to call each other while in the UK (arrange where to meet up etc) and also maybe a couple confirmation calls to our next destination, Italy. - is Virgin Mobile still a bad deal for that kind of use?

Also I bow down to your expert knowledge of all things cellular but I must point out you can get unlocked used gsm phones on ebay for $25 - $30, granted you need to shop carefully.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2008, 01:23 PM
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If you want the convenience of a cell phone while you're there, the above advice is good. I'd never used the unlocked phone/sim card combo before last year, but it was easy.

However, if you will only be calling to the US and have a hotel room with a phone, stores and newsagents all over sell phone cards with very cheap rates to the US. That's the absolute easiest way, in my opinion.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2008, 01:39 PM
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If you don't want to get involved in all the cell phone "issues" - (you can see just some of the issues involved when a simple explanation takes 9+ paragraphs )

Just stop in any news agent or corner shop and buy a simple phone card. A £5 card will let you talk for a couple of hours. A £10 card will more than cover you if you talk a lot.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2008, 01:47 PM
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I can condense the whole thing...

1. Get yourself an unlocked gsm phone with 1800 mhz frequency.

2. Go to yourcallworld to learn how to get a T Mobile UK sim card for £1.

3. Insert sim card into unlocked phone.

4. Go to Boots and put £5 on the phone.

Voila...just as cheap as phone card and you don't have to worry about hotel surcharges, finding a working pay phone (since everybody from 10 years old on up walks around with a mobile phone, they are fewer and further between).

5. Be able to call and be reached 24/7.

Done.
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Old Jan 27th, 2008, 11:54 AM
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Thanks, everybody, for that tremendous amount of advice, and I'm going to use several of your suggestions. I looked into the Mobal phone option, and because we'll be elsewhere in Europe 2 or 3 more times in the next two years, having our own phone makes sense. I'll also get a Penny Talk card so my son and others can contact our cell easily. As back - up, we'll use a cheap calling card we'll buy in London and find a pay phone, but it seems that peoples' experience with the Mobal is pretty positive. Our current carrier, Verizon, wouldn't work in Europe, so the SIM card option is out.

Thanks again,
tc12
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