When you’re in the UK, you’ll want to hear the voices of your friends and family back home. Or at least to communicate with them and find out what is going on in each other’s lives.
Do not underestimate the importance of speaking to your loved ones. It can be heart-breaking to arrive in a foreign country then realise you have no way of phoning home.
So that you don’t miss out on telling them any of your news as it happens, and so you know you can contact one another in an emergency, the first thing is to sort out a phone card, or at least a mobile phone.
The emergency services – police, fire or ambulance
What you dial before ringing outside the UK
The international operator
Directory enquiries service
To find out the last number that rang your telephone
Phoning home doesn’t have to be expensive.
Discount centres that offer cheap rates for international calls can be found in many towns and cities – your UK institution and tourist information offices will be able to tell you where these are.
There are also special services you can register with and use from any phone, payphone or mobile, which can give you big savings.
Use private phone lines if you have access (for instance, in your place of residence), as they are cheaper than using public payphones.
There are plenty of public payphones on UK streets and especially around airports, train stations, bus stations and shopping centres.
BT is the UK’s premier phone company, with over 60,000 public payphones in operation throughout the country. With BT’s internet kiosks you can access the web and send emails and text messages as well as make phone calls.
Pretty much every student in the UK owns a mobile phone. It’s a great way to plan your social life and keep in touch with your fellow students, especially when you are busy, studying different courses or living in different parts of the campus or town.
The UK is text-message mad – in 2009, an average of 265 million text messages and 1.6 million picture messages were sent every day. (See below for some popular abbreviations used by texters in the UK.)
Some of the abbreviations popular amongst mobile users in the UK:
how r u how are you?
btw by the way
lol laugh out loud
c u l8r see you later
If you have a mobile phone already, you could ring up your mobile network before you go and install international access, but it would be much cheaper to get a new mobile or sim card when you are in the UK.
If you decide to get a new mobile phone when you arrive in the UK, there are two options open to you:
- You can sign up to a contract (usually for at least 12 months) where you pay a monthly charge for a certain number of minutes and texts.
- You can get a ’pay as you go’ phone where, having bought the handset upfront, you pay for the calls and texts by adding credit to your mobile phone account as required.
Do your research and figure out what would be best for you, based on how many calls you make and when. There are mobile phone shops in the high street with advisors to help you choose.
A free Skype account is a great way to chat to and see (web-cam permitting) your friends and family back home.
With Skype, you can make free, unlimited calls and video calls and instant message anyone with a Skype account anywhere in the world over the internet. Skype users can also take advantage of cheap rates on calls to landlines and mobiles, in both the UK and abroad.
OK, so sometimes it’s no substitute for hearing a real-life voice on the other end of the line, but it’s easy, convenient, and most importantly, free for most students.
All institutions should have free internet access for their students, usually on campus in special computer rooms, or in the library. If you have your own computer, you should even be able to access the internet from the comfort of your own room.
It may seem old-fashioned, but there’s nothing more personal and exciting to receive than a hand-written letter. Or if that seems just too boring, find a pretty card or postcard that’s typical of the region. People back home are bound to be envious!