It’s said that the biggest fear one has it that of public peaking. For me, my biggest fear is not having cellular service, and not being able to connect while on the go.

So, how does one connect while in United Kingdom

Some quick tips to staying connected while on the go:
Telephone In case of emergency, call 999 or 112 from any phone. Such calls are free and will be answered by an emergency services operator who will ask you for your location, and the service(s) you need (police, fire, ambulance, coastguard, mountain rescue or cave rescue). You can call this number from any mobile telephone as well, even if you do not have roaming or even any SIM card inserted. It is a very serious offence to call this number without due cause. Non-urgent calls to the police should be made on 101 if you are in England or Wales and are charged at 15 pence per call. If you need non-urgent medical help call 111 (This number is gradually replacing 0845 46 47).

United Kingdom Phone photo

Photo by CGP Grey

When calling the UK from overseas, dial your international access code (00 from most of Europe, 011 from the US and Canada or ‘+’ from any mobile phone) followed by the UK’s country code (44) and then the UK area code and subscriber number. If the number you are calling is shown with a leading 0 at the beginning of the area code, the 0 must be omitted when calling from abroad. To phone another country from the UK, dial 00 followed by the overseas country code, area code and subscriber number.

When calling a UK landline number from any other UK number, dial the area code (beginning with the leading 0) and the subscriber number. If calling from a landline to another landline within the same area code the area code can usually be omitted. For calls to UK mobile telephones from anywhere within the UK all of the digits have to be dialled by all callers. The same is true when you are doing the opposite.

When the building you’re in has its own internal phone system, the number for an outside line is usually “9” (not “0”, as in many other countries, which in the UK usually connects you to the operator or reception desk). Payphones are widely available, especially in stations, airports, etc. Payphones usually take cash (minimum 40p – BT, although some private payphones may charge more); change is not given, but you can choose to use the excess on the next call. Some newer payphones accept cr and debit cards and may even allow you to send emails and surf the web. Phonecards have been phased out, though various pre-paid phonecards can be purchased from newsagents for cheap international calls. Some BT payphones now accept Euros.

A simpler and often cheaper alternative for international calls is to use a direct-dial service, these offer vastly reduced call rates over the standard providers and don’t require you to purchase a card or sign up for an account. You simply dial an access number which is usually a more expensive revenue-share (084x or 087x) or premium rate (09xx) number. Whether you are calling someone who is inside or outside the UK, it may be important to find out if the phone number being called corresponds to a landline or mobile phone as most operators have different rates for each. Mobile phones are heavily used.

United Kingdom Mobile Phone photo

Photo by ell brown

The main networks are T-Mobile , Vodafone , Orange , 3 and O2 , and all have 3G services as well as GPRS (excluding 3). GPRS and 3G data services are available, usually priced per megabyte. GPRS (Voice, Text, Basic Internet) coverage is sparse in mountainous areas but reaches 99% of homes, 3G signal (MMS, Video, Internet etc) has similar huge gaps outside of urban areas (dependent on network) and may also be difficult to get indoors.

T-Mobile and Orange are both now run by Everything Everywhere and share each others signal. A 4G service has just started in a small number of the largest cities. OpenSignal provide independent United Kingdom coverage maps comparing network quality and data speeds.

There is no charge for calls that you receive on your handset except for those roaming; charges are only for calls that you initiate. Pay as you go (prepaid) plans are available. Cr the phone with a top-up card or cash payment via a top-up terminal in a shop or at an ATM; there is no formal, paper term contract. Some operators also offer packages which mix texts, phone calls and/or data at affordable rates.

These packages can come with your initial top-up or be deducted from your balance. These are usually more ideal if you intend to stay in the UK for a short period of time; getting pay monthly plans will save you more if you will reside in the UK for a longer time.If you have an unlocked GSM-compatible handset (most dual- and tri-band phones are GSM-compatible) you can purchase a SIM card from several electrical or phone outlets, in supermarkets, or online (i.e. although giffgaff themselves only send sims to UK addresses, you can order a giffgaff sim abroad free > here.) Be aware prices do vary considerably – from £5 (with £10 call cr) from Tesco on-line (available in Tesco supermarkets) to £30 (with £2.50 cr) from Vodafone (available at all mobile phone shops).

Often bargain handset-and-SIM deals can be found, if you don’t have an unlocked handset – at the time of writing you can get a very basic mobile with SIM for £18 from Tesco, though this will be a locked phone and won’t work with other SIM cards. Costs for calls can vary significantly depending on when you call, where from and where to. Calls from hotel rooms can be spectacularly expensive because of hotel surcharges; check before you use and consider using the lobby payphones instead. Calls from payphones and wired, or landline, phones to mobile phones are expensive too; if you have the choice call the other party’s landline. Beware of premium rate calls (070, 084n, 087n and 09nn), which can be very expensive, especially from mobiles.

Text messaging from mobiles costs around 10 pence per message and picture or MMS messages cost around 45 pence (20 pence on some networks). If you expect to frequently call abroad from your mobile phone, consider getting a sim from a virtual carrier. Carriers such as Vectone One, Lebara and Lycamobile offer deeply discounted rates to call or text phone numbers in other countries. Calls between landlines are charged at national or geographic rate by most providers.

Many mobile and landline packages provide inclusive minutes to call 01, 02 and 03 numbers either off-peak or at any time. Calls to the crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey, Sark and the Isle of Man may be charged at a higher rate. If the originating and destination area codes are the same then the area code can be omitted when calling from a landline. Note that local calls are charged at the same rate as other geographic phone calls, and are not automatically free unless the user has an appropriate contract with the phone provider.

Non-geographic 08xx numbers used to be cheaper than their geographic counterparts, but this has effectively changed as an increasing number of calls are made using mobile phones, where such non-geographic numbers are charged higher and are rarely included in mobile phone plans. The following table relates the first few digits dialled to call types, so you can avoid some of the pitfalls above:

Other tips on staying connected while in United Kingdom? Please add your comments and tips.