Shopping: UK Phones
As far as mobile phones go, you can either get a pay as you go plan or a contract plan with any of the major mobile phone companies in the UK: Orange, O2, Vodafone, T-mobile and 3. Pay as you go allows you to pre-pay for your airtime minutes and texts. You are not bound to any legal agreements, and you must buy a UK Sim card and handset (unless you have a phone from home that's compatible with the UK Sim card). Pay as you go plans are ideal for students studying in the UK for less than 12 months. Calls and texts have a standard charge (no difference in price between a call made to another mobile or to a landline; around 15p a min.)
Contract plans are generally less expensive monthly than pay as you go and the phone often comes free when you sign up for a plan. You will however, be bound to a contract, which (in most cases) can vary from 12,18, or 24 months, and breaking the contract is very expensive. Under a contract plan, you are allotted a certain number of minutes and texts and you pay a fixed monthly rate (if you exceed your minutes though, expect to pay your weight in gold for those extra chats) Contract plans are good for students remaining in the UK for more than 11 months.
The last type of mobile phone plan available to foreign students, is a combination of pay as you go and contract. It's a rolling 30 day contract plan available for basic handsets. For a low monthly payment, you get a bundle of minutes and unlimited texts. This contract renews itself monthly, unless you cancel it at the end of the month (without penalty). This is the best option for students remaining in the UK for less than a year.
You should also sign up to an international calls company so you can get cheap international calls from your mobile.
No matter which type of phone or plan you have, all incoming calls are FREE in the UK! Although most people rely solely on their mobile phones, landlines are still a good option. Keep in mind that there is a charge for all calls made from a landline (except calls made to free lines, such as 0800 numbers). Landline to landline calls are quite cheap, but if you start calling mobile phones from a landline you can find yourself on a fast track to poverty. Installing a landline is important if you're wanting to set up an internet connection at home.