14th Jun 2012 11:16am | By Editor
It's always difficult working out what kind of phone and internet package you'll need as an expat. Flexibility is key.
Shopping around is the golden rule when it comes to looking for a phone or internet contract to help you communicate with people at home. There are so many deals out there, so don’t commit until you’re 100 per cent happy.
Antipodeans are lucky to find providers that offer free calls to landlines back in Australia and New Zealand, such as SkyTalk with its Unlimited package and BT’s International Freedom bolt-on, both £5
a month. Don’t take up a contract unless you get a deal like this, which you can usually get when you sign up to a monthly contract with a provider for around £8-£15.
Unfortunately, we haven’t heard of a South African equivalent deal, but calls to SA landlines can be made from 2p a minute depending on your provider.
If you’re not worried about calling home, there are lots of phone packages that offer deals on inclusive calls. But check for connection charges before you sign up, as any monthly savings can be cancelled out by up-front fees.
You’ll need one of these as soon as you get off the plane. Either get your phone from home unlocked here and use a British SIM card once you’ve set up a contract or on pay as you go.
Or if you want to get a new one, the prices of smartphones (iPhone, Blackberry or Android) have gone down a lot recently. Most providers offer a subsidised handset if you sign up to a contract – you can get a smartphone for as little as £10 a month, usually on an 18- or 24-month contract. These have the added perks of a camera, music and internet with them, and they’ve also got GPS so you can find your way when you’re lost in London.
If you use your phone a lot, it might be cheaper to get a contract, but if you don’t use it much then pay as you go may be the best option for you. When picking a service provider, the best advice is to do as much research as you can over whether you want to get a contract or go pre-paid. If you’re prepared to hunt and haggle, there are some great deals out there. Also bear in mind that some phone shop staff might be paid commission for selling certain brands or models.
You can get these handy gems from newsagents and websites. They’ll give you generously discounted calls to foreign countries – some let you call Australia for just 1.5p per minute.
Use them on any phone, but watch for additional charges if using a mobile. Also be careful to look for extra costs if you use the cards at particular times of day. Aside from that, they’re usually as good a saving as they seem.
Always shop around before you commit to a contract with an internet provider too. An important thing to look for if you’re renting in a shared house is unlimited usage – it’s worth paying that little bit extra for it to avoid getting slapped with a massive bill if too many downloads are made by multiple users. Always check
the fine print. Also, always make sure you find out about connection fees, modem and router costs before signing up to make sure you’re paying the least possible overall.
Like with phones, there are some brilliant deals to be found. Some come with a landline and Sky or Cable TV – which might be handy now winter’s approaching. Virgin and Sky do competitive bundle packages like these, which are well worth checking out.
Or if you’d rather your home was an internet free zone, there are plenty of internet cafes to be used on every high street. Usage costs from around 50p an hour.