There are many places in the UK where you can get a mobile phone but the main two would either be a network shop ( Vodafone, Orange, TMobile, Virgin or O2) or an independent phone shop/chain such as The CarPhone Warehouse. Sometimes you can even buy mobile phones in supermarkets. Mobile phones can be very cheap in the UK, even from as little as £5, so there is no need to worry about not being able to afford one.
There are two ways to pay for using a mobile phone in the UK: Pay as You Go (PAYG) or a contract.
Pay as You Go
With Pay as You Go (PAYG) you buy 'top-up' cards to add calling credit to your phone. Although the rates you are charged will depend on the provider, typically, sending an SMS message (a ‘text’) will cost between 10p and 15p, whilst calling will cost about 30p a minute to phones on a different network. Whilst these rates are considered reasonable by most people, this option is only advised for people who don’t think they will use their phone very often because it can get expensive quickly. It is worth noting that you are only charged for the calls and texts you make and there is no monthly “connection” or “promotion” charge like in some other countries. There is also no time limit in which you must have used the credit which means you won’t have to worry that it will ‘disappear’ after one month! Credit can be bought in many different shops, online, at a cash machine (ATM) or even using the mobile phone itself and a debit/credit card.
Having a contract means paying a set amount every month to the phone network in exchange for a set number of calls and text messages. This option can be very economical and convenient for people who use their phone a lot and is what most UK students use. You can get some very good deals but be careful because charges can be very high if you go over your limit of calls and texts. Some contracts are 'SIM only' which means you only pay for the SIM card and buy a phone seperately. These contracts are renewed monthly; you are not obliged to stay with the same network for a long period of time. Other contracts come with a free mobile phone but you are committed to stay with that network for a minimum of, usually, 12 or 18 months. Contracts are usually paid for very conveniently by direct debit, with the money being taken straight out of your bank account every month. All of the available deals can be seen on the network websites and it is well worth looking at a few before choosing. Most networks have an option which will allow you to call abroad quite cheaply.
Other ways to keep in touch with family and friends include Skype, either for free on your computer or with one of their subscriptions to call telephones abroad. You can also buy international phone cards to use with land-line phones which are available in the Costcutter supermarket on campus.