How To Use Cell Phone in The UK: Traveler’s Guide to Stay Connected

Heading to the UK soon? You will need an Internet connection to fully enjoy your trip. Whether it is to navigate maps, order transport, or stay in touch with your friends and family, you need to use cell phone in the UK. Let’s check out this guide to know whether your phone will work in the UK and all the options to stay connected while traveling in this country.

use phone in the UK

I. Highlights of Phone Compatibility, Frequencies and Networks in the UK

To access the Internet in the UK smoothly, it is essential to know its phone compatibility, frequencies, and networks.

Phone compatibility:

  • The UK uses GSM and 4G/5G technology for mobile networks.
  • Most modern smartphones from around the world work in the UK.

Frequencies:

  • Common frequencies used in the UK: 900MHz, 850MHz, and 2100MHz for 3G.
  • 4G/LTE networks in the UK work on various bands: 800MHz, 1800MHz, and 2600MHz. Most international phones will work.

Networks:

  • Main mobile carriers in the UK include EE, Vodafone, O2, and Three which have extensive coverage across cities, towns, and tourist sites.
  • With an unlocked phone, you can buy a prepaid SIM card from any UK carrier.

Pro Tips:

  • Make sure your mobile phone is unlocked before arriving in the UK to use local SIM cards
  • Check the international roaming plans and rates from your local mobile carrier.

II. Use Cell Phone in the UK – Will My Phone Work?

Yes, certainly!

You can still use cell phone in the UK and access the Internet while visiting beautiful destinations there. Before your trip, you should accomplish the following:

  • Check that your phone has open bands. This is because you can only connect to networks other than your operator’s network if your phone has open bands. Otherwise, you will be compelled to utilize your home carrier’s overseas roaming, which is quite costly.
  • Compare your cellular network’s frequencies to those used in the United Kingdom. This will allow you to figure out how fast your Internet connection will be in the UK.
Your cell phone can work in the UK
Your cell phone can work in the UK

This table shows the bands and specific frequencies used by UK mobile carriers: 

GSM Frequencies3G Frequencies4G/LTE Frequencies5G Frequencies
EE1800Mhz2100Mhz1800Mhz (Band 3)
2600Mhz (Band 7)
3400MHz
(Band 42)
O2900Mhz1800Mhz900Mhz2100Mhz800Mhz (Band 20)3400MHz
(Band 42)
Vodafone900Mhz1800Mhz900Mhz2100Mhz800Mhz (Band 20)
2600Mhz (Band 7)
3400MHz
(Band 42)
Three2100Mhz800Mhz (Band 20)
1800Mhz (Band 3)
3400MHz
(Band 42)
BT Mobile1800Mhz2100Mhz800Mhz (Band 20)
1800Mhz (Band 3)2100Mhz (Band 7)

Important Note: The information may change, so verify with your selected carrier to confirm their current operational status.

III. Do I Need an International Plan in the UK?

Yes. Getting an international plan is one of the most convenient ways to have an Internet connection while you are traveling in the UK. However, if you use the international roaming services of your local operator, you may incur expensive rates.

You need an international plan to stay connected in the UK
You need an international plan to stay connected in the UK

An international plan is not the only option to keep online during your UK trip. It is, indeed, an expensive option. There are still many services that are more cost-effective and easy to get such as eSIM, SIM card, or pocket Wifi. You can also use free Wifi to access the Internet. Using free Wifi seems quite convenient but you cannot always find hotspots to connect free Wifi and it is quite insecure.

IV. What are International Plan Options to Use Cellphones in the UK for Tourists?

There is a wide range of services that offer international plans, either to use cellular data, make calls, or send messages while you travel abroad. eSIM, international prepaid SIM card, or pocket Wifi should be so familiar to you. Let’s explore the features, pros and cons as well as where to buy some UK mobile internet devices.

1. eSIM Plan for the UK

eSIM for the United Kingdom
eSIM for the United Kingdom

eSIM for the UK is a top option that comes with many modern features compared to traditional SIM cards. If you want to use eSIM, the only requirement is to have an eSIM-compatible phone. With an eSIM, you can access unlimited mobile data with customizable periods to visit the UK.

Suitable for: phones that support eSIM technology

Where to buy eSIM for the UK: order online from reliable third-party providers

Pros: no risk of SIM loss, no need to visit physical SIM card stores, easy online activation

Cons: compatible smartphones needed

Notes:

  • You can use eSIM if your cell phone is unlocked and supports eSIM.
  • Check if your phone is listed on our list of eSIM-supported devices.

2. International SIM card for the UK

Prepaid SIM card for the UK
Prepaid SIM card for the UK

Prepaid SIM cards have been one of the most popular alternatives among tourists. They work similarly to the SIM cards you use in your country. The SIM card needs to be inserted into your phone.

Suitable for: any unlocked smartphone

Where to buy SIM card for the UK: available at airport stores, major carrier stores, or online before you go. It is better to order a UK SIM card online from the supplier and have it delivered to your house.  

Pros: reasonable price, a wide range of data plans

Cons: risk of SIM loss

3. Pocket WiFi

Pocket Wifi for the UK
Pocket Wifi for the UK

Pocket Wifi, a small device that transmits Internet signals to multiple devices connected to it, is also a very popular option. When using pocket Wifi, you will have to pay not only for the plan you want but also for the device rental, delivery, accessories, and device insurance. For instance, the price to rent pocket Wifi for a week in the UK is about $349.99 (provided by a US mobile company). So expensive!

Suitable for: those who travel in a group 

Where to buy Pocket WiFi for the UK: rental websites, rental kiosks at the airports, technology stores

Pros: the ability to connect multiple devices like phones, laptops, tablets, etc.

Cons: high rental fees, extra things to carry

V. Will My Local Network Work in the UK?

Your local network is likely to work in the UK
Your local network is likely to work in the UK

Most domestic operators offer international roaming services to users. While you can technically use your regular cell phone service from home in the UK, it is not usually the best idea due to high roaming fees. If you do not control your data consumption, messaging, or calls during your UK trip, you could incur a nasty surprise bill after your trip.

Advice: To avoid budget worries, you can get a prepaid SIM card or an eSIM for the best plans and the most competitive prices.

VI. Gigago eSIM – An Alternative to Get Internet in the UK with your Cell Phone

eSIM plans for the UK from Gigago
eSIM plans for the UK from Gigago

eSIM is the best choice to stay connected with the Internet while traveling in the UK. All you need is an eSIM-compatible cell phone and you can get an eSIM and activate it online via a QR code before your trip. You can buy just the amount you need and extend your eSIM if your trip lasts longer than expected. Moreover, you will not be shocked by roaming bills later.

Gigago is a trusted eSIM provider for many countries around the world, including the UK. For the UK, Gigago offers multiple data plan options, starting from a 3-day plan with 300MB per day for $5 with $3.50 . They also have 5-day, 7-day, 10-day, 14-day, 15-day, 20-day, 25-day, 28-day, and 30-day plans ranging from 1GB to 50GB of data, with prices from $5 up to $136.90.

Here are several features that make Gigago stand out:

  • Gigago eSIM UK plans work on high-speed 4G/5G networks across the UK.
  • A wide selection of packages (data, voice, and text or data-only), multiple options for validity, and data volume.
  • 24/7 customer service in multiple languages (English, Spanish, French, Chinese, etc.)

VII. Extra Tips to Use Cell Phone in the UK

Here are some helpful tips for using your cell phone effectively in the UK:

  • Consider getting a UK SIM card or eSIM. This helps you access affordable local services without roaming charges.
  • Remember to estimate your usage and buy only the amount you need. Plans include data-only or data with calls/ texts.
  • Most cities have public free Wifi in hotspots like restaurants, hotels so you don’t have to use your cell data for casual surfing.
  • Bring a portable charger to charge your cell phone when needed.

VIII. Conclusion

In conclusion, you can totally use cell phone in the UK. After analyzing each of the options, we can say that eSIMs and international SIM cards are the best alternatives that keep you online during your trip to the UK. Gigago eSIM for the UK is a wise choice. Remember to choose the option that suits your needs and priorities.