How to make cheap international calls
If you’re studying or working in the UK then you’ll need to find a cheap way of calling friends and family back home. Calls from UK landlines to most international countries can be expensive – but there are ways around this.
There are basically three ways to make cheap calls to international territories from the UK. These are:
- International calls plans from landline providers
- Skype VoIP on your computer or mobile
- An international calling card
1) International calls plans from landline providers
Many of the UK’s top landline providers have international calls plans that can save you money when calling abroad. These plans may be included with a home phone package or be offered as an extra “bolt-on” service.
To save in this way you’ll need a specific home phone package from your provider, and you’ll usually pay your line rental to them. Your options include:
BT Friends & Family International lets you make discounted calls to hundreds of international territories in exchange for a small monthly subscription fee on top of your line rental. For a larger fee you can opt instead for BT International Freedom. This includes free calls to BT’s 36 most popular destinations and reduced calls to 200 more.
The countries included in BT International Freedom are: Australia, Austria, Azores, Bahamas, Belgium, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and USA.
The O2 Home Phone Anytime package includes 600 minutes of free international calls to 22 of the most popular international countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada (landlines and mobiles), Canary Islands, Cyprus (excluding North Cyprus), Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Republic of Ireland, Spain, Sweden, USA (landlines and mobiles) and Vatican.
The Orange Home Broadband with Anytime Mobile Calls package includes calls to 30 of the most popular international territories: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and USA.
The Plusnet Talk Anytime International 300 package includes up to 300 minutes of inclusive landline calls to 20 of the most popular foreign countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada (landlines and mobiles), Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland (Republic), Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Spain (not Canary Islands), Sweden and USA (landlines and mobiles).
The standard Plusnet Talk Anytime package will also give you a 25% discount on calls to these countries if you don’t want to pay the extra for anytime mobile calls.
Sky Talk Unlimited includes free international calls to 20 top destinations: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada (landlines and mobiles), Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and USA (landlines and mobiles).
The TalkTalk 500 Global Minutes Boost is a monthly add-on that gives you 500 minutes of calls to more than 80 international destinations. If you use up your 500 minutes in a month you’ll be charged for any remaining international calls at a reduced rate.
With Virgin Media Talk International you pay a small monthly fee on top of your existing landline phone deal to reduce the cost of calls to hundreds of international destinations to as little as 10p per minute.
Visit Virgin Media for more information.
Skype is a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system which you can use to make free calls from one computer to another. To use Skype you and the person you’re calling will both need Skype software on your computers, a Skype account and a compatible headset, or microphone and speakers.
Skype can also be used to make calls to international landlines from your computer or smartphone much more cheaply than the standard rate. To use this method you’ll need an account with Skype and the software or app installed on your computer or smartphone.
There are two international landline calling plans from Skype. If the destination of your call lies within one of the 23 European territories you can sign up for the basic Skype Unlimited Europe package. If you’ll be calling destinations outside Europe the Skype Unlimited World package will give you unlimited calls to 40 worldwide destinations.
Both Skype international calling plans are governed by a fair usage policy which limits usage to 10,000 minutes per person per month, and to 6 hours per day.
3) International calling cards
International calling cards are prepaid phone cards that can easily be picked up in many shops. They can be used at payphones, on landlines and on most mobiles. When you buy one it will include some credit, and you’ll top it up once that credit is used up.
When you want to make a call you’ll dial an access number. When prompted you’ll enter the card number, the PIN and the number you want to call. The cost of the call will be deducted from the card’s balance at a reduced rate as low as a penny or two per minute.
There are lots of different calling card companies but if you’re new to the concept a good place to start is with the Tesco International Calling Card. They’re widely available from Tesco stores and feature very low international call rates.
Things to consider:
- If you can plan ahead you’re more likely to be able to save money, but whichever of the above methods you use you should be able to make pretty significant savings
- You may save more if you dial outside UK peak-rate hours (after 7pm). Check with your provider
- The cost of calls to international numbers can vary greatly depending upon where in the world you're calling. Check with your chosen provider to get the most up-to-date cost for calls to your chosen country
- You may be charged a connection fee each time you make an international call. Check with your provider to find out all charges that will be levied
- International calling card operators and landline providers may charge a connection fee, so check all applicable charges before dialling
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