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International students – Save money when calling abroad from the UK

Saturday, March 15th 2014

It can be stressful moving to the UK to study, and one of the best ways to blow off steam is to ring home.

International calls from the UK can be expensive for students, so let’s take a look at some of the cheapest ways for you to make those long distance calls. We’ll look at how you can make calls over voice over internet protocol, through a mobile phone plan, from landlines, and through a few other methods too.

Mobile calls

It’s best to get a UK mobile while studying in the UK, and many providers offer cheap international call rates. Some providers are better than others however, so it helps to shop around and compare international deals. We’ve included a table listing the four mobile providers which offer specific international call plans.

International call planPrice from
EECalling Abroad Add-on£6.00 per month →
O2International SIM£10.00 per month →
VodafoneInternational Bundle£10.00 per month →
T-MobileInternational Pass£10.00 per month →
International call plan
Friends & Family International
Price from
International call plan
International SIM
Price from
International call plan
International Bundle
Price from
International Pass
International Plan
Price from

If you’ve moved from a country in the EU, roaming is considerably cheaper than if you’ve moved to the UK from outside the European Union. The European Union roaming regulations enforce caps on the amount an EU member can be charged by their mobile provider when making a phone call from another EU country. Until July 2014, charges were capped at 0.24 cents per minute to a European country for phone calls, and 0.08 cents for a text. These rates are now set at a maximum of 0.19 cents for calls and 0.06 cents for SMS messaging.

Landline calls

Whether you’re staying in halls of residence or a house share, you can get a landline installed with a cheap international add-on for calls back home. International options are rarely installed as standard; you’ll have to select them as a bolt-on to your basic landline package, and rates vary depending on which provider you go for. We’ve included a table of the providers with the cheapest international bolt-ons below, but it’s best to check with your current landline provider first to see if they can offer you a cheap international deal without having to switch.

International call planPrice from
BTFriends & Family International£1.15 per month →
Virgin MediaTalk International£2.00 per month →
TalkTalkInternational Boost£2.99 per month →
Post OfficeInternational Saver£4.00 per month →
BTInternational Freedom£5.85 per month →
PlusnetAnytime International 300£6.00 per month →
SkyTalk Anytime International£10.00 per month →
International call plan
Friends & Family International
Price from
Virgin Media
International call plan
Talk International
Price from
International call plan
International Boost
Price from
Post Office
International call plan
International Saver
Price from
International call plan
International Freedom
Price from
International call plan
Anytime International 300
Price from
International call plan
Talk Anytime International
Price from

Internet calls

You don’t have to stick with landlines and mobiles to make international calls. If you’ve got an internet connection (or if your university has free Wi-Fi) you can phone home via a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) service. We’ve outlined two options below.


Skype is one of the most popular VoIP programs in the world. Like most VoIP programs, you can communicate with any other Skype user for free. If you need to contact someone at home who doesn’t have access to Skype, you can add international call packages to the software to make cheap mobile and landline calls.


Rebtel is a great choice if you use your smartphone more than your PC or laptop. As a mobile app, you simply download it to your smartphone and you’re practically ready to go. Rebtel lets you call other Rebtel users free, and you can add international call options if you need to call someone who doesn’t use the app.

Compare broadband →

Tips for international students

  1. When call overseas, you need to prefix the number with that country’s international code. Visit BT for a list of all the international calling codes.
  2. If these options do not appeal, ask your Student Union welfare office or International Student office if they can recommend a reliable international calling card.
  3. Check the small print when you’re about to buy an international call package to make sure your required country is included.
  4. If you’re having trouble making sense of some of the international call packages, ask your International Student Office. The language can be complex, so don’t be afraid to ask if you get a little lost.
  5. If you're living away from your student home, for example when staying with a British family using a network like HOST UK, always get permission from the bill payer before using their phone to make any international calls.


For international students, a VoIP service like Skype or Rebtel is the best way to stay in touch for free – though both parties require access to the software. Otherwise, a landline add-on may be your best bet.

Comments (5)

17th February 2014


As part of National Student Money Week we're running a survey on the cost and speed of student broadband. If you can spare 5 minutes pop over to the survey page and tell us what you think of your current connection.

Your response is much appreciated.

Hannah - Cable.co.uk

31st October 2013

Phil, i have the same problem, I can only call to them when i'm abroad. Friend advised me such roaming card as travelsim card. Now i don't have any problem with international calls) Comfortable calling rates.

25th January 2013

hi, i want to make a ph call to my parenrts back in Myanmar.I am currently using O2Sim card.what is the best option for me?Should i buy International calling card?And what sort of calling card should i buy?

Cable UK
16th May 2012

Hi Phil

For a breakdown of the UK’s main landline providers and their international calling plans please see our How to make cheap international calls guide. BT include Norway in their BT International Freedom option and Sky have free calls to Norway in their Sky Talk Unlimited pack.

Hope this helps?

15th May 2012

My old parents with no net connection,they don't want one,want a call plan for the uk and Norway mobile/landline ability cheaper than massive costs of talk talk £25 a month at present and a big pay as you go mobile bill ! Please help ? My brother,their son lives in Norway you see.

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