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How to make cheap international calls

Wednesday, July 2nd 2014

There are four main ways to make cheap international calls: through a landline package, with a mobile phone plan, via your broadband connection, or with international calling cards.

If you’re studying or working in the UK and want a quick way to keep in touch with those back home without spending too much, you’ll need a cheap international call package. Let's take a look at what's on offer.

Calling from a UK landline

Many of the UK’s landline providers have international call plans that can either be included with your home phone service, or applied as a monthly bolt-on. The per minute rates to European and international countries vary depending on provider, and some providers offer inclusive minute rates for countries that you call more often than others.

International call planPrice fromGet deal
BTFriends & Family International£1.20 per monthGo →
Virgin MediaTalk International£2 per monthGo →
TalkTalkInternational Boost£2.99 per monthGo →
Post OfficeInternational Saver£4 per monthGo →
BTInternational Freedom£6.20 per month Go →
PlusnetAnytime International 300£7 per monthGo →
SkyTalk Anytime International£10 per monthGo →
BT
International call plan
Friends & Family International
Price from
£1.20 per month
Virgin Media
International call plan
Talk International
Price from
£2 per month
TalkTalk
International call plan
International Boost
Price from
£2.99 per month
Post Office
International call plan
International Saver
Price from
£4 per month
BT
International call plan
International Freedom
Price from
£6.20 per month
Plusnet
International call plan
Anytime International 300
Price from
£7 per month
Sky
International call plan
Talk Anytime International
Price from
£10 per month

Calling from a mobile

You can also use your mobile phone to make international calls from the UK, and rates will vary depending on whether you’re a British National or visiting from another European country.

There are cheap international plans for UK handsets

If you want to take out a UK handset instead (or if you’re a British National looking to make international calls) there are plenty of options to choose from. We’ve included a table to list the cheapest international call plans offered by UK-based mobile providers.

International call planPrice fromGet deal
EECalling Abroad Add-on£6 per monthGo →
O2International SIM£10 per monthGo →
VodafoneInternational Bundle£10 per monthGo →
EE
International call plan
Friends & Family International
Price from
£6 per month
O2
International call plan
International SIM
Price from
£10 per month
Vodafone
International call plan
International Bundle
Price from
£10 per month

Lycamobile offers dedicated international plans

The providers in the box above chiefly specialize in national calls. The international plans are essentially offshoots of the main service. Lycamobile is different. It specializes in providing cheap international calls from the UK and has a range of plans and tariffs for your mobile phone. There are special plans for students, and for cheap rates to specific destinations.

Get a Lycamobile International SIM →

Roaming regulations apply to non-UK mobiles

If you’re visiting the UK from an EU country and have brought your mobile with you, you may find that your handset is subject to European Union roaming regulations. These regulations will mean that any phone call you make from the UK to an EU country (with your non-UK mobile) will be charged at a consistent rate, without the intervention of a mobile provider. The per minute rate for a phone call is 15p, receiving a call is 4p, sending a text message is 5p and data is charged at 16p per megabyte. Plans were afoot to abolish data roaming costs, but this has been reversed, and the current caps and charges will remain in place until at least 2018. Further information on roaming, along with the networks currently offering the best deals, can be found here.

Internet calls

The internet offers various apps that enable you to make completely free calls, as long as the person you are calling has the same app installed. If you don't currently have internet access, you might want to see what you can get with our broadband comparison tool.

Skype-to-Skype calls are free

Skype is a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service you can download for free onto your home computer or mobile device. It allows free communication between computers and handsets with the Skype application installed, and also offers cheap call rates to international numbers. Skype's international calling plan, known as Skype Unlimited World, costs £9.76 per month and lets you make free calls to landlines in 63 countries and free calls to mobiles in eight destinations.

Facetime is unique to Apple product owners

If you own an iPhone you can use the Facetime app to make free voice or video calls to anywhere in the world as long as the other person also has Facetime, and as long as you both have a wi-fi connection.

Viber lets you make free calls to other Viber users

Viber is an app that lets you make phone calls to other Viber users for free. It uses a 3G or wi-fi internet connection. Sound quality is higher than it is on a standard call – especially when calling friends and family abroad. It’s free to use too. There are no monthly charges and no adverts.

Nimbuzz uses your mobile data or wi-fi connection for free calls

Nimbuzz is a similar application to Viber. You download it to your mobile phone. Once downloaded, it lets you make calls or send text messages to other Nimbuzz users for free. This includes Nimbuzz users overseas. You can also share music and video. Nimbuzz is notable for providing cheap calls to landlines and mobiles located in India.

Make cheap international calls from your mobile with Rebtel

Rebtel is an app that lets you make cheap international calls from your handset. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you can either pay for your calls on a pay-as-you-go basis or plump for a Max Saver deal, which gives you cheaper rates on calls made to a specific country (the China Big Saver comes with 250 inclusive minutes for £1.90, for instance).

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.

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 – or online – and feature very low international call rates.

Conclusion

You can keep in touch for free either over a VoIP internet service, if both parties have it (Skype-to-Skype is a prime example), or by using a mobile app like Viber, which allows you to make free calls to other users. However, if you want to use a landline to make calls, there is no free option - your best bet is an international call plan.

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