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How international students can save money calling abroad from the UK

Thursday, November 5th 2015

It can be stressful moving to the UK to study, and one of the best ways to let off steam or cheer yourself up 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 the internet, through a mobile phone plan, from landlines, and through a few other methods too.

Best mobile deals for international calls

It’s best to get a UK mobile while studying in the UK, and many providers offer cheap international call rates or even specific international plans.

International call planPrice fromGet deal
EECalling Abroad Add-onFree add onGo →
O2International SIM£10 per monthGo →
VodafoneInternational Bundle£5 per monthGo →
ThreeInternational Saver£15.32 a monthGo →
International call plan
Calling Abroad Add-on
Price from
£10 per month
International call plan
International SIM
Price from
£10 per month
International call plan
International Bundle
Price from
£5 per month →
International Pass
International Saver
Price from
£15.32 a month

Using roaming on your mobile from home

If you’ve moved from an EU country, 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 December 2015, charges are capped at 0.19 cents per minute to a European country for phone calls, and 0.06 cents for a text.

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 making calls back home. 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 check with your current provider first to see if they can offer you a cheap international deal.

International call planPrice fromGet deal
BTFriends & Family International£1.25 per monthGo →
Virgin MediaTalk International£2 per monthGo →
TalkTalkInternational Boost£2.99 per monthGo →
Post OfficeInternational Saver£4 per monthGo →
BTInternational Freedom£6.60 per monthGo →
PlusnetAnytime International 300£7 per monthGo →
Sky Sky Talk International Extra£12 per monthGo →
International call plan
Friends & Family International
Price from
£1.25 per month
Virgin Media
International call plan
Talk International
Price from
£2 per month
International call plan
International Boost
Price from
£2.99 per month
Post Office
International call plan
International Saver
Price from
£4 per month
International call plan
International Freedom
Price from
£6.60 per month
International call plan
Anytime International 300
Price from
£7 per month
International call plan
Sky Talk International
Price from
£12 per month

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.


With Facetime you can make free video calls to anyone, anywhere in the world. As long as the other person has the app and a reliable wi-fi connection, you can video call using your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac. All you need is your Apple iD and email address and you're good to go.


Viber is an app that allows you to make phone calls and send messages for free. The person you are calling will also need to have the app and a 3G or wi-fi connection. However, you may be charged if you use Viber with a 3G connection. Contact your provider to see if this applies. The Viber app is available to download on your smartphone, tablet and computer.


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 calling 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.

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