Staying connected with family and friends as an international doctor in the UK

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

As an international doctor, you will need to get a sim card in the UK to be able to make and receive calls and send text messages. Your international sim card might work in the UK but you will be charged overseas roaming charges. It is usually cheaper to swap to a UK sim card.

Staying connected to people back home when you are in the UK will help you feel less homesick and allow you to share your experiences with the ones you love. Sharing photos, stories, or even streaming movies together are ways of feeling connected as well as traditional phone calls and texts. Having a UK mobile phone number is important for your landlord, employer, utility, and internet providers to be able to contact you. You may also have elderly relatives back home who are not able to use the internet and a phone call will be more suitable. In this article, we answer some frequently asked questions about UK mobile phone providers to support you during your relocation as an international doctor.  

Will a UK sim card be compatible with your mobile phone?

If your phone is “locked” it means is only compatible with the phone network which you purchased the phone from. This means you will need to buy an unlocked phone in your home country or once you arrive in the UK to be able to use a UK mobile network provider. If your phone is “unlocked” you can bring your phone to the UK and it will be compatible with any UK sim card.

What is the difference between a “pay-as-you-go” and a contract sim card?

The main difference between them is that a pay monthly SIM-only deal includes an allowance for calls, texts, and data which you'll be billed for every 30 days. A pay-as-you-go SIM-only deal requires you to top up with credit.

Where can you buy a sim card?

There are lots of options for buying a sim card in the UK. You can go to physical shops all over the UK for the main network providers and Lebara mobile. These shops will offer you pay-as-you-go and contract sim cards. Supermarkets, post offices, petrol stations, and convenience stores offer prepaid and pay-as-you-go sim cards.

At A&E Agency, our candidate care team can provide you with a pay-as-you-go UK sim card to get you started whilst you choose which option is best for your requirements.

Which mobile phone network provider is the best one?

The 4 main mobile network providers in the UK are:

  • O2
  • Vodafone
  • EE
  • Three

There are several smaller mobile network providers who ‘piggyback’ off one of the 4 main networks which mean they use the signal of one of the 4 main providers to provide coverage to their own customers.

  • Giffgaff
  • Lebara
  • Smarty
  • PlusNet
  • Tesco Mobile
  • iD Mobile
  • Talk Mobile
  • Sky Mobile
  • BT Mobile

To see which mobile network provider is the best for your area, visit the OFCOM website and type in your UK address postcode.

I want to make calls back to my home country, what should I do?

International calling rates are often overlooked in mobile networks, but it’s an important one if you have friends or family who live abroad. Standard rates are often high for international calls, especially if you’re making a lot of them, but the good news is that many networks offer bundles or packs that make the cost a lot lower. We encourage you to do your own research and speak to an advisor in-store to find out which network can offer you the best package for your requirements.

International calling apps

An option for making international phone calls is to utilise VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) apps which are more commonly referred to as international phone call apps. These apps use your phone's 5G, 4G, 3G, 2G, EDGE, or Wi-Fi connection instead of your cell plan's voice minutes or text plan. If you're connected via Wi-Fi, it won't use any allowance from your data plan or credit, either.

Some of the most popular are as follows:

  • WhatsApp
  • Google Voice
  • Facetime
  • WeChat
  • Telegram
  • Skype
  • Viber 

The intention of this article is to give you a brief overview of mobile phone providers in the UK. It and its contents should not be misconstrued. We would encourage you to seek your own financial advice to support your decisions.   

Doctors choose A&E Agency because of our diverse range of job opportunities combined with ongoing specialist career support. Our dedicated recruitment team has expert levels of knowledge in many specialist areas and regional insights all over the UK. We also help with relocation with our premium aftercare service. Register your details with us today to get started