How to Get Connected
Staying connected with friends and family back home helps make life in the UK just that little bit easier. It’s pretty expensive to fly home on a whim, so a combination of cheap or free communication techniques can help ease the distance!
There are plenty of places that offer free wireless. You can often find Wi- Fi hotspots in some airports, cafés, public libraries, McDonalds and your campus (although you may have to sign up to use these – check with your institution first).
If you’re struggling to get connected anywhere, there are a few Wi-Fi-Finder apps on smartphones too. Just head over to one of these spots, pull up a chair and connect to the web – too easy!
If you live in London, take note of the free tube Wi-Fi once you have a mobile phone set up. This will often require you to get connected whilst above ground. However, once set up, you can get connected for free from any tube station in Old Blighty. Very handy for calls or texts on the go!
Mobile Broadband and 4G
There will be times when free wireless will not be available and you need an alternative. Wireless dongles are ideal for this situation. They plug into your computer through your USB port and are available from phone companies. They are available in range of options depending on your monthly data usage. Another option is using the data connection on your phone through your laptop. Don’t do this too often though as most phone plans have fairly low data allowance. If you prefer lots of data over voice minutes or text allowances, however, there are a variety of data-only SIMs you can also sign up for. Consider this option if you intend to do most your communicating via data use.
If you are in halls, you will not have to worry about the internet as it will all be taken care of. Well-established student rental properties will probably have a connection, but new private rentals may require you to enter a new broadband contract. Broadband, which is available from companies such as Sky, Virgin and BT, is easy to setup and manage online. By entering your address they can determine the type of connection available to your property and offer you appropriate packages.
Make sure to choose a student specific deal as they are cheaper, offer special bonuses and provide nine-month contracts instead of the standard twelve. Take note of sign-up deals on offer. Sky, for instance, offer large value Marks and Spencer vouchers upon sign up of a new contract. Handy for your grocery or other shopping needs! These offers vary all the time so it pays to compare and contrast.
If you prefer to see as well as hear your loved ones back home, Skype is certainly your best option. Combining video and sound, it’s basically a video call and it’s free if the person you’re calling has Skype too. So make sure your family signs up back home to keep things cheap. Just visit the Skype website, download the software and you’re done! Another voice-based option is Skype credit which also allows you to call foreign mobiles at great rates.
Phone Cards/Cheap Dialling Codes
If your parents aren’t very computer savvy, perhaps a phone call might be easier. To keep your costs down, make sure you buy a phone card – it’s about 80% cheaper than calls from a home phone.
Also make use of Dial A Code, which provides O2, EE, Three, Orange and T-Mobile users with cheap dialling codes – you can call an international landline for as little as 2p per minute from your mobile phone! It’s an easy service to use, just search for your operator on the site. Enter the country you wish to contact, and take note of the code. Dial this first and you will be met with an automated response asking you to enter the international number you wish to contact. Make sure to include international code 00 + the country code before the state number and landline number you’re dialling. These calls won’t form part of your plan voice minutes but are often only a small extra, depending how often you do this!
The mobile phone option is determined by whether you already have a mobile phone or not. If you have an unlocked phone, you can sign up for ‘Pay as You Go’ to get a SIM card without a contract. You simply top up your account with enough credit to cover your text and calls. This can be done online or at some cash machines and supermarkets. There is no risk of overspending with this option, but you do have to make sure you have enough credit left.
Lebara provide a free SIM to students upon arrival in to the UK, see their advert on the next page for more information. Giff Gaff will also offer very low pay as you go deals, and send you a SIM free in the mail. In the UK, texts are often unlimited and included as part of any pay as you go credit. Your main focus should be on how much data and voice minutes you need. Mobile phone credit and use is way cheaper in the UK – check out a few different companies before you commit!
Viber & Whats App
If you have got a smartphone, there are a few apps out there that can help you save your dollars while still communicating with the people you want. Viber is a great app which uses all your existing contacts. It lets you make calls and send messages – all for free. It uses your 4G connection to connect with other Viber users, so it’s a great alternative to other methods. Best of all, it works with any network and any operating system (Android, Windows and iOS). WhatsApp is another alternative, and is in many ways more commonly used. Stay connected by making calls or texting your family and friends via these apps.