While Australian travellers visiting the UK enjoy discounted global roaming rates from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, buying a local prepaid SIM card delivers big savings when your stay extends beyond just a few days.
It also gives you the convenience of a local UK (+44) mobile number for your UK business contacts to call without being slugged by international calling or messaging charges of their own.
There's no shortage of carriers and re-sellers to choose from, but our pick of the bunch are Giffgaff’s range of SIM-only plans which allow you to choose from a list of pre-paid inclusions running on the O2 mobile phone network.
It works like this: a few days before you leave Australia, head to the Giffgaff website to order a free SIM card and have it delivered to your hotel in London or elsewhere in the UK.
(The company's SIM cards are tough to find at the airport or in stores, but this means it’ll be waiting for you when you check-in.)
Then, take a look at Giffgaff’s selection of ‘goodybag’ add-ons.
Ranging in price from £5 (A$9.55) through to £20 (A$38.20), we’d peg the £10 (A$19.10) option as a good fit for most business travellers with 1GB of 4G data, unlimited SMS to UK mobiles and 500 minutes of calls to UK numbers.
Also thrown in are unlimited calls to other Giffgaff users, so if you’re travelling with colleagues and all switch to Giffgaff during your visit, you can keep in touch while out and about without burning through your allocation of included minutes.
Excluded from these bundles are calls and texts to overseas numbers, including to Australia: that’s where adding manual ‘top-up credit’ to your account, also via the Giffgaff website or by buying recharge vouchers from the usual range of convenience stores and newsagents, has you covered.
(Handy hint: O2 vouchers can also be used to recharge Giffgaff pre-paid accounts which may be easier to find in store. Giffgaff also doesn't accept American Express or Diners Club cards directly, but you may be able to use these cards to buy Giffgaff/O2 vouchers from retailers in-person.)
Top-up values start at just £10 (A$19.10) with calls to Australian landlines billed at 3p/min (A$0.06), calls to Aussie mobiles at 12p/min (A$0.24) and text messages to Australian numbers at 8p (A$0.16) per 160 characters.
Crunching the numbers, a £10 recharge is ample for a 30-minute call to an Australian mobile, a two-hour teleconference to an office landline back home plus 35 text messages to overseas numbers.
That’s on top of the inclusions provided via your chosen goodybags for an all-out cost of around A$38.20 – less expensive than a $105 seven-day Telstra Travel Pass, a four-day Optus Travel Pack ($40) or eight days of Vodafone $5/day roaming ($40).
And if you just need data, a £5 Giffgaff ‘gigabag’ unlocks 500MB for use within 30 days, while £7.50 (A$14.34) nets 1GB. Choosing a gigabag will designate your connection as data-only, though, and can't be paired with recharge credit for calls back home or in the UK.
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