An American's Guide on Moving to London: Part Two

Welcome, or welcome back to my series on navigating the leap across the pond! As an American, I went through a huge culture shock when I moved to the UK, so in this series I’m going to try to talk you through some of the major changes, so you come a bit more prepared than I did. In this article, I’ll be talking about getting a UK sim card/phone plan!

Before I moved, I had never even thought about my sim card. If you’re not sure what that is (like I wasn’t), it’s the little chip in your phone that gives you a phone number, lets you make calls, and provides your offline data. The thing is, your sim card likely is only intended for the United States; to use it abroad costs from $5-10 a day, which adds up very quickly. To avoid those fees, you’re going to want a UK sim card.

The main thing you need to know is that to change your sim card, your phone needs to be “unlocked.” This means that your phone needs to be fully paid off with your phone company, and then either online or by phone, you have to request they unlock it, allowing you to remove the sim and put in another one. (If you don’t do this and try to change your sim card, your phone will simply show an error.)

Luckily, after that, sim cards are super simple to get! You can go to any phone service in the UK (popular ones are O2, EE, and 3), and tell them you’d like to buy a pay-as-you-go sim card. Then you’ll be given a sim card with a UK number you can text and call from, and it’ll have a set amount of data on it, usually from 5-20 gigabytes. You can also have the phone service employees install the sim card for you, but be warned, it can take a few hours for the data to activate! That means if you install it there, be sure you know your way back home, as your map app will likely be online. Then, when you use up all the data, there is a phone number you call and buy more data on, and you just do this as often as you need to.

Later on, if you plan in staying in London for a year or more, you can get a full phone plan! You can’t do this immediately because you need to have a UK bank account for your phone plan to direct debit from, but as soon as your bank is set up, you can set this up too. Many plans come with unlimited talk and text, and you just have to select how much data you would like each month. The best part about UK sim cards in that they also work at no extra cost in most European countries, and some others!

And with that, hopefully finding a sim card in the UK will be a breeze for you! If you want to know more about life in London Town, stay tuned for the next few installments of this series — next week I’ll be breaking down actually living in London, like apartment hunting and paying bills. Hope to see you soon!