What’s the first thing that you reach for as soon as you wake up, whether in the morning or even in the middle of the night? If you’re anything like us, it’s your phone. It’s our alarm, our notebook, our connection to the outside world. A smartphone has become like an extra appendage, one that we cannot live without.
And so, it did not matter how tired we were after a red eye from New York, the first order of business as soon as we landed in London and dropped our numerous bags at the Clerkenwell temporary housing which was to be our home until we found an actual place, was to get new phone plans.
Sunday morning at Oxford Circus is like the fifth circle of hell. And we were adamant to get the chore over as quickly as possible to be able to leave the chaos behind. At the EE store we were faced with our first dose of reality:
YOU CANNOT GET A PHONE CONTRACT WITHOUT A LOCAL BANK ACCOUNT!
Seems obvious right? Well, in the pandemonium of moving, that hadn’t even occurred to us. Thankfully, there was an alternative—we could both get pre-paid plans in the interim. Only, it’s not that simple. We couldn’t use our US credit or debit cards to pay. Which meant we had to again face the throngs of shoppers to find a cash machine.
But finally, we were able to leave the store, and the bedlam, with new UK phone numbers, and, more importantly, a data plan that would at least allow us to know where we were going.
So for anyone who needs to get a phone in the UK, here are our tips:
- First, you need to have an unlocked phone. Find out whether your current carrier will unlock it for you, or try to do it yourself if it’s not against the law. Sounds obvious, but moving comes with so many small things to do that it’s entirely possible to forget something so simple.
- Decide which carrier you want to go with. Even if you’re just getting a temporary pre-paid plan, you might want to choose a carrier and stick with it. You’ll likely be using that phone number to open bank accounts, sign a lease, etc, so you might not feel like changing it once you get a contract. And while porting your existing number to another carrier is, in theory, entirely possible, it can be a lengthy, time-consuming, and oh-so-frustrating process.
- If you still want a way to call your family and friends back home but don’t want to incur the roaming charges of using your old number, get a Skype number in your home country. They will be able to use this to call you even if they don’t want to make an international call, and it will cost the same as if they’re calling their neighbor.
Moving can be stressful, but it’s also fun and invigorating to wake up in a new country. Getting the basics sorted early removes some of the stress and allows you to enjoy the excitement.