Female student smiling whilst using mobile phone

Contacting home

When you’re in the UK, you’ll want to hear the voices of your friends and family back home. Or at least be able to communicate with them and find out what’s going on in each other’s lives

Do not underestimate the importance of speaking to your loved ones. It can be heart-breaking to arrive in a foreign country then realise you have no easy way of phoning home.

So that you don’t miss out on telling them any of your news as it happens, and so you know you can contact one another in an emergency, the first thing is to sort out a British SIM card for your mobile phone.


Important numbers

999 The emergency services – police, fire or ambulance.

00 What you dial before ringing outside the UK.

155 The international operator.

1471 To find out the last number that rang a landline phone.

Mobile phones

Practically every student in the UK owns a mobile – it’s a great way to plan your social life and keep in touch with your fellow students, especially when you’re busy, studying different courses or living in different parts of the campus or town.

If you have a mobile phone already, you could ring up your mobile network before you go and install international access, but it would be much cheaper to get a new mobile or SIM card when you are in the UK.

If you decide to get a new mobile phone when you arrive in the UK, there are two options open to you:

  • You can sign up to a contract (usually for at least 12 months) where you pay a monthly charge for a certain number of minutes, texts and data.
  • You can get a ‘pay as you go’ phone where, having bought the handset upfront, you pay for the calls, texts and data by adding credit to your mobile phone account as required.

Do your research and figure out what would be best for you, based on how much you use your phone. There are mobile phone shops in the high street with advisors to help you choose.

Skype and FaceTime

A free Skype account is a great way to chat to and see (web-cam permitting) your friends and family back home. With Skype, you can make free calls and video calls and instant message anyone with a Skype account anywhere in the world over the internet.

FaceTime also allows you to make video calls from your Apple device to anyone else using an iPad, iPhone or Mac computer that supports FaceTime.


WhatsApp uses your phone’s internet connection to send and receive messages with other people who use it. It’s a great way to stay in touch and although you can use it for messaging just one person, it’s also very popular for messaging groups of people. For example, you can set up a WhatsApp group of your friends or family from back home and send each other group messages and photos to stay in touch. Or you might be added to a WhatsApp group of a club or society you’ve joined to discuss the next event, or you might set up a group to organise a night out with friends.


OK, so sometimes it’s no substitute for hearing a real-life voice on the other end of the line, but it’s easy, convenient, and most importantly, free for most students.


It may seem old-fashioned, but there’s nothing more personal and exciting to receive than a hand-written letter. Or if that seems just too boring, find a pretty card or postcard that’s typical of the region. People back home will love to hear from you!

Image credit: ammentorp