Need UK Cell Phone Help

My sister-in-law is going on month-long trip to Europe starting later next month. They are going to mostly be in Airdrie, Scotland, but might go to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, and St. Andrews and London. She’d like to have a cell phone over there — just a simple, pre-paid phone that she can use in emergencies over there. Her current phone is a Tracfone Motorola v120c, so I doubt it can be used over there (I don’t think it operates on the same frequencies, nor is the SIM card removable, as far as I know).

Since I’ve never left the US (other than a few trips to Mexico), I don’t have the slightest idea how things work over there. I’ve heard of companies like Telestial that offer pre-paid international cell phones, but wanted to know if there are other options or if it’d be cheaper to just buy one when she gets over there.

I know I have some European readers here, folks, so time to come out of the woodwork and speak up.

Update: Updated with her current phone’s model number.


andy29 says:

I don’t know how things work in the US, but here you can buy a sim card on its own and, if her phone isn’t locked to one network (I suppose you know about that), then she should just be able to plop it in in place of her usual one.
We have four main providers over here – Orange, O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone. They all have high street shops where she will be able to pick up a pay as you go sim card and top it up with some money at the same time – I say PAYG because otherwise it’ll be a contract one.
AFAIK you don’t need to be a UK resident to buy one but I’ll check.

cluedweasel says:

When I go back to the U.K., I just buy a pay-as-you go ‘phone each time. I usually go for an Orange ‘phone as they have the best coverage of where I go. Here’s their pay-as-you-go site to give you an idea.

In general, European rates for calling abroad are much more attractive than in the US. Take Orange, for instance: calling to the US costs 5 pence per minute.
Be wary of what your primary goals are, however. If you call a lot, consider getting a contract, as calls within the UK are typically quite expensive by comparison (10p per minute and up).
Here in the Netherlands I have a 12-month contract for €22 per month, with 150 minutes. I got a great deal though, and the net fee is less than €1 per month! 🙂

Richy C. says:

You may wish to checkout Adams Phones here in the UK which can loan you a phone for your stay here. They are available via the Carphone Warehouse which usually have at least 3 branches in every town (I can reach 4 stores within 10 minutes walk in Leicester alone), but (IIRC), they can arrange for a phone to be ready for collection at an airport if you prefer.
If you have a dualband (or triband phone), then it should work here anyway. Most network providers do have roaming agreements so you should be fine. If it’s not a multi-band phone, a new SIM card (I’ve actually got around 5 PAYG [Pay As You Go] o2 Simcards spare if you want one sending to you) won’t do you much good anyway as the phone itself won’t work.
However, I would expect coverage in Scotland to be slightly “iffy” (you’ll be alright in the main cities such as Edinburgh, but out in the “wilderness”, you may lose the signal). It’ll be worth checking sites such as O2’s sitemap at , Orange’s at and T-Mobile’s service at
I’d avoid Contract Phones (which are usually cheaper than Pay As You Go in call costs and phone costs, but you have to agree to a 12-18 month contract and provide at least 2 proofs of id: making them not suitable for people who are just visiting the “Old World” for a while).

Kirsty W says:

If you consider the rental angle then you can rent both SIM and handset from Cellhire ( They also have a US outlet with offices in Dallas and New York if you’d prefer to pre-order whilst in the States.
A UK SIM card on the O2 network will get you free incoming calls and calls back to the US at only 15p per minute. That’s half the price of the Adamphones offer