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International Students

How to make cheap international calls

Got family and friends abroad to keep in touch with, or going abroad and looking for ways to call home on the cheap? We've got you covered! Phoning AbroadHaving loved ones abroad doesn't mean you're doomed to a life of expensive calls and scary phone bills.

To prove just how easy it is to stay in touch without compromising your pub budget, we've complied our top tips on low cost international chinwags.

No more excuses not to call mum and dad, then!

Free calls online

welcomeonlineIt's amazing how much the internet has revolutionised the way we speak to friends and family - both abroad and at home!

The arrival of VoIP software (we don't know what it means either, but it's not so important) means that as long as you and your callee have got access to the internet, you can chinwag to your heart's content at no extra cost. Woopiee!

Note that both you and the person you're calling need to be signed up to contact each other through these apps. Many will offer "real world calls" to landlines and mobile phones if you buy credit, but this isn't very cost effective. If it's a phone you need to call, skip to the next section.

Here's our top pick of apps to get you connected.

  1. Skype

    skype logoPerhaps the most well known video calling platform of them all, Skype is free to download on any computer and can also come as an app on your smartphone.

    Skype is pretty prolific these days, and is often even used for job interviews, so it's definitely worth signing up for an account if you haven't already.

    It's also worth noting you don't have to video call all the time - audio calls are acceptable too.

    Check out Skype »

  2. Facetime for Apple

    facetime logoBasically, any Apple device, whether it be an iPhone, iPad, iPod or a Mac has this cool bit of kit called Facetime on it which allows you to call any other Facetime user.

    Of course this relies on both parties being Apple-ed up to to the nines, but if you are it's a really good shout as it comes preinstalled and the line is generally really decent.

    Check out Facetime »

  3. Viber

    3678fa00-ef0c-46c9-864c-58f9dcdb6e3eIf we haven't exhausted you enough already with options, it's well worth checking out Viber for your calling abroad options.

    A nifty little purple app that works on pretty much all the platforms you could ever think of, Viber lets you call or text on WiFi for free.

    Check out Viber »

  4. Google Hangouts

    google hangoutsIf you've and your callee have got a Gmail account, Google Hangouts is a great option for calling (and pretty under rated if you ask us). Whereas the likes of Viber and Skype aren't without their occasional glitchy lines, Google Hangouts is practically flawless.

    An additional bonus is you can attach moustache and hat stickers to each others faces while you video chat - a great distraction tactic for when they ask how your coursework is going!

    Check out Google Hangouts »

  5. Facebook messenger

    facebook messengerYou'd be forgiven for forgetting that calls and video calls are also available via your Facebook Messenger window. Just have a look out for the phone or camera symbol next to their name in your chat box, and click to call.

    Note that calls on FM are only possible if both of you are online at the same time.

    Check out Facebook Messenger »

  6. Line

    LINE logoLine is one of the lesser-known online calling apps in the UK, but it's massive in Asia. This is a fun one to use to, as the app has the most ridiculously massive catalogue of stickers to add into your chats.

    One issue is that it doesn't work across devices (so your computer and phone) as you can only assign one device to a phone number.

    Check out Line »

Re-routing & International Calling Cards

international callsIf you don't have the luxury of free wifi to hand, or you need to call a phoneline abroad as opposed to just a digital device, there's still no need to splash out.

Override providers allow you to call abroad from any phone by dialling what's called an 'access number' followed by the actual phone number you'd like to call.

You’ll only be charged the cost of a normal phone call in the region you're making the call to (plus a 4p connection charge), so while these calls aren't free, the savings are HUGE. You're talking about knocking a 24p/min call down to 1p/min. Wowza!

Override providers work by having you sign up to their service using your phone number and arranging a direct debit. You'll then be charged at the end of each month - but only for the calls you actually make.

You'll be given the company's access number to enter into your phone before the international number you want to call, and they will charge you accordingly.

The most prominent company offering this service are called 18185 - find out their rates plus how to sign up here.

Another possible way to use override providers is by simply dialling a special number before the number you're ringing, and the price of the call will be added onto your bill.

Whilst this is pretty straight forward (no sign-ups necessary) and a bit cheaper than it would be to call abroad directly from a mobile, it's still much more expensive than the other options mentioned in this guide.

International calling cards

internationalIf you're the kind of person who prefers to play it simple, and don't want to spend money you don't have, an international calling card is definitely a goer.

You can buy an international calling card from most newsagents, and how it works is that you buy a card with a particular value (£5, £10, £20, etc.) and on the back of the card you'll scratch off to reveal a number that you dial to reroute the call and start using the credit on the card. You'll also be charged the local call rate on top of this.

Another option is to pick up a prepaid international calling card. Tesco offers one where you can top up as little as £3 at a time, and then use the special number on the card to call abroad from as little at 1p/min.

What's good about this one is that as well as topping up online or on the phone you can also do it at any shop with the paypoint sign.

Check out Tesco's Calling Card »

International SIMs/Tariffs

boy calling homeIf you're going to be making a lot of calls on a regular basis, it might be worth getting yourself a special mobile bundle to accommodate this.

You can pick up international SIM cards cheaply (often for free) and you just top up as you go. Alternatively, you can speak to your mobile contract provider for the cost of a bundle to call home.

  1. Lycamobile

    The biggest name in international SIMs, Lycamobile will dish you out a SIM free of charge. You can then choose to go PAYG, topping up credit when necessary, or go for one of their international bundles.

    The cheapest bundle they offer is £15/month for 100 free international call minutes (+ unlimited free UK calls and texts + 4GB data) or £30/ month will get you unlimited free international calls (+unlimited free UK calls and texts + 5GB data).

    Just make sure the region you're calling is on their list, otherwise this will be a waste of your cash!

    Check out Lycamobile »

  2. O2

    O2-logoO2's international SIM offers the cheapest rate of all the major mobile providers, with rates from 1p/min.

    Again, you'll be able to get your hands on a free SIM, and contract lengths are only 30 days long, so you're able to renew or cancel whenever is suitable.

    For £15/month, you get unlimited calls and texts to other UK O2 users, plus £15 credit to go towards international calls and texts.

    Check out O2 »

So there you have it, the cheapest way to have gossip with your mates and famalam abroad.

If you've got any other ideas on how to make a call on the less pricey end of the scale give us a shout in the comments below!


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