Best UK Mobile Networks For International Calling in 2020

Making international calls at a standard rate can get very expensive. In this guide we’ll have an in-depth look at cheap international SIM cards and add-ons.

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Do you make calls regularly to people in different countries outside of the UK? Most people overlook the international calling rates aspect of mobile networks, but it’s important if your loved ones are living abroad or if your work requires you to make calls to other countries.

Making calls on mobile to overseas destinations can cost an arm and a leg, but the good news is that most UK mobile networks offer bundles or packs that can help dramatically reduce this cost. On a normal UK SIM card you may need to pay as high as £3/minute when calling abroad, but the average cost is normally around £1.5/minute. An International SIM Card may bring down the price to as little as 1p/minute or you can purchase an International Call add-on which means you get a specific bundle of international minutes.

In this guide, we’ll have a look at the best options available in the UK for international calls.

Table of Contents

 

International SIMs vs International Calling Add-ons

International call costs vary depending on multiple factors. The cost of an international call depends on what country you are calling and whether you are calling a mobile or a landline.

If you’re already a major mobile network customer in the UK, instead of paying extortionate rates for international calls you can opt for an add-on that gives you minutes & texts for international destinations. For example you can get O2’s International bolt-on, Vodafone’s International Minutes Add-On, Three’s International Saver Add-On or EE’s International Packs and make calls to other countries without having to worry about the cost.

On the other hand, with international SIMs, you can get a plan that’s packed with data, texts as well as UK & international minutes. As you can guess, the best value mobile network for international calling will always depend on what country you’d like to make phone calls to, but usually Lebara and Lycamobile offer the best international SIM only deals.

International SIMs

Making calls abroad can be quite costly, but international SIMs can fix that for you. International SIM only plans allow you to make calls to other countries without paying anything extra. Just keep in mind that the international call allowance you get is also limited to a number of countries. It doesn’t mean you can make calls to any country you want. Mobile networks always share a list of countries you can make calls to with your allowance and share their rates for others which aren’t included in the deal.

Lebara Mobile

Lebara Mobile is the best overall mobile network operator in the UK for international calls. The network offers a number of 30-day bundles which require no credit checks. Their cheaper plans offer 100 international minutes to 41 countries along with a regular allowance of UK minutes, texts & data. Lebara Mobile’s mid range to premium plans all come with unlimited international minutes, as well as unlimited UK minutes & texts. The network also offers an unlimited data plan.

When you purchase a Lebara Mobile price plan, you get international minutes to the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United States.

Lebara Mobile is powered by Vodafone. This means their customers get excellent 4G coverage in the UK and their average download speeds are only behind EE and MVNOs powered by EE. Sadly, the network doesn’t offer 5G yet. You can learn more about their deals, coverage and features by reading our in-depth Lebara Mobile Review.

Lycamobile

If you are regularly making calls to your family and friends abroad, Lycamobile stands out as another good option as they also offer international minutes on most of their plans. The carrier also offers no contract SIM only deals. However, Lycamobile’s international SIM Only deals are slightly pricier than its competitor. On top of that, not all plans come with inclusive international minutes.

You can use your Lycamobile international minutes when calling the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United States.

Lycamobile is running on O2’s network, however, you don’t get the benefits regular O2 customers do such as Wi-Fi Calling or 4G Calling. You can use free Wi-Fi hotspots from O2, but that’s not an exclusive deal as O2 WiFi is free for anyone. The network doesn’t offer 5G coverage at the moment either. Make sure to read our Lycamobile Review before you make your final decision!

International Calling Add-ons

Before you decide to get a new SIM to make international calls, you might want to check if your current network is offering an international call add-on. For instance, all four major mobile network providers have them, and their add-ons allow you to make calls to more countries than Lebara and Lycamobile offer. These add-ons work just the same as an international SIM. You get minutes for making international calls from the UK and they’re valid for 30 days from the date of purchase.

Don’t forget to check if the country you want to call is included or else you might end up paying extra charges for no reason. Call costs vary depending where you are calling.

EE – The International pack & The International Extra pack

EE customers can make cheap calls abroad from the UK with EE’s International packs. Of course, rates vary depending on which country you want to call, and if the number you’re calling is a landline or a mobile. Both packs offer international minutes to a number of countries to help you keep in touch with family and friends abroad. Both are monthly recurring features and they can be added or removed any time you want. Read our EE Review to discover more!

The International Pack gets you 1000 international minutes for £10/month. This pack will let you call both landlines and mobiles in the following 50 countries:Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Jersey, Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, the USA, Virgin Islands.

The International Extra Pack will let you make calls in 50 more countries. However, you’ll only get 500 international minutes with this pack. This pack is valid in the following 100 countries: Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guatemala, Guernsey, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jersey, Jordan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Macao, Malaysia, Malta, Martinique, Mexico, Mongolia, Namibia, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, N Caledonia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Reunion, Romania, Russia, St. Pierre & Miquelon, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Tonga, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, the USA, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Virgin Islands, Zambia.

Alternatively you can add EE’s International or International Extra add-ons to your plans. While they’re similarly named, these aren’t the same with packs. You can’t have two packs under one plan, but you can purchase both add-ons uınder one price plan. International add-on gets you 500 minutes to 50 countries for £10 a month. International Extra add-on gives you 250 minutes to 100 countries for £20 a month.

Vodafone – International Saver Extra & Call Abroad Extra

When it comes to international roaming Vodafone has some of the best offers available. The network also offers high value add-ons for customers who regularly make international calls. International Saver lets you make calls to 100 destinations, while Call Abroad increases the number to 200 countries.

Make sure to have a look at our Vodafone Review before you make your final decision!

International Saver Extra

Vodafone’s International Saver extras allow you to make international calls to family and friends without the worry of extra costs. You can purchase this add-on for just £3/month and get 100 international minutes to call both landlines and mobiles. You can get 500 minutes if you pay £7.50. Vodafone’s International Saver lets you call the following 100 countries: American Samoa, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bermuda, Bhutan, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Egypt, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, French Territories, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guam, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Mariana Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sint Maarten, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the USA, US Virgin Islands, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam.

Call Abroad Extra

Vodafone’s Call Abroad Extra lets you make calls to friends and family from the UK to 200 countries. If you pay £10/month, you’ll get 75 minutes to call these destinations. Opting for the £20/month option will grant you 200 minutes in the following 200 destinations.

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Andorra, Angola, Anguilla, Antigua, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Ascension, Australia, Australian External Territories, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Diego Garcia, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, French Guiana, French Polynesia, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldive Islands, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Martinique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, North Korea, Northern Mariana Islands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reunion, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, San Marino, Sao Tome & Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sint Maarten, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, South, Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, St Helena, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Pierre & Miquelon, St Vincent, Sudan, Surinam, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, , Thailand, Togo, Tokelau, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Turks & Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, USA, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Wallis & Futuna, Western Samoa, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

O2 – International Big Bundles & International Bolt on

With O2 you have two options to choose from, if you wish to call abroad from the UK on O2. The network’s pay as you go customers can purchase an International Big Bundle SIM that’s packed with data, texts as well as UK & international minutes.​ Pay monthly customers can purchase the International Bolt On to make calls abroad without worrying about the costs.

International Big Bundles

Anyone can get an O2 International Big Bundle as they don’t require any credit checks. International big bundles will give you inclusive minutes to call the UK and 29 European destinations for £10/month. You can also choose the Premium International Big Bundle for £20 a month. This bundle comes with 1000 minutes to the UK and 48 more destinations. You also get an additional 250 minutes to Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.

O2’s International Big Bundles last for 30 calendar days and they renew automatically on the same day each month as long as you have credit. You can also cancel the automatic renewal whenever you want. These two bundles also get you discounted rates when calling international destinations which are not included in the pack.

International Big Bundle countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal (including Azores & Madeira), Republic of Ireland, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain & Canary Islands, Sweden.

Premium International Big Bundle countries: Alaska, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guam, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal (including Azores & Madeira), Puerto Rico, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain & Canary Islands, Sweden, USA, US Virgin Islands.

International Bolt on

O2 allows you to make cheaper calls to international landlines and mobiles for £3/month. You can still make international calls without the add-on, but in that case O2’s standard rates will apply.

The add-on will let you make calls to over 200 countries from 1p/minute. There are no connection charges or hidden fees. We strongly recommend you to have a look at our in-depth O2 Review, if you want to find out more about their deals and coverage.

Three – The Call Abroad 100 & The Call Abroad Unlimited

Three gives you two options to make cheaper international calls from the UK. They’re dubbed as Call Abroad Add-ons giving you minutes for making international calls from the UK to 55 countries around the world, starting from £5 a month.

Make sure to check out our Three Review to learn more about their 5G at no extra cost deals.

The Call Abroad 100

You get 100 international minutes to both landline and mobile numbers with Three’s Call Abroad 100 add-on. It costs £5/month, and it’s set to auto-renew each month. You can cancel it at any time though.

The Call Abroad Unlimited

As you can guess by just looking at the name, this add-on gives you unlimited international minutes to landlines and mobiles. It also automatically renews itself, as long as you don’t cancel and costs £10/month.

Both Call Abroad add-ons work in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bermuda, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guam, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, USA.

Other Networks with International Calling Add-Ons

giffgaff – Powered by O2, giffgaff doesn’t offer a special add-on to their customers, but their rates are usually quite cheap compared to other mobile networks operating in the UK. You’ll need to add credit to your account in order to make international calls though, as international calls are not included in any of giffgaff’s goodybags. Read our giffgaff Review to learn more!

SMARTY – The carrier uses Three as it’s network provider and they offer super-competitive prices with no credit checks. To call and text abroad from the UK with a SMARTY SIM, you must buy an ‘Out of plan’ add-on first. The add-on works the same as traditional PAYG. The costs depend on the country you want to call. Make sure to read our SMARTY Review to find out more about the network and their money back feature!

BT Mobile – Using EE’s network to provide 5G and 4G Coverage, BT Mobile offers two add-ons for international calls: Friends & Family International and International Freedom. Friends & Family International is £2.02/month and allows you to make cheap calls to 236 international destinations, both landlines and mobiles.

International Freedom allows you to make 600 minutes of landline calls every month to 36 destinations for £8.61/month. You also get discounted prices to 199 more international destinations. Read our BT Mobile Review to find out if it’s the right network for you or not.

How to make cheap international calls?

Alternatively, you can use voice over IP services like Skype, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Discord, Google Meet, Zoom etc. to make international calls over the internet. At first glance, it looks like a great option, but since both parties are required to be connected to the internet, it doesn’t offer as much freedom as you’d think. Plus you’d be burning through your data allowance. Let’s see the pros and cons of these services.

Pros and Cons of VOIP Services (Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger)

Pro’s

  • No need to pay for an international SIM or an international call add-on.
  • You can make free international calls to anywhere, provided you’re not using your mobile data.
  • You can top-up credit on Skype and use the service as a landline and make calls to other countries.
  • You can also make video calls.

Con’s

  • If you’re using your mobile data, you’ll be burning through your data allowance.
  • The person you’re calling also needs to be connected to a viable internet connection.
  • Services like Discord will connect you through a server, which might be laggy or not offer top quality.
  • Not ideal for light mobile data users.
 

At the end of the day, VOIP services are solid alternatives, but they don’t offer the flexibility, reliability and the freedom International SIMs and add-ons provide. Also, make sure to keep an eye out for our Black Friday SIM Only deals. You might find a great international SIM deal with a big discount. Bookmark our page and come back next month to see if there’s any good deal awaiting you!

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Frequently Asked Questions

How much do international calls cost?

It all depends on which mobile network you’re using, where you’re calling and what kind of add-on you have. There’s no one single answer to this question.

Can I purchase an add-on to make international calls?

Yes, all major network operators, as well as some of the MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) offer special add-ons for making international calls. You get international minutes and discounted rates to countries selected by your network.

What is the difference between international roaming and international calls?

International roaming (or inclusive roaming) is when you use your mobile phone and SIM abroad. International calls are when you make calls or send texts abroad from the UK.

What is the best network for making international calls in the UK?

We think Lebara Mobile offers the best international SIM plans in the UK, followed closely by Lycamobile. However, there can always be better plans or better rates on other networks depending where you want to call and how often you make calls.

How can I save money when I call abroad?

If you don’t have an international SIM card, the best way to save money on international calls is to opt for an international add-on, that is of course if your network is offering one.

How can I make an international call?

You’ll need international access code/exit code (which is 00 from the UK), country code (every country has a code), area code and the phone number.