International SIM cards explained
Calling overseas to landlines and mobiles from the UK can be expensive. Depending on your network and where you’re calling, it can cost as much as £3 per minute. So if you’re making a lot of calls, it’s very easy to rack up a large bill.
But help is at hand. Sign up for an international SIM card from the likes of Lebara and Lycamobile and you’ll get a monthly allowance of calls to international destinations that can hugely cut the cost of calling overseas. Even for far-flung locations such as India, Australia, USA and China.
On this page we’ll take a look at the networks that specialise in SIM-only deals with generous allowances for international calls. And we’ll examine why you might want to choose their SIMs over the international calling add-ons that you the major networks too.
Why would I want an international SIM?
If you call relatives or friends overseas a lot or make a lot business calls to locations outside the UK, an international SIM can mean huge cost savings.
As you may know, household names O2, giffgaff, Vodafone also offer keenly priced calling add-ons that entitle you to make cheap overseas calls at comparable rates to Lebara et al.
However, as the name ‘add-ons’ suggests, they aren’t included as part of your contract. So you have to pay extra, on top of your usual monthly outlay.
That’s not the case with specialist networks, such as Lebara, Lycamobile and Vectone.
When you sign up for a SIM with these networks, the international minutes are included as part of your monthly allowances. Which means a lot less outlay for you.
Which network offers the best international SIM cards?
Here we’ll take a look at some of the networks that specialise in international SIMs to give you some idea of what’s on offer.
Vectone’s international SIM range is extensive. You can choose from:
Vectone My country and UK bundles
As the name suggests, these plans feature inclusive mobile and landline calls to an overseas country that you nominate, with a choice of 1,500 minutes or 2,500 minutes per month. They also include an allowance of UK calls and data.
Vectone 2 countries 1 SIM
Aimed at people who split their time between two countries, these pay as you go SIMs allow you to register a second mobile number on a single SIM.
In so doing, you’ll benefit from cheap local call rates wherever you are, as well as local rates for data and texts.
Because you have a local number, it’s also cheaper for others to call you. And handily you only have to top up a single account.
Countries covered by Vectone’s 2 in 1 SIMs are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Serbia.
Vectone All in One Bundles
As the name suggests, these SIM-only plans include a monthly allowance of minutes that you can use for international calls or UK calls. Plans also include an allowance of UK data and texts.
All in One Bundles 40 worldwide including Australia, Brazil, India, Ireland, Mexico, South Korea and USA.
Vectone Student Saver Bundle
Billed as offering ‘global talk on a student budget’, Vectone’s Student Saver Bundle is priced £10 per month and include call minutes you can choose to use for UK or international calls, plus allowances for UK data and texts.
Vectone Country Saver Bundles
These SIM-only plans include an allowance of minutes that you can use for UK calls and one country of your choosing. Countries included are Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Pakistan, Poland, Romania and Sri Lanka.
Like Vectone, Lebara Mobile’s product range takes in an extensive selection of international SIMs. Some of which have fairly similar selling points and allowances.
Here’s a snapshot of what Lebara Mobile offers:
Lebara Mobile All-in-One plans
Priced from £10 per month, these include a monthly allowance of calls to 40 overseas locations, as well as allowances for UK 3G data and calls.
Among the 40 locations included with Lebara Mobile All-in-One plans are Australia, China India, New Zealand and the US.
Lebara Mobile Data Passes
Lebara Mobile’s Data Passes give you an international calls allowance and a 3G monthly data allowance. But you don’t get a UK call allowance.
If you do want to make UK calls, you can use your data allowance and call via internal calls services, such as Skype or WhatsApp.
Data Passes are priced from £5 per month.
Lebara Mobile International Plans
This category encompasses a wide range of plans, but they’re all aimed at people who make a lot of overseas calls.
Among these are:
Unlimited International. Gets you unlimited calls to 41 overseas locations and is priced £10 per month.
Flexi World S. Includes a single allowance of minutes to use for overseas and UK calls and a UK data allowance.
China and the South East. This includes a single allowance of calls that you can use for UK calls or calls to China.
Lebara Mobile National Plans
These are slanted towards people who need only a small allowance of international calls. They also include a much larger allowance of UK calls and data.
Billed as the network that lets you “call the world for less”, Lycamobile also specialises in international SIMs and low call rates.
Here we take a close look at Lycamobile’s plans and what they’ve got to offer.
Lycamobile UK plans
Lycamobile’s UK Plans come in all shapes and sizes. But they’re all pretty keenly priced and operate on a 30-day rolling contract basis.
To give you some idea of what you can get, we’ve picked out a selection here.
UK Plan Super. Includes unlimited UK calls, 100 international minutes to a selection of territories, unlimited UK texts and 6GB of data. You also get to use your UK allowances in EU countries for no extra charge.
UK Plan M. Includes unlimited UK minutes, 100 international minutes to select countries (including India, China and the US) and 2GB of data. You’re also free to use your UK allowances in EU countries for no extra charge.
Lycamobile International Bundles
As you’d expect these feature heavy international calls allowances and operate on a 30-day rolling contract basis.
International Bundles include:
Great Eastern. Priced £10 per month, this gets you 1,000 monthly minutes to eastern European countries (including Poland, Romania and Bulgaria). Also comes with1GB of UK data.
World Plan X. This includes unlimited international and UK calls, as well as unlimited texts and a monthly allowance of 5GB of data.
Lycamobile Your Country Plans
These are tailored towards people who make a lot of calls to a single country outside the UK. Prices start from a very reasonable £5 per month.
Sample plans include:
- Jamaica Plan: includes 150 monthly minutes to Jamaica for £5 per month.
- Pakistan Plus: includes 500 minutes to Pakistan, China, India and more for £10 per month. You also get 500 UK minutes and 1GB of data per month.
- China Plus: For £10 per month, this gets you 1,000 minutes for calls to China and UK calls, as 1GB of data per month.
Lycamobile Student plans
These budget-friendly plans are tailored towards overseas students taking courses in the UK, who need to make regular calls to the folks back home.
All Student Plans include the option to use your UK allowances in the EU for no extra charge.
Plan options include:
- Student Pass. £10 per month gets you 1,000 UK minutes, and 100 international minutes (countries include Germany, India and USA). This plan also offers unlimited UK texts and 2GB of data per month.
- Data Lovers. This features a huge 15GB data allowance and 100 international minutes to select locations. You also get unlimited UK minutes and texts.
Just want a standard SIM only deal with UK allowances? Here's our pick of the best available.