Moving to Edinburgh – Cell Phones

In the US, I paid about $50 per month for a data plan with my family with AT&T. Don’t ask me about suspending your contract or how to keep your number if you’re going to be using it for a long period of time. My dad and I went to the AT&T store in Hayward four days before our flight, which was a franchise store, meaning that they couldn’t help us at all.

Anyways, when moving abroad and bringing your own mobile phone, make sure it’s unlocked. If you’re eligible, you can unlock your phone with AT&T by just going online to and filling out the form. That same evening, I received another email with the details about how to unlock my phone.

While budgeting for this move to Scotland, Andrew and I would refer to the University Website to figure out our monthly living costs. Mobile monthly costs ranged from £10-50, so we just assumed the worst because we knew that we needed data (especially cause I get lost very easily and Andrew likes to read things while waiting for things).

Now, I try to research everything online and got pretty confused when it came to mobile plans, so here is the condensed easy version and I am pretty happy with the UK system for mobile phones.

When we arrived in Edinburgh, we were super blessed to have Andrew’s supervisor to pick us up from the airport. He also gave us a SIM card for GiffGaff. GiffGaff is a pretty good mobile network since you don’t need a contract. The SIM card is free, you don’t need to go into a store, and you can manage everything online. The GiffGafff online community is also pretty hepful. Since we felt pretty disconnected, by the second day in Edinburgh, we signed up for GIffGaff for my phone. You do need a UK address though (we used a friend’s since we didn’t have a place yet), but my US credit card worked (even though the website states that you should be using a card attached to the address). I selected the £12 per month option that gave me 500 UK minutes, unlimited UK texts, free minutes to giffgaff numbers, and 2 GB of data.£12 = $18.24. 18.24 US Dollars? What?! So cheap. The only thing is that you do need an address, so if don’t have a friend with a UK address, this is not really an option.

Andrew’s phone wasn’t unlocked so we had to purchase a phone here. On Princes Street, there are a ton of mobile phone providers and a store called Carphone Warehouse so it is quite easy to buy one, although not very cheap.

After doing more research and talking with others, we ended up going with Three as our mobile network and it’s great!  We just went into the store and it was super easy. We get 200 minutes, unlimited UK texts, and “All-You-Can-Eat” (or unlimited) Data in the UK (don’t ask me why they use “all-you-can-eat” when you don’t exactly eat data…) for £17 per month. We got a contract to save £3 a month each using a direct debit option. You need to have a bank account/debit card (which means, you also need an address). Otherwise, you can get this same plan for only 1 month for £20 (pay as you go). Three even has this program called “Feel At Home” where you can use your phone (you can call UK lines and use data too) in other countries, including the United States. All this for £17?!? That’s only $25.86!!

Also, keeping my number from GiffGaff to Three was super easy. I just requested a PAC (Porting Authorisation Code) on my account with GiffGaff, which was sent immediately.  I filled out a form with Three. The next business day, my number was moved!

Now, the US really needs to get on this. So cheap, so convenient, and so user-friendly! Plus, everything is online so you just need to log on to manage your account or see how many minutes you have left.


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