London Dopers, phone advice for a visiting American?

Hello British Brethren, I’ll be there soon!
This is my first trip to the UK and my first trip abroad in more than 10 years. I’ll be there for a week.

so from the googling and travel forum reading I’ve done it seems like the most reasonable phone option is to buy a prepaid mobile phone from anyplace, they’re everywhere, can’t swing a cat without hitting a place to buy a mobile.

I need something that can receive emergency calls from the US, send a few “I got here safely” or “boarding the plane now” texts back to the US and make calls and texts to and from my traveling companion.

Is this as easy peasy as the internet makes it sound? About how much should I expect to pay…£20 is the number I keep seeing, does that sound about right?

Will such a phone be usable in Italy in October with a SIM card purchased in Italy?

Thanks! Feel free to offer any other travel tips for Americans (leave out the bits about not being loud and looking both ways to cross the street). I can’t wait to get there!

Yeah, it’s as easy as you think. The really cheap deals are in supermarkets, not anywhere near an airport, if you want a cheapo phone that lets you communicate back to home base. But 20 quid or so will get you a basic phone with some call and text credit on it, and you will be able to top it up in loads of places

Yup, any Euro GSM will work in Italy. Just get a sim card when you get there

What phone have you got? It might be worth your while to get it unlocked so you can just use the same handset and just switch sim when you travel

Any high street shopping area will have both a Carphone Warehouse and a phones4u. They’ll sell you a prepaid for GBP20 and will set it up for you on the spot, which is quite helpful compared to buying one in a supermarket.

A good point if it’s a GSM phone. If OP is with AT&T or T-Mobile in the US, it will probably be GSM and should work OK with a UK SIM if unlocked. I believe other US networks are CDMA and there’s no way to make CDMA handsets work over here.

One travel tip: try not to refer to the whole country as ‘London’ :wink:

This is what I did when I traveled to London. I just walked into a Carphone Warehouse, picked out a cheap phone, then asked the salesperson for help with picking out a prepaid card that would fit my needs. I walked out the door and immediately made a call. I’m pretty sure it was around £20 as well. There were probably cheaper options available, but this was the easiest.

If you are going to be using the train to travel in the metro area, just buy an oyster card and put £20 on and top up as needed. Don’t even look at the other ticket options unless you are going to travel outside the metro area. It’ll just make your head spin!

What kinds of things are you interested in doing while you’re there?

You can get (Terminal 3 at heathrow) a prepaid sim out from vending machine. Its on the right near the WH Smiths as you leave customs. About 10 pounds. Lebara, Lyca mobile etc.

I’m only going to London though (this time, if I’m lucky there will be other times!).
jerricurrl, my Oyster card just arrived, your post made me go check the mailbox. The stuff I’ll be doing has mostly been picked out for me (I’m piggybacking on a friend’s trip), so I’m just interested in general travel tips, like is ordering water with a meal weird? Is asking for ice water?

Neither of those things would be considered weird, no.

Would taking your iPhone/Android (assuming that you have something) with you and using an app like Voxer over wifi work? Are free hotspots widely available in Britain?

Ordering water is totally normal! More common than ordering soda. The ice thing…oh, the ice thing is another matter.

I will not deny that I have what might be called an addiction, but it is what it is. Occasionally I just gotta have my ice. I found that ordering in a restaurant and asking for ice will get you a couple of small cubes, which does not do the job for me. So this is what I did to get my fix: I would either stop at a KFC (they are everywhere) and ask them to fill the cup to the top with ice. They would then fill the cup 1/3 the way and ask if that was what I wanted, and we would go back and forth like this a couple times til the cup was maybe 2/3 filled, and then they would add the drink. (I don’t think they were being stingy with the ice, they just couldn’t believe someone really wanted that much!) OR I would stop whenever I saw a Subway, because they are the same there as in the US - self-serve drinks. As long as I was getting my icy-cold beverage at some point (like after hoofing it around town all day), I was fine with little or no ice while eating in a restaurant.

I can’t think of anything else I missed or had a hard time adjusting to other than the ice. All the food I had was absolutely wonderful! I say this every time a thread like this pops up, but if you like juice, you should try this apple juice called Copella. The apple + elderflower is delicious. In fact, most of the juices over there were nice.

Thanks for the ice tips jerricurrl! I’m an ice lover myself and if it’s hot (the way it was for my friend last year same time) I’d miss it if I couldn’t get it at least sometimes.