International Calling Cards
Calling Cards - cutting the cost of communication
When I spent 3 months in France way back in 1997 I had myself a 'Telstra Call Home Card' with the costs of the call forwarded to my parents' bill. I can remember it was expensive enough that I could only talk for 15 mins a week. Now however things have changed.
Calling cards in the UK are ridiculously good value. If you've never used one before then I'll explain.
You can buy international phone cards from any corner shop or off-licence for between ₤5 and ₤20. Simply pick the one which offers the best call rates for your country. Then using your mobile or land line phone you call the corresponding number, enter the pin stamped on the card, and dial your international number. Good calling cards will allow you to call land lines in your home country for less than a penny a minute. I once found a card that offered 6000 minutes to Australia for ₤10 (6mins for 1p)
If you have 'free time' on your mobile it works out perfectly, you can be anywhere in the UK using your mobile to use the calling card to call family and friends on the other side of the world and it costs you only pennies! – other wise I suggest using a land line.
Beware of 'free' calling cards. These will be the ones that are offered to you in hostels or on the High St / Main St. These offer 250 or so minutes for free, but only after you spend 10 mins on a ₤1.50 per minute call… it shouldn't take a genius to figure out that that's not cheap.
I don't answer the phone. I get the feeling whenever I do that there will be someone on the other end.
Also be advised that these phone cards have a whole heap of made-up fees which can be quite annoying. Once you use the card the amount of credit remaining will start to decrease day-by-day. It's not usually much - 10p a day or so - but it means that if you only make 1 call a fortnight then don't be surprised when the credit is dead a month later.
Some calling cards allow you to top them up again and again, whilst others are disposable. It doesn't really make much of a difference, I prefer the re-loadable ones because it allows me to keep the same pin, then I can store the number in my phone and not have to carry the card with me to use it.
Don't buy phone cards from the Post Office unless you can't find one anywhere else – they're just not very good value – anything above the 500minute mark is pretty good. Oh and don't use calling cards to call mobiles, you will be charged anywhere between 15 to 30 times more, so stick to land lines.
Okay I think that's it – calling cards are an effective and affordable way to stay in touch whilst abroad. Buy them as soon as you arrive in the UK, they really will save you a small fortune.
One last thing on phones
For those of you accustomed to untimed local calls from public telephones in your home country, I'm sorry to tell you that the same does not apply in the UK. Minimum local call costs 20p plus 11p a minute. That doesn't include when the machine steals your money or when your money gets jammed in the coin feed slot. Directory assistance is no longer a free call. Emergency 999 calls are of course always free from any phone in the United Kingdom.
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