Crowd gathered in London

Best SIM cards for international students

Are you an international student studying in the UK?

Chances are you’ll need to swap over your SIM card. But with so many different options available, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. After all, finding SIM cards for overseas travel is tricky enough, let alone when you’re living and learning abroad.

In this article, we look at what makes the best SIM cards for international students and how you can go about choosing a SIM that’s not only compatible with your phone, but also your studies!

What to look for in a SIM

Ever ask yourself, ‘What SIM card do I need for my phone?’ If not, you should, especially if you’re an international student in the UK. 

Ultimately though the right decision will depend on how you use your phone, and what features you can’t be without.

Here’s what you should consider when looking for a SIM:


Value for money

There are a lot of mobile networks currently operating in the UK, so knowing which ones offer great value SIMs is vital.

Before you commit to any purchase, compare prices across several networks to find the best deal! Here at Asda mobile, we pride ourselves on our great value SIM deals, with data SIMs starting from £5


No contracts

Contracts can be confusing, especially if you’re travelling from another country where English is not your first language. The last thing you want as an intrepid international student is to get bogged down in all manner of terms and conditions.

A straightforward Pay as you go SIM can help avoid this issue, and is ideal if you’re travelling back and forth between home and the UK over an extended period.


Quick setup

Any delays to activating your account can leave you feeling stranded, which is not a great feeling when you’re abroad.

Choose a SIM card that requires minimal setup and can be managed easily during your time in the UK.


International calling rates

Want to let your loved ones know you’ve arrived safely? Looking to check in regularly with home? 

It’s understandable that, every so often, you’ll want to call your nearest and dearest. Just remember to pick a SIM that offers great value international calling rates, otherwise you could end up with a hefty phone bill. With Asda mobile, calls abroad start from 4p per minute


Roaming charges

Another thing to keep in mind is data roaming. If you use the internet a lot, which most students do, you’ll need a SIM that caters for this need.


Although some international networks still offer free data roaming within the UK, many do not, so before your course begins, make sure you pick a SIM card that offers a generous data allowance, or else you could end up paying way more than you budgeted for!

Mobile apps

Does your home network have its own app? If so, make sure you look for something similar from a UK carrier, as managing your SIM from one place is certainly the most convenient option.


Other things to consider

Is your phone locked?

Is your handset locked to a particular network or region? Most companies do this to keep pricing competitive, but it’s a huge inconvenience to customers travelling overseas.

Before your studies start, ask your network to unlock your phone. Keep in mind that they may refuse because it goes against their terms and conditions; in which case, you’ll need an alternative SIM.

If you’re unsure whether your phone is locked to a particular location or carrier, and the company won’t clarify this, try inserting a SIM card from a different network. The new network name should display at the top of the phone, and if you can call or text, that means the handset is unlocked.

You can buy UK SIMs online or in-store if you want to test this.


Dual-SIM phones

A dual SIM phone could also be a good idea if you’re an international student. These are very helpful if you’re travelling abroad, as they support two SIM cards: one with your regular number on it and the other with your overseas number.

Dual SIM phones can also help you avoid high roaming charges while remaining fully contactable to your friends and family back home. Just remember that you will need to alternate between each SIM as needed, or risk a huge bill.


Useful apps for international students

Studying in a different country means you get to enjoy a whole new educational experience, as well as various international cultures. However, it can be daunting at first, especially if you’re unfamiliar with your destination.

Downloading apps can help remedy this. If you haven’t already, get the best free messaging apps - including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Snapchat - as well as top video chat apps like Zoom and Facetime. These will help you stay connected with friends and loved ones, as well as providing a dedicated space for you to share details of your adventures.

Also, don’t forget to install must-have apps in the UK, including:

  • Citymapper - a route planner operating in large cities throughout the country, e.g. London, Manchester, Glasgow, etc., which helps you understand the transport systems and review your journey history
  • BBC iPlayer - a catch-up and streaming service from the UK’s flagship television channel: the BBC. This is a great way to fully immerse yourself in British culture.
  • Time Out - an internationally renowned culture and entertainment guide full of fun things to do in UK cities like London and Birmingham

For international students looking to meet new people, the aptly named Meetup is a great way of finding events near where you’re based, while joining local Facebook groups shows an active interest in your new overseas community.

Check out great value SIM only deals with Asda mobile and get ready to start your international adventure the right way!

Go Pay As You Go

The easy way to get more from your mobile

Mobile phone illustration

Say hello to handsets

No commitment, no limits
No commitment, no limits

With no commitment you have the freedom to flex your usage whenever you need to.

Powered by Vodafone
Powered by Vodafone

Powered by Vodafone with up to 99% UK population coverage.

Cap your spend
Cap your spend

Put a limit on how much you spend every month so you don't need to worry about getting a big bill.

Always easy to get through and speak to real people. Problems easily sorted & resolved with good cheap realistic prices. Very happy with Asda Mobile!


I get what I pay for and it all works fine. Now the billing issues from the switch to Vodafone network have been sorted, job's a good 'un.


Never had a problem with Asda mobile. Always efficient service. Customer service is always friendly and helpful.


Great price for what I need. Always had great customer service when I've rang up.


Asda Stores Limited (registered address: Great Wilson Street, Leeds, LS11 5AD) trading as Asda Money, acts as a credit broker not a lender, and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Asda Stores Limited only offers finance from a restricted range of finance providers. Finance provided by PayPal Credit. Terms and conditions apply. Credit subject to status, UK residents only. ASDA Stores Limited acts as a broker and offers finance from a restricted range of finance providers. PayPal Credit is a trading name of PayPal (Europe) S.à r.l. et Cie, S.C.A. 22-24 Boulevard Royal L-2449 Luxembourg.