Just a few years ago, having a chat with friends, families and even colleagues who were overseas, could prove a costly business. Happily, that's no longer the case.
However, instead of having potentially large costs to face, there are now a large number of ways to make and pay for international calls.
In this guide, we take a look at the available options and discuss which ones are the most reliable and offer the best value for money.
Call online for free with VoIP
Still among the greatest developments to spring from the internet is the ability to communicate instantly and for free with anyone, anywhere in the world.
We're talking about Voice Over IP services (VoIP).
There are an enormous number of different online call providers all offering free international calls.
Here are a few of our favourites:
- Skype: This service can be used from numerous devices, including PC, smartphone, tablet or even a normal mobile. Beware, however, that only calls between internet viable devices are free, including international calls. Calls made to landline or mobile phone numbers via Skype, will incur charges.
- Apple FaceTime: Calling one Apple device from another will use the available internet connection and is free, subject to data charges. No apps or downloads are required as this is a pre-loaded facility on all Apple products.
- Whatsapp: Similar to Skype, WhatsApp can be used on PCs, laptops and smartphones to make international calls to your contacts who also have WhatsApp, for free. Again, the calls are, free although data charges may apply if there's no WiFi connection available.
- Viber, Rebtel, Localphone: Three popular app-based services that are compatible with iOS and Android devices along with PCs and laptops. Calls are free between registered users of each option, with low rates available when making calls to landlines and non-registered users, too.
How it works
With VoIP services, customers can make free phone calls in two ways: by installing an application onto a PC, or laptop and using the microphone, or via an app on a smartphone.
Whichever provider is selected, they take the analogue call data - your voice - and convert it, often along with video, into a digital stream which is much cheaper to send around the world via internet traffic, than traditional telephony networks.
The big advantage of this is that all VoIP providers allow their users to make free voice and video calls to people using the same service.
If two users of the same service conduct a phone or video call, only data-related charges will apply if no WiFi networks are available, or the user making the call's data has run out. That's the case for international calls and domestic ones.
The data warning
Remember, however, that while the call may be free, these services use data - and that can be costly.
If, as a customer, making international, internet-based calls is something new, its sensible to check any WiFi or data contracts and ensure there is enough data to make those VoIP calls. If a user makes an internet call via a mobile or smartphone, that call could become expensive if there isn't enough data left on a monthly plan.
Thankfully, providers increasingly offer plans that include unlimited data, which will make the VoIP option an excellent one. For example, the Three network recently added a new HomeFi broadband plan which includes unlimited data and its far from the only company to do so.
International calls from landlines:
Skype and the like are a great option to have. In some cases it simply isn't viable to make a call from, or to a device with an internet connection, or there is no reliable online access. When that happens, more traditional methods are required.
As the rise of free and low-cost internet calling options has increased, so have the ways in which we can make value for money international calls from a landline or mobile telephone.
One of the best options is using an override provider.
The best thing about override providers is they don't care which telephone service you use.
No matter your landline or mobile company, you're just a few quick steps away from cheap international calls - and you can choose whether to pay for those calls separately, or bundle them in with your standard bill.
The best override providers (18185, for example) will ask you to sign up online - and that's it, away you go.
The access number you're given is essentially a login to the override service. Dial that, and then the number you wish to call.
You're then charged for any calls made through the override number, usually once a month.
Pay with your bill
Many customers prefer to keep the number of separate bills they pay, to a minimum and some override call service providers can help with that by charging their bill to home phone service providers.
In this situation the regular phone bill will include any costs associated with the override service, allowing the customer to make a single payment for all the calls made from their landline.
As with paying separately, to use an override service all that is required is to dial the access code before making the international call.
How to find override services
Finding override service providers can be done with some online searching, either on your preferred search engine or via a comparison site, or one that specialises in phone services provision or value for money deals.
A few that we consider to be good options include:
- Vonage: This service has two plans to allow customers to make cheap international calls. One allows you to make unlimited calls to landlines in five named countries. The other is an add-on option that allows unlimited calls, worldwide.
- LycaCall: As above, this override service means customers can make low-cost international calls from their landline or mobile. However, users pay a lower per minute rate for their phone calls, rather than a set monthly fee for 'x' amount of minutes or unlimited calls.
- 18185 and JustCall: These override services are also where customers create an account online and then any international calls made through that account are charged at the advertised per minute rate. The payment is made directly to the provider and is in addition to and separate from, your landline rental related charges.
International calls from landlines:
cheapest inclusive call plans
Overriding services are great because calls abroad using standard rates can be expensive.
They needn't be, however. Well priced inclusive international call plans are available from home phone line rental contracts and these can work out to be a good option for those making regular or even frequent landline calls abroad.
For customers who prefer to make phone calls from their home landline, this is the most hassle free and comfortable option. It also tends to result in the best quality calls. Bundles and bolt-on deals charge a flat monthly fee for:
- A set number of minutes.
- Unlimited minutes.
- A small selection of countries.
- A large number of popular countries, typically including India, the US and Canada.
For reference, the most popular international countries included in bundles and bolt-ons tend to be:
When opting for a bolt-on deal, make sure to check which countries are included. On occasion, the most popular countries aren't included. International call package add-ons from UK landline service providers.
|Monthly cost (exc. line rental)
|International Saver Calls Boost
|Overseas landline numbers at a discounted rate
|International Extra Calls Boost
|1,000 free international landline minutes from a list of 50 countries and discounted call rates to all other countries
|International Max Calls Boost
|As above, plus calls to overseas mobiles
|Friends & Family International
|Discounted international calls to 236 places
|600 free minutes per month to call international landlines in 36 countries and discounted calls to 199 additional global destinations
|Talk Extra International
|Unlimited minutes to landlines in 30 overseas countries, plus some international mobiles
|Talk More Anytime International
|Unlimited calls to international landlines and mobiles in 50 countries
|Talk Anytime Extra
|Unlimited international calls at 2p per minute for 22 countries
|Talk International Extra
|Unlimited anytime calls to overseas landlines in 50 countries
What's the cheapest option?
In many situations, VoIP to VoIP calls are the cheapest option as they are free when used online through a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. However, not everyone is computer savvy enough to easily use all of these options or some people can't get the same apps in different countries. In addition, some people simply prefer to talk on the landline telephone.
For those customers who prefer this option, there are some excellent ways to keep the costs down, while still enjoying long and regular phone calls with friends, families and colleagues overseas.
Looking at the above deals, right now, even though TalkTalk may have recently raised its prices for its TV packages, the TalkTalk International Calls Boost package offers excellent value. Meanwhile, the Sky Talk International Extra package is also a good option for those who know they will make regular phone calls to various international landlines.
However, it's something that is personal to each customer, as everyone's international call activity and preferences are different.
We hope we've been able to give you a clearer idea of all the different ways in which it possible to low cost international phone calls from your UK smartphone or landline.