Call abroad for less: the cheapest international plans

neil hawkins
By Neil Hawkins

Making international phone calls is no longer a case of dialling the operator, asking for a line to New York and re-mortgaging the house to pay for it.

No sir, today it's a cutthroat business with competitors slashing the cost of calls right down to our favourite price: free.

Whether you want to get in touch with Costa Del Grandma, or the kids on a gap year, you can take full advantage.

Read on, or skip ahead to:

Call online for free

One of the greatest developments to spring from the internet has been 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:

How it works

VoIP services let you make free phone calls in two ways: by installing an application onto your PC or laptop and using the microphone (built in, normal, or Britney style, it's up to you) or via an app on your smartphone.

The free call rule
Use the same VoIP service as the person you are calling and watch your usage.

Either way they take the analogue call data - your voice - and convert it, often along with video, into a digital stream which is much cheaper to whizz 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 both you and Auntie Sheila in Oz are using Skype, you can chat away without the call costing either of you a single penny.

The data warning

Remember, however, that while the call may be free, these services use data - and that can be costly.

Be careful if you're connecting using a home broadband connection with a monthly download allowance, and extremely cautious when calling using your mobile's data plan.

We've got more detail on how quickly VoIP services munch through data in our usage guide here.

International calls from landlines:
override deals

Skype and the like are great, but aren't much use if the person you're calling doesn't have them for some reason, or can't get a decent internet connection.

Don't despair: there are still many ways to cut the cost of calling international numbers from your landline 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 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.

Pay separately

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

If you don't fancy having another bill to keep track of, or signing up for a separately charged override service, some will charge the cheap call cost to your home phone provider.

That means it'll be added to your normal bill, but you still benefit from the reduced price.

Again, you dial the access number provided, then the number you want to call.

How to find override services

This site is a great place to compare the cost of the various override providers.

International calls from landlines:
cheapest inclusive

Overriding services are great because calls abroad using standard rates are usually monstrously expensive.

They needn't be, however. Well priced inclusive international call plans are available, which may be the best bet for those making frequent calls overseas.

They're a lot less hassle, and they have the best and most consistent call quality - and when we say they beat standard rates, we're not kidding. Have a look further down for examples.

Bundles and bolt-on deals charge a flat monthly fee for the most popular international destinations. These tend to include:

Australia Austria Belgium Canada
Canary Islands China Croatia Cyprus
Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland
France Germany Gibraltar Greece
Hong Kong Hungary Ireland Israel
Italy Japan Luxembourg Malaysia
Netherlands New Zealand Norway Poland
Portugal Singapore Slovenia South Africa
Spain Sweden Switzerland The US

Increasingly providers also include calls to American and Canadian mobiles.

If you decide to go for a bolt-on deal make sure to check which countries are included, sometimes a few popular choices are conspicuous by their absence.

TalkTalk customers, for example, can get unlimited calls to 58 destinations for £5 a month - but that doesn't include China.

BT's International Freedom package offers free calls to 36 countries - but not India - and discounted rates for the rest for an extra £6.20 a month.

Sky Talk offers inclusive calls of up to 50 minutes at a time to 50 countries for £10 a month.

Meanwhile the Post Office offers unlimited calls to its top 40 international destinations, and the somewhat vague promise of 50% off calls to all other countries, for £4 a month on top of its Home Phone package.

Virgin Media offers the poorest deal: £2 a month deal gives cheaper call rates, but no free call time at all.

What's cheapest?

VoIP to VoIP calls are always going to be the cheapest options but who offers the cheapest calls to and from landlines and mobiles?

Let's take a quick look at how much it would cost to call an Indian landline using the different options discussed above.

pence per min so for 1 hour...
BT standard rate 35.7p £21.42
BT International Freedom bolt-on 6.1p £3.66
Cheapest override on 07/01/15 0.5p 30p
Rebtel (VoIP) 1.49p 90p


22 March 2016
Gintaras k

Place to find 'override service' providers <a href=";cuid=2412393" rel="nofollow noopener" title="">www.cheapinternationalcall....</a> as an alternative, your mentioned website is temporary unavailable.

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