SIM card for travellers to London with iPhones

9 September 2013TechnologyTravel

Obtaining a SIM card and a temporary pay-as-you-go mobile plan for a recent trip to London was a relatively painless experience. Here are the steps I took to get service for my iPhone 4:

  1. You will need an unlocked phone.

  2. When arriving at Heathrow Airport, watch for vending machines that have a blue and white sign indicating ‘SIM Cards’. I arrived in Terminal 3, but I would assume that they are located in other terminals as well.

  3. Purchase a T-Mobile pay as you go SIM card for £10. The packaging is pink and white, and contains a dual mini-SIM/micro-SIM. Unfortunately, for those requiring a nano-SIM for the iPhone 5, you’ll need a pair of scissors to create a SIM card that fits.

  4. The SIM card comes loaded with £5 of credit so if you need to make a text, phone call, or access the Internet immediately you should be able to do so by simply putting the SIM card into your phone.

  5. While the SIM card comes pre-loaded with £5 of credit, it is on a basic plan that charges a fair bit for each call, text, or kilobyte of data, so the initial credit won’t last long at all. Instead, add a bit more credit to your account and switch to one of T-Mobile’s Smart Packs. I went with the £10 Smart Pack which provides 1 GB of data, 400 texts, and 100 minutes of calling time for 30 days.

  6. If you have not used any of the pre-loaded credit on your new SIM card, you only need to add an additional £5 in order to switch to the £10 Smart Pack. To add credit, you can try calling 150 from your phone (once the T-Mobile SIM card has been installed), however their system did not accept my international credit card as a valid method of payment – your mileage may vary. As a result, The best option I found was to find a local convenience store that sells top-up credit vouchers. I waited until I was in London to do this, but I’m guessing you could find a shop at the airport that also sells these. Stores that sell top-up credit typically display a green and black ‘Top-Up’ logo on their store fronts. Tell the clerk that you would like £5 of top-up credit for T-Mobile. They will print out a small receipt for you that has a 16-digit code. Simply send a text message to 150 with the content ‘VO XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX’, substituting the code on your voucher for the Xs.

  7. To check that your voucher was processed, send another text to 150, this time with the content ‘ALLOWANCE’. You should receive a message back saying that you have a balance of £10.

  8. To switch to the Smart Pack, send a text to 441 with the content ‘SMART10’.

  9. To monitor your usage at any point once the new plan is activated, send a text to 150 with the content ‘ALLOWANCE’.

Good luck and happy travels!


For those that will also be travelling to Paris, I’ve added a post detailing how I got a temporary mobile plan while in France.