UK Travel Tips: Giffgaff for Cellular and Apple Pay for Transit

(Adam Engst) #41

I believe the goody bag will renew only when the time runs out, since I had to buy another one manually when we ran low on data.

(Jolin Warren) #42

You don’t need to buy a goodybag to activate your SIM, you just need to put some money on it (£10 minimum, I believe). If you log into your giffgaff account, you should see your phone number under your username (top left), and under that a message saying you don’t have any active goodybags on the left, and your balance on the right (under My balance). If you have a phone number and a balance, your SIM is active. If you’re still not sure or having issues, send me a private message with a screenshot of what it looks like when you log into your giffgaff account and I’ll do my best to help.

The goodybag will only renew once the month comes to an end (e.g. 30-31 days after you activated it). You have to go in and manually renew the goodybag if you run out of data early. As Adam says, if you disable auto-renewal, you won’t end up with any charges unless you explicitly choose to add funds/buy a goodbag. In fact, it’s possible to not have any card registered with your account and solely add money to your account with top-up vouchers that you can buy with cash (or card) in most newsagents and supermarkets.

In terms of timing, what airport are you arriving at? Most have free WiFi (for some amount of time, say 2 hours), so you could always activate the goodybag after you’ve landed by using the free WiFi and logging into your giffgaff account (or installing the app beforehand and using that). You can pay for a goodybag using your account balance, so if you want to be sure you won’t have any issues with your card being declined, etc, my advice would be:

  1. Now: Add enough funds to your account so that your balance can cover your goodybag purchase.

  2. On arrival: Use the airport WiFi to log onto your account/use the giffgaff app, and purchase a goodybag using your account balance.

Your goodybag will then last the length of your trip, without needing to buy another one (assuming you don’t run out of data). On the data issue, giffgaff have increased the data that comes with each goodybag since Adam was here, so see which suits you best:

Regarding premium numbers, it’s very unlikely you’d need to phone one if you’re just phoning other people/businesses/etc. Your goodybag covers all mobile numbers, landline numbers, and non-geographic numbers starting with 03. Numbers starting with 080 are freephone and don’t cost anything anyway. Some business might try to make money off people calling them by having numbers starting with 084, 087, but they are required by law to state the cost of these calls where they list the number, so it should be obvious. I can’t remember the last time I phoned a premium number (if ever). And there is a useful database of alternative numbers for those places that do try to charge you for phoning them with 084/087 numbers:

Hopefully this isn’t information overload, but let me know if you have further questions, or something I’ve written doesn’t make sense.

(Jack Clay) #43


Taking a trip to the UK at the end of September and very interested to read all this very useful information. I have one question that may have been answered but I can’t find it!

We’re going to Majorca after our stop in the UK. Will Giffgaff continue to work there? If not is there another solution that will work in both the UK and Spain?


Jack Clay

(Will M) #44

Jolin, that was brilliant! Thank you! I now have a phone number.

I used a Chase Visa with a US address to top up. Apparently at least one US credit card works. (The web site did say invalid number after I entered the Visa number, but that error message cleared itself as soon as I tabbed away from the number field.)

Since I am in the US, I did not put the SIM in my phone and set it up. I assume that was the right thing to do and that setup will happen when I install the SIM and power-up the phone after we land at Heathrow (and that tells you our arrival airport).

All evidence is that our car rental agency does have a premium number, but (thanks for that site!) was able to match it to an unverified toll-free number.

If a friend wants to call me while I’m in England, how would that work? I believe the UK’s country code is 44, but I’m confused by the + sign on international phone numbers. Please educate me. If I get a call from the US (or France, or some other country), does that cost me anything?

Thanks again for the explanations and info.

(Jolin Warren) #45

By law, roaming to the EU and some other countries (e.g. Iceland, Norway) is now no more expensive than calls/texts/data within the UK, so Majorca (as part of Spain) is included in this. However there is a significant caveat for someone like yourself, in that this only applies to UK residents. It’s not entirely clear how giffgaff determines whether you’re a UK resident, but they say they look for ‘recent UK activity’.

Whether your time in the UK before going to Majorca will be sufficient, I’m not sure, but quite possibly not. You can tell whether free roaming is enabled by looking at your giffgaff account as specified in the page above.

If you don’t get free roaming, the cost is as follows if you have a goodybag:

If you don’t meet the necessary criteria, or go against our fair usage guidelines, then the inclusive roaming may be switched off. You’ll still be able to use your phone in the EU, but if you have a goodybag you’ll be charged 3.2p/minute, 1p/text, 0.6p/MB.

Without a goodybag, it’s 15p/min, 5p/text, 5p/MB.

Regarding whether there is another mobile network which would give you the free roaming, they all have their own criteria for determining whether your ‘home’ is the UK and you therefore qualify. I don’t have experience with any of the others, but you can check pay-as-you-go on major networks like 3, O2 (which is owned by the Spanish operator Telefonica), EE, or Vodafone. 3 in particular has a “Go Roam” plan that is made for using your minutes when travelling. I’m vaguely aware of this, but haven’t investigated in detail, so can’t recommend it personally, and you’ll want to read up on it.

There are numerous other smaller operators, too, but a lot of them won’t send SIMs out internationally like giffgaff do. So you will likely need to get the SIM when you’re in the UK (this can be done at a mobile phone shop, most supermarkets (even small city ones), Argos, or one of the shops run by the operator you want to use).

(Tommy Weir) #46


  1. Your friend in the US who wishes to call you calls the new SIM’s number unless you’ve set your US number to auto-redirect to the new SIM which I guess is carrier dependent.
  2. The + symbol is used because the US (and perhaps other countries) use a different international prefix than Europe. In the US it’s 011-Countrycode-Number. In Europe it’s 00-Countrycode-number. Mobiles and regular phones that are recent understand this and will act accordingly, so if you have a + symbol rather than 011 it will work too. So if your friend wishes to call you they will dial 011-44-number
  3. Can’t speak to that particular carrier but in Europe you are not charged for calls received.

@jaclay, to your point, it’s not legal to have a SIM from the UK which doesn’t roam. So I would presume that your UK sim will work in Spain but a call to their service centre would confirm this. My experience is that a 3 sim in the UK will work with the same rates and data in Spain, if you had any doubts as to Giffgaff, you could try 3 or O2 or Vodafone. All this presumes that your iPhone is unlocked of course.

(Jolin Warren) #47

Great, glad it’s working!

Yes, that’s the right thing, otherwise you’ll start getting charged expensive roaming rates! Assuming your phone is unlocked (which is a must!), as soon as you put the SIM in when you land, it should configure everything automatically. Heathrow does have free WiFi, though it requires registering, etc.

Which agency are you using?

The + indicates that the following number(s) are the international country code, which is 44 for the UK. The phone then knows to figure out what access number to dial based on where you are. Without the +, you need manually add the international access code (which varies based on the country you’re calling from) and the international country code. So if you have a UK number stored as 07123 456 789, then to dial it from the US you need to know to dial the US international access code (011?), and then 44 7123 456 789. If you instead store the number as +44 7123 456 789, then you can dial it from either the US or the UK and your phone will figure out what to do. The same applies to US phone numbers. If it’s stored as (202) 123 4567, then to dial it from the UK you need to know to dial 00 1 202 123 4567. If you store it as +1 (202) 123 4567, then the phone will sort it out for you no matter which country you’re in.

You never pay to receive a call (or text) in the UK when using a UK mobile network. The cost is borne by the person calling you. From your perspective, they could be calling you from a satellite phone in the antarctic, it wouldn’t make any difference or cost you anything.

(Jolin Warren) #48

I used to think this, but it’s not true! It’s only not legal if you are a UK resident. Mobile networks can charge for EU roaming to non-residents (as per giffgaff’s information above).

(Will M) #49

Thanks, Tommy! I did not understand the 011 was needed before the country code.

In case you couldn’t tell, I am way too technologically challenged to set my US number to redirect to the new SIM.

If I want to the US from the UK, then I would dial 00-1-phone number, right? I really don’t expect to do this, but I would like to know how.

Thanks again.

(Will M) #50

Unlocked phone: I don’t recall the details, but I did call my carrier to ask that the phone be unlocked. I was assured that the carrier unlocked it, and I did something that provided evidence that it was unlocked. I believe it is, but if there is a simple test, please share it.

Car rental agency: I am using is Hertz Cheney Manor Industrial Estate in Swindon.

Thanks for the information on international calling.

(Fearghas McKay) #51

http://saynot00870com suggests using:

+44 1793 826236 rather than the +44 843 309 3074 premium rate.


(Tommy Weir) #52

Interesting. I’ll check that out. I can’t see how they would know if you just arrived in a store and picked up a sim and put some credit on it.

(Tommy Weir) #53

Yes. That’s exactly what to dial.

(Jolin Warren) #54

I think they base it on activity. If you pick up the SIM, make one call (or not), then head to Spain, they might not give you free roaming. They can see you’ve not used the SIM in the UK.

My understanding is it’s primarily to protect home markets – for instance, if there were much cheaper deals in the UK than the RoI (or Portugal than Spain), this prevents someone going across the border, getting a SIM from NI, and then only using it in the Republic. And I guess the cost to the UK operator in this example is uneconomic as well, as they’re permanently paying for roaming for you.

(Tommy Weir) #55

Makes sense. The 3 offer in the UK is better than the Ireland offer, I hadn’t considered that. My impression is that Hutchinson, owners of 3, actually expand via either acquiring or establishing individual country carriers and each operate entirely independently.

(Will M) #56

Well, I thought I understood phone numbers, but I need to ask more questions. Do I dial the +44 when calling within the UK? The number that I recorded when I searched for the non-premium number 01793 826236. The premium number that I recorded from the web site (back when I made the reservation) was +44 (0) 843 309 3074. What is the significance of the first zero in those numbers? Why does it appear to be optional?

I would guess that I dial +44 if outside the UK and I dial 0 if in the UK, but that doesn’t explain the +44 (0) on the web site, and I’d rather not guess.


(Tommy Weir) #57

If you’re inside the UK dialling the +44 will make no difference in terms of access or charges. If dialling the 0 version doesn’t work (which could be the case depending on Giffgaff, @ace may know), try the fuller version.

(Fearghas McKay) #58

Hi Will

If you are using your mobile phone you can call with the +44 inside the UK as well as outside. From a landline you would dial 01793 etc.

Writing numbers in the format +44 (0) 1793 826236 is not a great thing to do as it is not a recognised format so things like address book/contacts/ don’t know how to handle it reliably.

Or to be less polite, the web page is broken :slight_smile:


(Will M) #59

Thanks, Fearghas.

True too often.

(Will M) #60

Followup and need more advice.

Earlier, I asked about activating my new SIM and when Goody Bags expire. I was advised to put some value on the SIM so I could activate it, and then use some or all of that value to buy a Goody Bag after I arrived in England. That advice was spot on. I landed in London and bought a Goody Bag using the stored value that I put on the SIM to activate it. No problems. (Something cost me £0.28 in phone charges, and I’m curious but not curious enough to try to track it down.)

I wanted the SIM for emergencies (loosely defined) and for data tethering, so I could use a larger screen than the iPhone’s. Today, I went to use the data tethering for the first time, and the iPad would not download either a Pages document or a PDF; each was stored on iCloud. In each case, the iPad displayed something like “Preparing to Download” for over a minute but nothing further happened. I was able to load a web page in Safari and use Google Maps, and when I got back to the hotel and used its Wi-Fi, the iPad downloaded both the Pages document and the PDF with no difficulty. Does anyone have a theory about why the downloads failed using data tethering from Giffgaff and succeeded over Wi-Fi? More importantly, what should I check or enable to download files from iCloud?