/ Money, Travel & Leisure

How do you make cheap overseas calls?

Telephone wire wrapped around globe

Thanks to modern technology, distance is no longer a barrier to keeping in touch with friends and family overseas. Now you can even make international calls for free via a broadband connection, so why pay?

Calling from a landline is generally cheaper than from a mobile, but there are still big differences in international rates depending on who your provider is. For example, Virgin Media’s standard rate per minute to a landline in Australia is 44.93p, whereas the Post Office charges just 5p and offers inclusive weekend calls.

Many providers offer international bundles which give reduced rates or inclusive calls in return for an additional monthly charge so it’s worth sussing out these deals to reduce your costs. We’ve an article planned for the next issue of Which? Money which will highlight some of the best of these deals.

‘Override’ your home phone provider

Override providers can also be a good alternative if you don’t want to commit to a monthly subscription. They allow you to ‘override’ your home phone provider so that you pay their own charges instead, which are generally very reasonable.

But why spend anything at all when there’s the option to call for free? Thanks to Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology, it’s possible to make international calls for free by using a broadband connection rather than a landline, with the only restriction being that the person you are calling must also have access to broadband.

Video calls with friends and family

Skype is the most popular VoIP service and for a long time now this has been my go-to method of keeping in touch with friends and family who are abroad. In my experience the call quality hasn’t always been particularly high, but I’m more than happy to make this compromise if it means avoiding a hefty phone bill. It’s also great to be able to see the person you’re calling via the video call facility.

What steps do you take to reduce the cost of calling overseas? Are you reluctant to pay for calls when you can use the likes of Skype for free? Or do you think it’s worth paying a bit more to ensure a potentially higher quality of call that is not dependent on a broadband connection?


Unless I’m making a call to a business, there’s no need to make calls to conventional telephone numbers. For calls to friends and family, it’s easy enough for both parties to use Skype or Viber via the internet. For free calls to US fixed lines and mobiles, I use Vonage’s free iPhone app. Skype also provides free calls to freephone numbers in some countries, including the UK, US, Australia, France, the Netherlands and Poland, which can be useful when calling a business. This also applies if you’re abroad and need to call a business in the UK.

thank you for that bit of info on SKYPE and free calls to Uk 0800 numbers, never knew that!

larry Levin says:
5 October 2012

moneysavingexpert has a utility which allows u to find the cheapest method of calling from the line you are using and the type of call(to landline or mobile)

What a dreadful Americanism “my go-to method”.
If you mean your usual method then say so!

I’ve gotten fed-up of American expressions too, but that’s not really relevant to the debate. 🙂

I’ve just use Skype to make calls to overseas phone numbers. It works well, is cheap, and does not need the person being called to have a Skype account.

Hello Jim and others, although we’re not always keen on Americanisms ourselves, Which? Convo is a place for informal debate and we like people to speak in the way they feel comfortable, almost as if they’re talking to a friend. So you may see more colloquialisms or even Americanisms here than you would in, say, Which? magazine. If you’d like to tell us what you think about our writing, please use our Contact Us form, as we need to keep the debates on-topic: https://conversation.which.co.uk/contact-us Thanks.


IrvSwerve says:
7 October 2012

Wavechang (?) doesn’t like Americanisms which may be perfectly good English but
prefers to use a made-up form of language which includes the word “gotten”.
I have calls to most major international locations included in my landline tariff.
This free add-on is no longer available to new subscribers.

I think Wavechange’s use of the non-word “gotten” was a deliberate joke, given the context.

franjam says:
8 October 2012

I believe “Gotten” is an English word that was in use when we first colonised America.
No longer in use in U.K. but still is in U.S.A.

I use Skype as I rarely make long distance phone calls – so for usual communications I use e-mail as time differences can be ignored.

IrvSwerve says:
8 October 2012

Thanks for that franjan. My Collins dictionary confirms what you say.So, ironically ” wavechange”
condemns Americanisms but in doing so uses one him/herself instead!
Sorry Patrick, but this is much more interesting than what everyone uses to call abroad.
Don’t mean to be rude but Who Cares?

If you would like to talk about use of language, these Conversations are more suitable: https://conversation.which.co.uk/tag/grammar/ Any further off-topic comments will be removed.

Skype is great. When my son was in the Far East for a large part of one year having a video call was far better than voice only. You can also show documents for example. The bonus is that it is free. Even the chargeable calls to mobiles or landlines seem reasonable. OK, the quality could be poor at times, generally the image, but that was a minor disadvantage.

I think everyone is missing a trick here! Jenny mentions VoIP but says “…with the only restriction being that the person you are calling must also have access to broadband”. Not so!

I must stress that only a normal customer and have nothing whatever to do with the company concerned, but I am a happy Localphone user. I spend a lot of time in Spain and have both a Spanish number and a UK number from Localphone. I also have a little Linksys box which plugs into my broadband. I can then attach a normal phone and call almost anywhere in the world for 0.5p per minute. And I mean ordinary, landline phones. Calls to mobiles are typically 4 – 5p per minute.

Call quality is normally at least as good as normal BT lines though, ineveitably, on rare occasions there are some artefacts due to the broadband connection. When I move from Spain to UK and vice versa, I simply unpluig the box and plug it in again in the new location. Anyone can call either of my numbers and my phone rings! And if I go out, I can divert calls to my mobile or any other number, and just pay the diverted call cost.

To me this is a no-brainer – and sorry if that’s an Americanism!

Louise says:
16 November 2012

Some interesting points have been raised in this conversation. We are lucky in this day and age to have so many forms of communication available. each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Conversations like this allow us to discuss these and make informed decisions. Thanks for some interesting reading.

Hi, on a different perspective does anyone have a view on the best quality phone line connections? I made a call to the USA last night from home using an access number service and although I could hear my contact he couldn’t hear me! I’d rather pay a bit more and know that the line would work well – so would welcome some reliable information on this aspect of calling abroad. I live out in a village and need to call abroad from home occasionally, but we only have access to BT services where I live.

Mohammad Diab says:
4 February 2015

[This comment has been removed. Please do not post promotional content. Thanks, mods]

I need to ring Australia to speak to my family, I have used a network for 1p per minute, which then BT add their charge, it has gone up from 2p per minute to 12p per minute cost, I was not notified but this started last July, can any one help with this, other than Skype. I may have to use Skype.

The trouble with Skype is that, as a free service, it only works if the person at the other end is logged in to Skype. If the party at the other end isn’t logged in, you can use Skype to call their ordinary phone number at that country’s internal rates, which is often a considerable saving. But an override service is simpler. We use the one offered by OneTel (now part of TalkTalk), which is cheap and simple, but sadly that will probably have to be dumped, because the OneTel website is broken (you can’t find out what you are being charged for) and TalkTalk are refusing to do anything about it, or even acknowledge the problem. I’d be interested to hear if anyone knows of another good override service (or any way of getting OneTel to disgorge a bill, come to that).