Having a phone that works in Scotland could be critical for a emergency use, for keeping in touch with family and friends who are on the trip with you and with those who are back home and anxiously awaiting to hear from you, and for using Google maps to navigate in unfamiliar territory.
Alison recommends a SIM from a company named Three http://www.three.co.uk/ . One SIM version costs about £1, with a £20 add-on that provides 3000 minutes of voice calls, 3000 texts, and 12GB of data. Pay-as-you-go SIMS such as this one have no contract, and there are various SIMS for various numbers of calls and texts and various amounts of data (although some don’t include data at all), and valid for various periods of time. In many cases, you can later top them off with more data if you find you’ve used more data than expected. Alison said that the SIM above also worked to give her roaming internet in Switzerland and Spain, which is not surprising because these SIMS supposedly work in 71 destinations worldwide. As an example of how to insert a SIM into your phone, here are the directions for a Galaxy S7: https://www.samsung.com/us/support/answer/ANS00047783/ .
Val cautions that she has had USA guests who have been sold something from Verizon that turned out to be useless there. We don’t know what that product was, but for a trip to Italy in 2016, Penny enabled international service on her USA Verizon account (check plans — there are several options), and it worked just fine for the two days that Penny used it (first and last day of the trip). There was no charge for enabling it, but Verizon charged $10 for every 24 hour period in which the phone is used for calls, texts, or data, and it used the same data limits included in her normal monthly plan. The price was right, but Penny was afraid her data limits would be blown out by using Google Maps all day, every day.
For the other days of the trip, Penny avoided phone calls and texts in favor of the internet; she rented a $10/day hotspot from her car rental agency, which provided unlimited data not just for her phone, but for her two daughters’ phones as well, at no additional charge. That unlimited data came in very handy for those long days of relying on Google Maps. Additionally, the hotspot was small, portable, and rechargeable — it could go wherever Penny and her daughters went. A Google search for “hotspot rental in Scotland” turned up several companies renting hotspots for $10 or less per day.
With a hotspot, you could use a web-based app like https://www.whatsapp.com/ for texting and calls. You can also text and make both audio and video calls for free using Skype.com. And finally, even Facebook offers private messaging, including beeping you if a message comes in. In all cases, the person you are contacting must also be a registered user with the app.
Regardless of method chosen, phone/internet service can be great, or not so great at times. Val says that the area has a lot of great reception now, even 4G service, though service is sometimes spotty in the countryside. Texting seems to be the most reliable, but be prepared to have any service disrupted at times. As Val says, “We do have some muckle great mountains and lovely stone buildings that do disrupt signals — its part of living here.” Small price to pay, don’t you think?