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I do not want to use my mobile phone (hoping it is not that necessary) in the UK.

Where can I use public telephones in the UK and at what prices?

Most of the time I will be in Oxford/London/Edinburgh and the roads/rails connecting these places.

I want to use (if at all necessary) public phones to call my home country (India) and to call local friends/acquaintances in the UK.

  • I do have a device that I can use for Wifi connection... – Praphulla Koushik May 30 at 2:53
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    There is a lot of free-wifi in UK. Find a Wetherspoons pub (plenty in Oxford/London/Edinburgh) and enjoy a famously cheap beer or coffee, and free wifi (no passwords iirc) - you can then call your friends via wifi whatsapp, fb messenger, lineapp, viber, skype etc.. – Mâtt Frëëman May 30 at 6:42
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    FYI, on saving money, SIM cards can be purchased for 99p at many chain shops (e.g.near the checkout tills at Tesco Express - a bit like a 7/11), although in the London airports the exact same ones they are 10gbp or more from the vending machines and booths. – Mâtt Frëëman May 30 at 6:46
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    Somebody has voted to close as too broad but I disagree. Although the question asks about the whole UK and therefore does sound very broad, the answer is very manageable because the situation is fairly uniform across the country. (There are few phone boxes and they're hard to find and expensive.) – David Richerby May 30 at 7:37
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    I understand you can think the public calling will cost less, but calling abroad via public phone boxes is expensive, it will cost you far less (free, actually) to use wifi calling as others have mentioned, or to buy a SIM for cheap – Uciebila May 30 at 9:40
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There are phones, in the classic red phone boxes and in more modern versions as well as inside buildings.
But it is hard to predict where they are and not many mapping services include them.
There used to be a phone box every 400 meter, (about 1/4 mile) but the low frequency of use and the high frequency of damage/vandalism has made them rarer.
I checked google maps for several of the locations you mention and there are (red) phone boxes mentioned on at least one. Others which are mentioned often have the note 'closed' and when you check streetview on that location you see a place where there might have been a phone box.
Even when there still are boxes, often the phone is missing, damaged, or just not working. And do bring nose clips, as too many people use them as a place to pee out of the weather.
Phones in pubs are still more reliable, good for a short call to a friend, as they are kept working to call taxis. But these days more and more people use mobile phones for that and pub public phones will disappear as well.

If you have a wifi device, try an internet calling service, Skype is one but there are more.

What I remember from using public phones and switching to a mobile is that a few 'within England' calls where more expensive than a prepaid sim card for twice the calls.

Only in rural areas with poor mobile phone/internet coverage phone boxes can be the best solution, if still more expensive.
The cities you mention have good coverage and trains between them might have wifi, many do, maybe all but not always reliable.
Those cities also have many shops to buy a cheap phone or sim card if you decide you need one.
Do check with your current provider what use in the UK will cost you, it might be cheaper than a phone box.

Call from phone boxes cost a minimum of £0.60 of which £0.40 is the connection fee.
Here is a news article about phone boxes, prices are in the bottom end.
And here is a BT phone booth price list, thanks to @MJeffryes.
While calling out of a phone booth is possible, it is expensive. Keep it for emergencies only.

There used to be cards to be used in combinations with a local phone number, not sure if they are still for sale, but the most likely point to get them is in a corner store manned by someone who (likely) has relatives far away.

  • I do not want to use phone/buy sim (low budget)... That is why I asked... – Praphulla Koushik May 30 at 6:19
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    I understand but I have found that it is good to know options for when reality bites. – Willeke May 30 at 6:28
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    @PraphullaKoushik Here's BT's price list. India is band 16, so calls cost 50p a minute. Using a phone box is not a "low budget" option! – MJeffryes May 30 at 10:56
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    A SIM to work with an existing (GSM) phone is usually 99p or £1, or free if you buy £10 of credit at the same time. Lycamobile offer calls to India at 1p or 2p/min depending on package; there are many other SIM providers offering very competitive rates to India. – Owain May 30 at 20:31
  • If you do not want to take your own sim out of your phone (neither would I) you can bring an old phone or a cheap second hand one, or buy one when you feel the need in the UK. – Willeke Jun 1 at 18:49
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With cash or a wifi device, it's quite simple to make phone calls with public telephones or otherwise in the UK.

There are many public ways of making phone calls to India and the UK without a SIM:

Using free wifi, calls will be either free (WhatsApp, etc.) or cheap (Skype, etc.) but the connection quality will vary and you will sometimes have to buy a coffee or something else.

Using paid wifi, you will pay usually £5-£10/month plus the costs for wifi above.

Using public free or paid wifi or a phone box can waste a lot of time finding a reliable hotspot especially if you need to contact a friend to make arrangements. Also, if you are only in the country for a relatively short amount of time it might waste a lot of time.

Consider that you want to make a 15 minute call to India or a 5 minute call to a friend in the UK.

Using cafe or pub wifi, a coffee or pint will cost you £2-£6 each time but you will be able to make the calls for almost free.

Using paid wifi you'll have to pay about £10/month but you'll have to find the hotspots.

Using phone boxes, the 15 minute call will cost you £8.10 and the call to your friend will cost you

Another way which you have said you want to avoid but may well be easier would be to buy a local SIM but this is my recommendation.

If you buy a local PAYG SIM card you will save a huge amount of money if you are on a budget. Avoid MVNOs targeted at tourists and immigrants such as Lycamobile and Lebara as their rates are very uncompetitive.

This will cost about £10 and comes with cheap calls to UK numbers from as little as 3p/minute and 1p/MB or a month with 300 minutes and 500 MB of data for £6. Look into 3 Mobile for PAYG or Giffgaff for a cheap bundle that will give you enough data to make all you calls by WhatsApp or included minutes.

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Do not depend on public telephones or free wifi to call some one.

It does not work when you want :D :D

Please buy a cheap phone with internet or put some roaming pack.

This is based on my personal opinion.

Public Wifi works usually fine but not when you want it as an emergency.

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