so this is my first day on the network and im loving it, but ive had a few flights where i only talk to atc on the ground before takeoff, and arrival i was told they would contact you, but they still dont, how many miles should i be before i tune into arrival frequency?
This very much depends
First of all, if we take a look at the Code of Conduct, we will see that, according to B3(a)
Pilots shall monitor their flights at all times. It is the responsibility of the pilot to check for, and make timely contact with appropriate air traffic controllers. This includes making prompt contact when requested to do so.
so it is actually your responsibility as the pilot to contact the correct controller at an appropriate time. Don’t rely on the controller to initiate contact. Now, the implementation of this rule varies a bit depending on where you fly; in some places (enroute/arrival) controllers actually very much prefer for pilots to wait for a contact me message instead of calling them up proactively. This is something you have to figure out for whatever place(s) you fly at individually.
But to get to your actual question. You should check one of the tools that display ATC coverage and airspace to a) determine if there is a controller online for the airspace you are about to enter, and b) figure out which airspace they actually cover. Depending on where you fly, I’d primarily recommend VATGlasses, which gives very detailed information on 3D airspace structure. sector splits, and topdown responsibility, but doesn’t provide coverage for the entire world; if you fly in a region that is not covered by VATGlasses, the second best option is SimAware, which provides a reasonably good 2D display of many sectors and has worldwide coverage.
I assume you are flying IFR, in which case a good rule of thumb - when coming from unicom - is to contact enroute/arrival controllers 5-10 NM prior to entering their airspace, tower controllers ca. 10 NM from touchdown, and ground controllers after vacating the runway. If you are flying VFR, you don’t need to talk to controllers at all as long as you are outside of controlled airspace; if you want to enter controlled airspace, however, you need to contact the responsible controller ahead of time - ca. 5 minutes before you would enter their airspace is generally a good rule of thumb, but different countries might have different rules on this.
Also, if you are ever unsure whether you should be talking to a controller, call them up. If they are not responsible for you, they will either tell you who you should be in contact with or send you back to unicom.
Let me add QuteScoop to the suggestions: Releases · qutescoop/qutescoop · GitHub
It will also show you booked atc stations for the future etc. etc. - give it a try, you will love it!