Tourist Information UK

Telephones & Mobile Phones

Phones are easily found throughout the UK. There are pay phones located in towns, cities and villages either on the streets or in supermarkets, pubs or large shops. Mobile phones have become part of British culture with everyone from teenagers to pensioners owning one.

Landline phones


A landline phone is one that is connected to a network by cables. UK telephone numbers are 10 or 11 digits long. The first part of a phone number is known as the area code, for example 0113 XXX XXX. 0113 is the area code for Leeds. Area codes range from 3 digits like London (020) to up to six digits like Brampton (016977).

When using a landline, if you are calling a number that has the same area code as the phone number you are calling from, then you do not need to dial the area code. With mobile phones you always need to dial the whole number including the area code.

Charges
There are several different phone operators in the UK all offering different tariffs and deals. In general though, there are different charges for peak calls and evenings and weekends. Be aware that one of the most expensive ways to make a call is from a hotel as they can apply their own tariffs.

When using a landline the most expensive time to call anywhere is during the daytime and with British Telecom this is from 6am to 6pm. A call to another landline during the day starts at just under 4 pence per minute. An evening call will cost just under 1.5 pence per minute.

Some operators offer free evening and weekend calls which with BT are from 6pm to 6am. The free evening and weekend calls are limited to one hour after which you will be charged pence per minute. If you want to talk for longer than an hour, hang up just before the hour time limit and dial again to continue your conversation.

If a number starts with 08 then it is a freephone or toll free number and you will not be charged. You may be charged if you call an 08 number from a mobile phone.

Numbers starting with 084 or 087 are charged at a local rate although some companies are now offering these calls for free. Different rates apply if you call these numbers from a mobile phone.

Any number starting with 09 will be charged at a premium rate. These rates are usually used by companies offering prizes and competitions or sexual entertainment services and can be very, very expensive. If you are going to dial an 09 number check the small print to see how much you are going to be charged. Prices can start at £1 a minute.

Useful and emergency numbers
To contact an emergency service such as ambulance, fire, police, mountain rescue or cave rescue you can dial 999 or the EU standard number which is 112. These calls are free of charge whether calling from a landline or mobile.

You can call the emergency numbers from a mobile phone without having to unlock the phone first or enter a pin number.

Operator
Dial 100

Directory enquiries
To help you find a number you can call directory enquiries. This number starts with 118 XXX and varies according to the service provider. British Telecoms number is 118 118. You will be charged for dialling a 118 number.

International Operator Assistance
Dial 155

International directory enquiries
Dial 152
This number is free of charge from a payphone but charges apply from other phones.

Calling the UK from abroad


To call the UK from abroad you first need to enter the international dialling code. From America this is 011. You then dial the country code for the United Kingdom which is 44. Then you dial the UK number but without the first 0.

To dial the UK number 01632 XXX XXX from America you would dial 011 44 1632 XXX XXX. Notice that you drop the 0 from the code.

Making International Calls


The international dialling code from the UK is 00. To call any international number you must put 00 first, then the international code for the country you require for example France is 33. So you would dial 00 33 XXX XXXX

To find your country code try British Telecoms online code finder and select international codes or try countrycallingcodes.com

Cost of making international calls
There are no definitive costs for making calls abroad. Each operator offers different rates according to the time of day and the tariff package of the phone. Using a mobile phone is one of the most expensive ways to make an international call. For a list of current rates, you need to contact the phone service provider or check their rates online.

The cheapest way to make international calls is to use one of the online call companies who offer rates from as little as 2 or 3 pence per minute. You dial an access number first and then the number that you require. Some of these companies require pre payment and others bill you through your service provider i.e BT.

Before using these discount phone companies make sure that you read and understand how they operate so that you do not incur additional charges.



Skype


Skype is software that allows you to make telephone calls over the internet. If you and your contact both have a computer with Skype, you can make free calls to one another. You will need speakers and a headphone to use Skype or you can buy a cheap headset from electronic retailers.

For more information visit Skype.com

Mobile phones or cell phones


In Europe the mobile network used is called GSM and the UK uses two different frequencies. The network providers T-Mobile and Orange use GSM1800 and O2 and Vodaphone use GSM900. There is also a 3G network with the service provider “3”. The main mobile phone providers in the UK are Orange, O2, Virgin, Vodafone and T-mobile.

Three
You will need a 3G phone to use the 3G network in the UK. Three operate in Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Macau, and Sweden and their Three Like Home promotion allows Three’s customers to use other Three networks without any additional roaming charges.

US mobile phones
Most phones in the US use a CDMA network and are not compatible with the GSM or 3 network. However, AT&T and T-Mobile do use GSM and you would be able to use these phones in the UK. There are companies in the US that will rent you a phone to use in Europe.

Roaming
If you have a GSM phone then it is likely that you will be able to use it in the UK using 'roaming'. If your home operator does not offer coverage in another country you will still be able to make calls because your phone will roam into a host operator’s network. The process of roaming normally happens automatically when you switch your phone on in a foreign country.

Making and receiving calls while roaming can be costly because you will be charged by your own service provider plus charges from the host provider. You are also charged for receiving calls. The host operator passes on their billing information to your own phone provider and the costs will be shown on your next bill.

Before you visit the UK, check that can make calls abroad using your mobile phone. Your mobile phone service provider will tell you if you need to enable your phone to use international roaming. This can sometimes take several days, so don't leave it to the last minute.

To check the prices for roaming before you leave, look at your phone provider's website as some host networks may charge more than others. If this is the case, you will want to select the manual option for selecting a network which will allow you to choose the cheapest one rather than the default one.

Quick mobile checklist

  1. Check that you can use your phone in the UK.

  2. Call your phone provider to see if your mobile phone is enabled for roaming.

  3. Check with your provider to see which foreign networks are the cheapest to use.

  4. If you have a pay as you go phone, make sure that you have enough credit or that you can add more while you are away.

  5. Find the number for your embassy in the UK and add it to your address book.

  6. Don’t forget your charger or an adaptor plug.



SIM cards
If you are planning to make a lot of calls while in the UK one of the most economical solutions is to buy a travel sim card. You simply take your current sim card out and swap it for the new one and your call charges can be reduced.

One company that offers this service is roameo.co.uk. Prices for a sim card start at £27.50 but there are many benefits like no charges for receiving calls or texts in certain countries.

Another global sim provider is 0044.co.uk which offers a similar deal to roameo.