Telephones in Great Britain

Two large, 1920s-era K2 phone booths flanking the 1930s K6 replacements (Photo by Sheep"R"Us)
Two large, 1920s-era K2 phone booths flanking the 1930s K6 replacements

How to make phone calls to and within England and the U.K.

The country code for the entire U.K. (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) is 44.

How to call the U.K. from another country

If you are calling the U.K. from another country, you must

  1. Dial your international dialing prefix: 011 for the U.S. and Canada; 00 for most other countries.
  2. Dial the country code: 44
  3. Dial the U.K. phone number, leaving off the initial 0. That "zero" is the trunk code, and is only necessary when calling another number from within the U.K. itself. This is why I put it in parentheses on this site; it is situationally optional.

So, to call the local London number listed as "(0)20-7234-5678" from the U.S., you would dial 011-44-20-7234-5678.

City codes, mobile prefixes, and other British phone number quirks 

Most London telephone numbers start with 020, with the ensuing, usually eight-digit number starting with a 7 (for inner London), an 8 (for outer London) or a 3 (they quickly ran out of 7 and 8 numbers).

020 is London's "geographic code"—sometimes called a "city code." 

In other U.K. places, these geographic codes can range anywhere from three digits to five digits—0131 for Edinburgh, 01865 for Oxford, 029 for Cardiff, etc. The smaller the town, the longer the code. 

Many businesses instead use the "non-geographical" code of 0870, which was designed so folks all over Britain can call at one nationwide rate (sadly, an inflated one), and so that companies could pick their own number—say, 0870-600-6000, or something that spells out their company name, or whatever.

0800 and 0808 numbers are "freephone" (toll free) numbers, and cost nothing to the customer to call from within the U.K. (though these can be tricky to dial from abroad).

U.K. numbers starting with 07x are usually mobile (cell phone) numbers, and calling them is often costlier than calling a landline. 

How to make a phone call from within the U.K.

  1. Dial the U.K. phone number, including the initial 0.

So, to call the local London number (0)20-7234-5678 from, say, Aberdeen, you would dial 020-7234-5678.

How much do phone calls cost in the U.K.?

To use one of the (slowly vanishing) pay phones to make a call in the U.K., there is a minimum charge of 60p, which covers the 40p connection charge and the first two 10p increments of time. 

In practical matters that means:

  • A call to a U.K. landline: 60p for 30 minutes, then 10p per 15 minutes.
  • A call to a U.K. non-geographic line (an 0870 number): 60p for the first minute, then 20p per minute.
  • A call to a U.K. mobile (07x number): 60p for fist 19 seconds, then 63p per minute. 

You can use coins or a BT or post office phone card.

If you use a credit card, the cost goes up considerably: £1.20 for the first minute, then 20p per minute. 

How to make a phone call from the U.K. to another country

  1. Dial the U.K. international dialing prefix: 00.
  2. Dial the country's country code: 1 for the U.S./Canada, 61 for Australia, 64 for New Zealand, etc.
  3. Dial the local number, including the local area code or city code.

So to call the local U.S. number 215-555-1212 from London, you would dial 00-1-215-555-1212. (Though, unless you actually need directory assistance for the city of Philadelphia, you should probably call a different number.)

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