If you’re looking to get in touch with someone in the UK, often your phone is the quickest way to do it. But you want to make sure you’re not calling the incorrect number. Here’s a primer of the things you’ll need to understand before calling the UK.
To call the UK from a different country, you’ll use the international country code. Each country has its own; it’s between 1-3 digits. Phone numbers in the UK are managed by the UK Office of Communication, or ‘Ofcom.’ Ofcom has established the National Telephone Numbering Plan for all of the countries that make up the United Kingdom as well as a few British Crown dependencies: Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man.
All phone numbers are either 9 or 10 digits long, with a 3, 4, or sometimes 5-digit area code (or ‘Subscriber Trunk Dialing’ or STD) preceding the local phone number.
To dial the UK, you’ll use the international country code:
There are a few other codes to be aware of when calling internationally to or from within the UK:
- 0 is the trunk code and is to be used as a prefix if calling from within the UK to another region in the country
- 00 is a dial-out code used to reach different countries outside of the UK
- 05 is used for corporate numbering and VoIP calls
- 07 is used to call a mobile phone
- 09 is reserved for premium rate calls
It’s very common for most regions and large cities to have multiple area codes within their districts. Below are some of the more commonly used area codes for major cities and regions:
|Area||Local Area Code in the UK|
|Southampton / Portsmouth||023|
If you’re calling from inside of the UK to another UK number, the setup is as follows:
(area code, begins with 0) – (local phone number) or 0X – XXXX - XXXX
The process to call abroad is slightly different. For example if you’re calling the US Embassy in London, the number is (0) 20, 7499 9000. To call that embassy from the US, you would dial:
- 011 - the exit code to dial outside the States
- 44 - the UK country code
- 20 - the local London area code, dropping the first ‘0’ prefix as you’re calling from abroad
- 7499-9000 - the rest of the embassy’s number
So if you see +44020749990000, you’d dial 011-44-20-7499-9000.
If your call fails, it could be for a number of reasons. Some UK phone plans will charge both the caller and the person you’re calling, so they may not accept your call. Other common reasons for call failure include:
- You are using an incorrect international dialing prefix for your location
- You’ve forgotten to drop the trunk code (that first ‘0’ that’s listed in local numbers)
- You’re using a VoIP or internet phone provider that lets you pose as if you’re making a local call, and can therefore follow local dialing practices
- The person you’re calling does not have a phone plan that accepts international calls
If you’re still having difficulty, try an internet-enabled call through an app like Whatsapp, Viber, or Skype. Most everyone in the UK will have access to wifi or internet, so you may have better luck there.
The UK is like most other Western countries in that there are usually voicemail capabilities attached to any phone. Phone owners have the capacity to personalise their voicemail boxes using their own voices.
Some other common tones you might hear are:
- A busy or off-hook signal - signifying the phone you’re calling is engaged or disconnected
- A holding signal - signifying you’re on hold
- An unobtainable tone - signifying the person you’re trying to reach is unavailable
If you’re a frequent traveler, you’ll want to be aware of how you’re spending money.
TransferWise lets you save money on exchanging currency. You’ll be offered the same exchange rates that banks give themselves. Tha means missing all the markups, hidden fees, and surprise charges that you’d otherwise be paying.
For maximum convenience, TransferWise has introduced borderless multi-currency accounts - a multi-currency account which coming in 2018 will have a consumer a debit card attached. It allows you to send money to 50+ countries and in dozens, including the British pound.
Don’t let the nuances of international communications and logistics stop you from reaching out to your friends, family, and contacts in the UK. Hopefully this guide can serve as your go-to for how to dial anyone in the UK.
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