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How to Call the UK From the US

Sheryl Cannes
Updated on: August 05, 2022

International calls used to be complicated and expensive with limited options. Technology has simplified and diversified the process so that communicating between countries and continents only requires a little dialing know-how and/or a high-speed Internet connection.

Calling Options

Your calling options continue to expand as new forms of communication like VoIP and calling apps give you new ways to stay in touch with business associates and family. Just a note: Calling the UK from a mobile phone is no different than calling from a landline. You base the dialing sequence based on the type of phone you’re calling, not on whether you’re using a mobile number or landline.

Calling a UK Landline

Landlines are on their way out, but they’re still one of the most reliable ways to stay in touch. Calling a landline is a step-by-step process that starts with the United States exit code.

  1. Dial the US exit code – 011
  2. Dial the country code, UK – 44
  3. Dial the area code (varies by location)
  4. Dial the phone number

United Kingdom area codes don’t follow a standard format. They can be two to five digits long. If you don’t know the area code, do an Internet search for the city in which the person or business resides.

In practice, the dialing sequence would look something like this:
011 + 44 + 1223 (Cambridge area code) + 4321 + 555

The process isn’t complicated, but if you haven’t done it before, you need to be methodical to make sure you dial the codes in the correct sequence.

Calling a UK Mobile Phone

Calling a mobile phone requires a slight modification in the dialing sequence, with the addition of one digit. You add the UK mobile code (7) before entering the area code. The steps include:

  1. Dial the US exit code – 011
  2. Dial the country code, UK – 44
  3. Dial the UK mobile code – 7
  4. Dial the area code
  5. Dial the phone number

In practice, it would look something like this:
011 + 44 + 7 + 1223 + 4321 + 555

Using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Systems

A Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system or VoIP service uses a high-speed Internet connection to make calls. Again, the dialing sequence is based on whether you’re calling a landline or cell phone in the UK, not on the type of device from which you are calling. This type of phone service often saves pricey international calling fees because it uses an already existing Internet connection. In fact, some are completely free.

Factors to Consider When Calling the UK From the US

International calls aren’t necessarily hard, but they do take some know-how. Certain factors can change how or when you make your calls.

1. US Exit Code

The North American (the US and Canada) exit code is 011. If you move out of either of those areas, the exit code changes. Without the exit code, your call isn’t going anywhere.

If you’re using a mobile phone, your distance from the border may affect your call. The location may place the call from Mexico even though you’re actually on the US side of the border. Be aware of where you may be when making the call to ensure you’re dialing correctly and that the call charges will be what you expect.

2. UK Country Code, Area Code, Trunk Code

The UK country code is 44. Next in the dialing sequence is the area code, sometimes referred to as the dialing code. These digits are specific to cities or geographical regions within the city. London, for example, has many area codes while smaller cities only have one.

Area codes in the UK all include a 0 as the first digit. This digit is known as the trunk code. It’s only used when dialing the number from within the country. When dialing internationally, you drop the trunk code and dial the second number in the area code as the first digit in the area code sequence.

3. The Time Difference

Always check the time difference before making an international call. You have to consider both your location and the location of the person whom you are calling. There’s a big difference between calling someone in the UK if you’re in New York versus calling them if you’re in Hawaii. London is five hours ahead of Washington, DC. However, based on different locations, you could be six to eight hours behind someone in the UK. Check and double-check the time zones so that both you and the person you are calling are happy with the call’s timing.

Keep in mind that what might be normal business hours in the USA could be evening or early morning in Southampton, Glasgow, Scotland, or Wales. Try to call at a time that’s within polite hours.

4. The Cost

International calls used to be a price endeavor. If you’re not careful, they can still significantly increase your phone bill. Better and a greater variety of options have drastically reduced the cost of international calls. Based on the type, length, and nature of your call, you can choose an option that saves money or is even free.

If you’re using a landline, your calling plan determines the charges for international rates. Check your calling plan or talk to your provider, so you’re fully aware of the charges per minute, which average around $1.50 per minute or more.

International calling cards are popular calling options for travelers because they let you predetermine your phone budget. Calling cards can be economical, but you need to do your research before purchasing one. The card might be a good deal for certain countries but not for others. Companies may charge different rates for different destinations.

You also need to check the company’s policy for rounding the call minutes. For example, a company that rounds the call to the nearest minute will round a 45-second call up to one minute, but some companies use two or three-minute increments when rounding call minutes. Calling cards have the benefit of offering a standard rate. However, roaming charges may apply, and some hotels charge an extra fee for using the hotel phone for international calls, even if you have a calling card.

A cell phone provider may be the best choice for some international calls. It depends on your plan and what it includes. With some plans, unlimited calling only applies to domestic calls or certain hours like weekdays or weekends.

VoIP phone services are a good option, but they’re usually only used by businesses. However, if this option is open to you, some mobile VoIP services work via an app on an iPhone or Android. The call uses an Internet connection or data plan if WiFi isn’t available.

Calling apps with VoIP and VoIP-like services such as FaceTime, Google Voice, Skype, and Zoom are more options that let you make calls for free. Some offer video in addition to or instead of audio services.

FAQs

Can I use a local British number?

Use the local UK number after you’ve dialed the exit code, area code, and mobile code if calling a mobile phone.

What kind of international charges should I expect?

International charges vary based on using a mobile phone or landline, your calling plan, whether you’re roaming, and what time of day you’re calling. Typical landline phone plans can charge as much as $1.50 per minute or more.

Mobile charges vary widely. It’s best to check with your provider before making a call to see if your plan includes international calls. You may be able to add international calls for a short period for an additional one-time fee without adding it permanently to your bill.

What’s the least expensive way to call the UK from the US?

Calling apps are one of the least expensive and easiest ways to make calls to the UK. Many of these services like Skype, FaceTime, and WhatsApp let you call for free. No roaming charges.  No hidden fees. You do, however, need fast, reliable Internet.

The Takeaway

International calls aren’t as expensive or complicated as they once were. Do your research. Know who and when you want to call. Write down the dialing sequence before you start, and you should be able to connect from across the pond.

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