British Telecom’s famous red phone boxes survive in conservation areas only (notably Westminster). Some people use them as shelter from the rain while using their mobile phones. Some BT phones still accept coins, but most take credit cards. The minimum charge is 60p, for the first 30 minutes of a national call.
London’s area code is 020, followed by an eight-digit number beginning with 7 (central London), 8 (Greater London) or 3 (nongeographic).
You only need to dial the 020 when you are calling London from elsewhere in the UK or if you’re dialling from a mobile.
To call London from abroad, dial your country’s international access code (usually 00 but 011 in Canada and the USA), then 44 (the UK’s country code), then 20 (dropping the initial 0), followed by the eight-digit phone number.
International direct dialling (IDD) calls to almost anywhere can be made from nearly all public telephones. Direct dialling is cheaper than making a reverse-charge (collect) call through the international operator.
Many private firms offer cheaper international calls than BT. In such places you phone from a metered booth and then pay the bill. Some internet shops also offer cheap rates for international calls.
International calling cards with stored value (usually £5, £10 or £20) and a PIN, which you can use from any phone by dialling a special access number, are usually the cheapest way to call abroad. These cards are available at most corner shops.
Note that the use of Skype or Whatsapp may be restricted in some hostels because of noise and/or bandwidth issues.
Local calls are charged by time alone; regional and national calls are charged by both time and distance.
Daytime rates apply from 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday.
The cheap rate applies from 7pm to 7am Monday to Friday and again over the weekend from 7pm Friday to 7am Monday.
Buy local SIM cards for European and Australian phones, or a pay-as-you-go phone. Set other phones to international roaming.
The UK uses the GSM 900 network, which covers Europe, Australia and New Zealand, but is not compatible with CDMA mobile technology used in the US and Japan (although some American and Japanese phones can work on both GSM and CDMA networks).
If you have a GSM phone, check with your service provider about using it in the UK and ask about roaming charges.
It’s usually better to buy a local SIM card from any mobile-phone shop, though in order to do that your handset from home must be unlocked.