To call England from North America, dial 011 (international code), 44 (Britain's country code), the local area codes (usually three or four digits and found in every phone number we've given in this guide), and the local phone number. The local area codes found throughout this guide all begin with "0"; you drop the "0" if you're calling from outside Britain, but you need to dial it along with the area code if you're calling from another city or town within Britain. For calls within the same city or town, the local number is all you need.
For directory assistance in London, dial tel. 142; for the rest of Britain, tel. 192.
Within the U.K., despite the growing prevalence of mobile phones, you'll still find at least three kinds of public pay phones: Those relatively old-fashioned models that accept only coins; those accepting only prepaid phone cards; and those accepting both phone cards and credit cards. Note: The "old-fashioned" phone boxes with the royal coat of arms and the bright red coats of paint tend to be maintained by British Telecom and fall into the latter of these three categories. And those telephones that accept such credit cards as Access/MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Diners Club tend to be most common at airports and large railway stations.
In a "confrontation" with a coin-operated phone, insert your (British) coins before dialing, with the understanding that the minimum charge these days even for calls placed to destinations within the same neighborhood will begin at 30p -- more, prorated per call, than equivalent calls paid for with a phone card.
Phone cards are issued throughout the U.K. by a wide variety of corporate issuers, and with a wide variety of denominations that begin at £2.50 to as much as £50 or higher. Each is reusable until the card's total value has been electronically depleted. Phone cards are sold in post offices, newsstands, and within large retail supermarkets, including branches of Tesco's and Sainsbury's.
To make an international call from Britain, dial the international access code (00), then the country code, then the area code, and finally the local number. Or call through one of the following long-distance access codes: AT&T USA Direct (tel. 1800/CALL-ATT [225-5288]), Canada Direct (tel. 0800/890016), Australia (tel. 0800/890061), and New Zealand (tel. 0800/890064). Common country codes are: U.S. and Canada, 1; Australia, 61; New Zealand, 64; and South Africa, 27.
For calling collect, or if you need an international operator, dial tel. 155.
Caller beware: Some hotels routinely add outrageous surcharges onto phone calls made from your room. Inquire before you call! It may be a lot cheaper to use your own calling-card number or to find a pay phone.
The three letters that define much of the world's wireless capabilities are GSM (Global System for Mobiles), a big, seamless network that makes for easy cross-border cellphone use throughout England and dozens of other countries worldwide. In general, reception is good. But you'll need a SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card specific to England that gives you a local phone number and plugs you into a regional network. In the U.S., T-Mobile, AT&T Wireless, and Cingular use this quasi-universal system; in Canada, Microcell and some Rogers customers are GSM, and all Europeans and most Australians use GSM. Unfortunately, per-minute charges can be high. Calls to the U.S. average 70p per minute.
For many, renting a phone is a good idea. While you can rent a phone from any number of overseas sites, including kiosks at airports and at car-rental agencies, we suggest renting the phone before you leave home. North Americans can rent one before leaving home from InTouch USA (tel. 800/872-7626 or 703/222-7161; www.intouchglobal.com) or RoadPost (tel. 888/290-1616 or 905/272-5665; www.roadpost.com). InTouch will also, for free, advise you on whether your existing phone will work overseas.
Depending on your business obligations in the U.K., your lifestyle, and your phone habits, buying a phone might be economically attractive, as the U.K. is one of the most phone-permeated societies in the world and local competition for your cellphone loyalty is fierce. Once you arrive, stop by a local cellphone shop (T-Mobile, Virgin, Vodafone, and British Telecom all maintain their respective outlets) and compare their cheapest packages. In some case, buying a no-frills cellphone (at this writing, an example of that was a Nokia 6210) might cost as little as £30, and in some cases, depending on the promotion of the moment, might carry as much as £10 of prepaid minutes. From abroad, researching the wide array of options is a daunting task, indeed, but as a means of getting started in your search, click on www.britishtelecom.com.
Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)
If you have Web access while traveling, consider a broadband-based telephone service (in technical terms, Voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP) such as Skype (www.myskyp.com) or Vonage (www.vonage.com), which allow you to make free international calls from your laptop or in a cybercafe. Neither service requires the people you're calling to also have that service (though there are fees if they do not). Check the websites for details.
Internet & E-Mail
With Your Own Computer -- More and more hotels, cafes, and retailers in England are signing on as Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) "hot spots." T-Mobile Hotspot (www.t-mobile.com/hotspot or www.t-mobile.co.uk) serves up wireless connections at coffee shops nationwide. Boingo (www.boingo.com) has networks in airports and high-class hotel lobbies. iPass providers also give you access to a few hundred wireless hotel lobby setups. To locate other hot spots that provide free wireless networks in cities in England, go to www.jiwire.com.
For dial-up access, most business-class hotels offer dataports for laptop modems, and a few thousand hotels in England now offer free high-speed Internet access. In addition, major Internet service providers (ISPs) have local access numbers around the world, allowing you to go online by placing a local call. The iPass network also has dial-up numbers around the world. You'll have to sign up with an iPass provider, who will then tell you how to set up your computer for your destination(s). For a list of iPass providers, go to www.ipass.com and click on "Individuals Buy Now." One solid provider is i2roam (tel. 866/811-6209 or 920/233-5863; www.i2roam.com).
Wherever you go, bring a connection kit of the right power and phone adapters, a spare phone cord, and a spare Ethernet network cable -- or find out whether your hotel supplies them to guests.
Without Your Own Computer -- To find cybercafes check www.cybercaptive.com and www.cybercafe.com. Cybercafes are found in all large U.K. cities, especially London, where they can be found on almost every business street. easyInternet cafes (tel. 020/7241-9000; www.easyinternetcafe.com) has several Great Britain locations.
Aside from formal cybercafes, most youth hostels and public libraries have Internet access. Avoid hotel business centers unless you're willing to pay exorbitant rates.
Internet kiosks appear within the public areas of every large and medium-size airport of the U.K. These usually provide basic Web access for a per-minute fee. More conveniently, if you have access to the business-class lounges of most airlines, including British Airways, Delta, American, Continental, and most of their competitors, free Internet stations are standard features within any of them.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.