If you're traveling with a laptop or tablet, carry a spare power cord and adapter. If your hotel has dial-up (a rarity these days), get a telephone cord that's compatible with a British phone jack; these are available in Britain at airports and electronics stores. Wi-Fi is increasingly available in hotels, and broadband coverage is widespread in cities. You can also buy a dongle or MiFi device from a cell-phone network’s retail outlet to create a personal Wi-Fi hot spot. Many London Underground stations now have Wi-Fi (for a fee). Outside big cities, wireless access is relatively rare in cafés and coffee shops, but its popularity there is growing.
Wi-Fi Freespot. Wi-Fi Freespot www.wififreespot.com.
All calls (including local calls) made within the United Kingdom are charged according to the time of day. The standard landline rate applies weekdays 7 am to 7 pm; a cheaper rate is in effect weekdays 7 pm to 7 am and all day on weekends, when it's even cheaper.
A word of warning: 0870 numbers are not toll-free numbers in Britain; in fact, numbers beginning with this or the 0871, 0844, or 0845 prefixes cost extra to call. The amount varies and is usually relatively small—except for numbers with the premium-rate 090 prefix, which cost an eye-watering £1 per minute when dialed from within the country—but can be excessive when dialed from outside Britain.
The country code for Great Britain (and thus England) is 44. When dialing an English number from abroad, drop the initial 0 from before the local area code. For example, let's say you're calling Buckingham Palace—0207/7930–4832—from the United States. First, dial 011 (the international access code), then 44 (Great Britain's country code), then 207 (London's center-city code—without its initial 0), then the remainder of the number.
Calling Within England
For all calls within England (and Britain), dial the area code (which usually begins with 01, except in London), followed by the telephone number.
There are two types of pay phones: those that make calls to landlines or mobiles and those that also let you send texts or email. Most coin-operated phones take 10p, 20p, 50p, and £1 coins. There are very few of either type left except at air and rail terminals. SIM cards for your own cell phone and inexpensive pay-as-you-go cell phones are widely available from mobile network retailers such as 3, O2, T-Mobile, Vodaphone, and Virgin, as well as the Carphone Warehouse chain.
For pay and other phones, if you hear a repeated single tone after dialing, the line is busy; a continuous tone means the number didn't work.
There are several different directory-assistance providers, all beginning with the prefix 118, such as 118–888 or 118–429; you'll need to know the town and the street (or at least the neighborhood) of the person you're trying to reach. Charges range from 75 cents (118–811) to $3.70 per minute from a landline. Cell phone networks may charge even more. For the operator, dial 100. For genuine emergencies, dial 999. For nonurgent police matters, dial 101.
Calling Outside England
For direct overseas dialing from England (and Britain), dial 00, then the country code, area code, and number. For the international operator, credit card, or collect calls, dial 155; for international directory assistance, dial 118505. The country code for the United States is 1.
AT&T Direct. AT&T Direct 0800/890–011.
MCI WorldPhone. MCI WorldPhone 0800/279–5088.
You can buy international cards similar to U.S. calling cards for making calls to specific countries from post offices, some supermarkets, cell phone network retail outlets, or on the Internet. Rates vary, but the O2 network charges as little as two cents per minute to call the U.S. Where credit cards are taken, slide the card in as indicated.
Any cell phone can be used in Europe if it's tri-band, quad-band, or GSM. Travelers should ask their cell-phone company if their phone fits in this category and make sure it’s activated for international calling before leaving their home country. Roaming fees can be steep, however: $1 a minute is considered reasonable. And overseas you normally pay the toll charges for incoming calls. It's almost always cheaper to send a text message than to make a call, since text messages have a low set fee (often less than 25¢).
If you just want to make local calls, consider buying a new SIM card (your provider may have to unlock your phone for you) and a prepaid local service plan. You'll then have a local number and can make local calls at local rates. You can also rent a cell phone from most major car-rental agencies in England. Some upscale hotels now provide loaner cell phones to their guests. Beware, however, of the per-minute rates charged. Alternatively, you may want to buy a basic pay-as-you-go phone for around £15.
Carphone Warehouse. Carphone Warehouse 0800/049–6250; www.carphonewarehouse.com.
Cellular Abroad. 800/287–5072; www.cellularabroad.com.
Mobal. 888/888–9162; www.mobal.com.
Planet Fone. 888/988–4777; www.planetfone.com.