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How to use a payphone in London, England

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 5, 2008 in Travel Tips |

Going from the hyper connected world of the United States to the solitary ways of budget travel can be a drastic change.  On one hand, such a change is refreshing as you are not interrupted by a barrage of texts and calls.  However the losing the ability to stay in touch instantly has its drawbacks.  Thus you will become intimately familiar with those shine red payphones you see in the movies.  Sounds elementary, but as so one who hasn’t operated a payphone in years (not to mention a foreign payphone) it took £2 of mistakes before I got it right.

Step 1: London payphones require a minimum of 40p, although any call longer than “hello” will outlast that.  In our experience the phones did not give you change, so it is a delicate balance to know how much you need to pay.  One pound should suffice for most conversations.

Step 2: When you are dialing internationally, British phone numbers are the country code + the ten numbers.  However, when you are dialing from inside the country the country code gets replaced with a 0.  To add to the confusion, the phone number structure in London seems to change depending on where you read it. Some business seem to use the 4 and 4 split (1234 5678).  Some use the 5 and 3 (12345 678).  But to review

Out of UK: 12 3456 7890
Inside UK: 012 3456 7890

Sounds simple, but it cost us a few quid along with a conversation with a particularly unfriendly British telephone operator.

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