Calling abroad made simple

By Philip Wagenaar

(Second of two parts, click here for part one)

In last month’s issue, I discussed two categories of subscriber telephone numbers (SN).

The first one uses a National Prefix (Nat. Pref.) for domestic calls and has the configuration z-bbb-xxx xxxx, where the “z” is the Nat. Pref. (the long-distance prefix, which is a “1” in the U.S.), the “bbb” is the area/city code (AC) and the subsequent digits comprise the local number (LN).

The second category uses no National Prefix.

SNs consist either of a local number or of an area/city code + a local number. For international calls, SNs of both categories are preceded by the International Access Code of the country from which you dial and the Country Code of the nation to which you phone. In addition, for category 1 countries, you omit the Nat. Pref. from your dialing sequence.

Phone calls to members of the North American Numbering Plan (NANP)
I also indicated in last month’s column that a group of countries, which comprise, besides the U.S. and Canada, a number of Caribbean and Pacific island nations and territories, have entered into a calling agreement, the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), which makes phoning between these countries analogous to calling inside the U.S.

The country code for all NANP countries is “1,” which also happens to be their Nat. Pref.

You might think that, when dialing from a non-NANP nation to a NANP country, you would have to dial the “1” twice, once for the Nat. Pref. and once for the Country Code.

Fortunately, you have to enter the 1” only once, as you drop the “1” belonging to the Nat. Pref.
Thus, to call the U.S. or Canada (or any other NANP country) from any nation with an IC of 00 (most countries), simply enter 001 - (area code) - (local number).

Note that in the reverse situation, i.e., when dialing from the U.S. (or any other NANP country) to a non-NANP country, the call is treated as an international call, requiring the use of the IC “011” as well as the appropriate CC.

Paper directory listings
While overseas, it may be difficult to ascertain which digits to dial when consulting a paper directory, since subscriber numbers may be formatted in complete, semicomplete or bare-bones configurations.

Complete numbers usually present all digits to be entered directly following the subscriber’s name, although some phone books may feature the city/area code separately at the top of the page.

Semicomplete numbers omit the Nat. Pref. Thus, when dialing long distance, you must remember to insert this prefix before the AC and LN. Numbers in many U.S. directories follow this pattern.

Bare-bones numbers list only the digits used for calling inside a city/area.

An example of the latter is a Mexico City directory I perused, which presented only 8-digit LNs. Calling the Mexico City Holiday Inn from within Mexico City, you would dial the listed number, 5130-5130, while from outside Mexico City you would add 01 (the Nat. Pref.) + 55 (Mexico City’s city code) → 01 55 5130-5130. From the U.S. or Canada, you would use 011-52 (that’s the CC) - 55 5130-5130.

Where to find the various codes and prefixes
There are several places to find the various codes and prefixes:

Use of parentheses
• As I have mentioned, parentheses are commonly inserted around the Nat. Pref., as noted in this typical Beijing number: (0) 10-xxxxxxxx.

• In other listings, they may denote only the area code, as found in U.S. telephone numbers, e.g., (425) xxx-xxxx.

• In still others, parentheses surround the Nat. Pref. as well as the area code, as seen in the following South Korean number: (0441) 846-3151.

Are all first digits created equal?
When all of a country’s telephone numbers begin with the same figure, should one assume that this digit represents the Nat. Pref.?

The answer is “No.” Although the first number usually designates the National Prefix, in some countries it may be the first component of the area/city code.

For example, all Italian phone numbers start with a “0.” This “0,” however, is part of the area/city code and is not the Nat. Pref. Thus, you don’t drop the “0” when dialing Italy.

Dial tones
Dial tones vary from nation to nation. What sounds like a busy signal in one is a regular ringing tone in another. In many countries, the dial tone will change to a busy signal if you do not punch in the number fast enough after inserting a card or coins. Then you have to start all over.

In certain countries, after entering the international access code you have to wait for a second dial tone before you can continue. Often, the same thing applies when ringing from one city to another. Wait a few moments for a second tone after you have entered the international access code or the area code for your target city; if nothing happens, keep dialing.

For your convenience, I have provided a cutout summary for making domestic and international calls. (See the box on page 102.)

Lists of countries
I started and almost finished a detailed list of each country’s IC, CC and Nat. Pref. However, after hours of work, I realized it would take up too much space in ITN. Therefore, I have presented only the salient facts, resulting in two lists, which are appended below.

As sources, I used and In addition, where necessary, I consulted numerous native directories.

Please note that, since phone numbers are in constant flux, some of the listings below may have changed since this article was written.

Also, while the information I have given will suffice for completing many landline, direct-dialed calls, it is a good idea to peruse the telephone chapter in the Lonely Planet guides of the countries you will be visiting.

Andorra, Angola, Aruba, Ascension Island, Bahrain, Benin, Belize, Bhutan, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros & Mayotte, Congo (Brazzavile), Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Diego Garcia, Djibouti, East Timor, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Gambia, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Iceland, Italy, Iraq, Kuwait, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macao, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritius, Martinique, Mauritania, Monaco, Mozambique, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niger, Niue Island, Norway, Oman, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Qatar, Réunion, Rwanda, Saint Helena, Saint Pierre & Miquelon, Samoa, San Marino, Senegal, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Spain, Suriname, Togolese Republic, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu and Wallis & Futuna.

(The number following each country is its CC.)
British Indian Ocean Territory (246), Burundi (257), Cameroon (237), Cape Verde (238), Christmas Island and Cocos [Keeling Island] (61), Congo (242), Costa Rica (506), Denmark (45), Djibouti (253), Falkland Islands [Malvinas] (500), Faroe Islands (298), French Polynesia (689), French Southern & Antarctic Islands (262), Guadeloupe (590), Iceland (354), Liberia (231), Luxembourg (352), Macao (853), Malawi (265), Maldives (960), Mali (223), Mauritania (222), Mongolia (976), Mozambique (258), Nauru (674), Niger (227), Pitcairn (872), Qatar (974), Rwanda (250), Saint Helena (290) and Saint Pierre & Miquelon (508).

The Discerning Traveler is written by Philip Wagenaar.

Go to part one