It’s a well-known fact that inventor, scientist and engineer Alexander Graham Bell patented the first practical telephone in 1876. Two years later, he made the UK’s first publicly-witnessed long-distance phone call, demonstrating the telephone to Queen Victoria, who liked it so much she wanted to buy it.
Nowadays, four in five UK households have a landline to make calls both in the UK and internationally. However, research has found that five million of these never use their landlines to make phone calls — meaning home phone numbers could become obsolete. This is largely due to more people giving their mobile phone numbers as their preferred method of contact.
In this guide to UK telephone numbers, we’ll explain what some of the different UK phone numbers mean and give details of some of the UK’s most notable area codes, as well as the most important UK telephone numbers.
UK telephone numbers that start with ‘01’, ‘02’ or ‘03’ are often free as part of monthly phone packages and ‘080’ numbers are always free to call from landlines and mobile phones.
Phone numbers that start with ‘084’, ‘087’ and ‘089’ have an access charge, as do ‘070’ numbers — which look similar to mobile numbers but can be expensive to call. All UK mobile phone numbers start with ‘07’ and the prefix ‘+44’ is the UK’s international dialling code.
Read on to find out more about UK telephone numbers.
UK phone numbers that start with ‘01’ or ‘02’ are standard calls, which you can often make for free. This is because most people have a certain number of minutes to these numbers included in their monthly landline or mobile phone packages. The exceptions are calls to Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, which many providers don’t include in their monthly allowances.
‘080’ numbers are always free to call from landlines and mobiles. They’re most commonly used for customer service and sales and enquiry lines.
Are ‘03’ numbers free to call?
Like ‘01’ and ‘02’ numbers, ‘03’ numbers have been included in monthly landline and mobile phone packages since they were introduced in 2007.
As with ‘080’ numbers, they are typically used for customer service and sales and enquiry lines, but they’re now used by government departments and local authorities too.
Phone numbers that start with ‘084’, ‘087’ and ‘09’ are premium numbers that have an access charge. This means a telephone company charges you a fee for using its network.
‘070’ numbers are often mistaken for mobile numbers, when in fact they are “personal” or “follow me” numbers. These numbers are used to redirect incoming calls to other lines in different locations — even in foreign countries, which means they can be expensive to call.
UK mobile phone numbers all start with ‘07’. In most cases they are in the range of either ‘071’ to ‘075’ or ‘077’ to ‘079’, however the Isle of Man also uses ‘076’.
Calls to mobile phones are often free, as a certain number of minutes to these numbers are included in monthly phone packages. Again, the exceptions are calls to Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
‘+44’ is the international dialling code for the UK. By using this prefix at the start of a UK phone number, you’ll be connected even if you’re abroad.
UK telephone numbers containing this country code will usually be written in this format: ‘+44 (0) XXXX XXX XXX’. This means you dial ‘0’ instead of ‘+44’ if you are calling from inside the UK, or ‘+44’ instead of ‘0’ if you are calling from abroad. Alternatively, you can dial ‘0044’ instead of ‘+44’, which is useful to know if you’re calling from a traditional phone that doesn’t have the ‘+’ symbol, or you can’t find it on your mobile phone’s keypad.
It’s also worth noting that if you use the ‘+44’ format while you’re in the UK, your call will still be connected.
An area code is the group of numbers which follow the first ‘0’ or ‘+44’ of a telephone number.
Different parts of the UK have different area codes.
There are some UK phone numbers that are important to know in an emergency or if you need information or help with something. We’ve outlined the main ones in the sections below.
‘999’ and ‘112’
There are two free emergency numbers in the UK: ‘112’ and ‘999’.
The police, fire, ambulance and coastguard emergency services can all be reached on either of these two numbers, however, ‘999’ is used more widely than the EU standard ‘112’.
These phone numbers are also used for Mountain Rescue or Cave Rescue, by asking the emergency operator for the police department, which oversees the communication with these services.
Both numbers can be called on mobile phones without entering the PIN and while the phone keys and display are locked, however, at present UK networks do require a SIM card to make emergency calls.
In 2006, the chargeable number ‘101’was introduced on a trial basis, to enable members of the public to make non-urgent crime and community safety calls.
It has since been adopted on a permanent basis throughout the UK, and the calls are now free to make in all countries.
‘100’ and ‘155’
The operator can be reached by calling ‘100’ from landlines. For international operator assistance, it’s ‘155’.
This is the number for directory enquiries, which was formerly contactable on ‘192’.
Non-emergency calls to the National Health Service (NHS) can be made on ‘111’.
The ‘119’ number was launched by the NHS as a COVID-19 helpline, to prevent calls about swabbing from going through to the ‘111’ call centre.
To report power cuts, local electricity network operators can be reached by dialling ‘105’.