In this age of technology, sometimes there's nothing better than speaking to a loved one on the phone. International calls are often an essential way to keep in touch with clients or colleagues who live hundreds of miles away for many businesses too.

Whether you're trying to reach a family member who's on a road trip across Europe or you want to get in touch with a friend who lives in Australia, the chances are that you'll want to phone them directly.

Before you start dialling an international phone number, however, it's a good idea to consider the costs of making long-distance calls. You could find yourself paying a small fortune to make a quick international call if you're not aware of the cost per minute.

In this guide, we'll look at how much you can expect to pay when calling international numbers from the UK, as well as cheaper alternatives.

The cost of phoning international numbers will vary depending on which mobile network you use or whether you are phoning from a landline. Prices generally average at 20p per minute, although you can be charged from around 9p to over £3 per minute.

Another major factor of how much you pay will depend on where you are calling. European countries tend to be cheaper to call, whereas countries that are further away generally cost a lot more. The standard rate to call Canada is £3.42 per minute on the EE network, for example, whereas it costs a standard rate of 19p per minute to call a number in France.

Continue reading to find out how you can save money when calling abroad, including the rates offered by different mobile phone companies and free alternative methods.

It can often work out cheaper to phone abroad using your landline telephone, depending on your mobile network and whether you have got an international call bundle or not. For example, the standard rate for calling the US on an EE mobile is £3.42 per minute. However, you would only have to pay 3p per minute to make the same call if you used a landline phone on the Three network.

It's advisable to look at the standard call rates provided by your landline or mobile phone network. You should also consider how often you make long-distance calls to see if it is worth buying a network add-on or international calls bundle to your phone plan. If you're only making a single international call, it might be better to consider a free alternative, such as a mobile app or social media, than sign up for a new mobile bundle.

If you are making business calls abroad on a regular basis, you may want to consider international calling plans for your business phone system. This type of bundle will allow you to make multiple calls to international numbers at a discounted rate. You will need to consider whether the money you save making the business calls through the bundle rates is more than the monthly network fee.

Some home broadband plans allow you to pay a monthly subscription that gives you inclusive calls to specified countries. This means that you pay the same rate when you call abroad as when you call another phone within the UK. Network providers will usually supply a list of countries that are included in these types of international call bundles and add-ons.

It can get costly to call an international number from the UK. However, this doesn't apply when calling a UK mobile phone that has been taken abroad. The call is still considered a domestic call as it is a UK phone number.

If your friend or family member takes their mobile phone abroad, you will pay the standard UK rate to call or text them, no matter where they are in the world. You will be charged the same amount that a call or text to a mobile phone within the UK would cost.

Unfortunately, while you won't pay any more money to call a UK number abroad, the person you are calling will likely face additional charges. They will have to pay roaming charges for using their mobile phone outside of the UK, even if the call originated from within the UK.

The roaming charges will vary depending on which phone company the recipient of the call uses, as well as the country that they are in. The call recipient may also have to pay for receiving voicemail and text messages. This can cost anywhere from 50p per message to upwards of £3.

If the person abroad buys a new SIM card for their UK-bought mobile phone when they are abroad, you will be charged international rates to call them as they will have a new international number. However, they will not be charged roaming rates to receive calls or messages from the UK.

Mobile networks charge different standard rates, which means that you could pay around five times as much to make the same call via one network compared to another.

To show the varying rates, Which? sourced the rates below to show how much you will be charged per minute to phone Spain, depending on which mobile network you use.

Calls to Spanish mobile on UK pay-monthly contractStandard cost per minute
ID Mobile18p
Sky Mobile19p
Tesco Mobile19p
Virgin Mobile58p

While these costs act as a good indicator, they can change over time. Providers may also offer different add-ons that reduce the cost of each call abroad. EE offers customers a free 'call abroad' add-on, which enables them to make international calls to 60 countries at a lower rate.

O2, another mobile provider, sells an International Bolt-on for an extra £3 per month. This allows customers to call mobiles and landlines in 200 countries for 1p per minute.

You can often pick up free SIM cards from networks such as Lycamobile, which are specifically designed for international calling. You can use pay-as-you-go or buy an international calls bundle which offers cheaper calls abroad. Some of the bundles are short-term, which gives you flexibility in case you realise you under or overestimated your volume of international calls.

What are the international calling codes?

Every country has an international code that you need to dial before the rest of the telephone number. The UK's code is +44, which you would need to dial if you were calling the UK from abroad. In many countries, you have to dial a 0 when calling a phone number from within the same country. When you are in the UK, the +44 is replaced by 0 instead. This is also the case for countries such as France, Germany and Ireland.

The international dialling codes vary in length depending on the country. Smaller countries generally have longer international dialling codes, whereas larger countries have shorter ones. For example, the dialling code is +1 in Canada and the US, but it is three digits long in Hong Kong (+852) and Ireland (+353).

The table below shows a sample of the international dialling codes for different countries around the world.

CountryInternational dialling codeInternational prefix
Hong Kong+8520
United States of America+11

How can I call abroad for free?

Calling international phone numbers can be costly, especially if the call lasts for a long time. Luckily, there are a number of apps and online alternatives that allow you to make audio and video calls to other countries at no cost at all.

Some of the most popular free video calling apps include Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp. Each app is free to download and set up an account. These apps also offer audio-only calls, which replicates the concept of calling someone else on a landline.

The FaceTime app is only available to users who own Apple devices and is pre-installed. WhatsApp can be downloaded by Android and iOS users via the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Apps such as Zoom and Google Meets allow you to start and join international video and audio conference calls with a large group of people. This is especially helpful for teachers and lecturers who want to host online classes for remote students. However, you will need a premium account for Zoom, as free accounts have a limit of 40 minutes for each session.

While these apps are free if you use Wi-Fi, they may cost you money if you exceed your mobile data allowance. On average, a video calling app may use data between 540 MB (for default SD) and 1.62 GB (for 1080p, full HD) per hour. The exact amount you will be charged for exceeding your data allowance will depend on your mobile network.

It's important to check that you are connected to a secure Wi-Fi network before you use a video or audio calling app so that you don't have to pay anything for exceeding your mobile data allowance.

Calling international landlines and mobile phones will cost you more than calls to UK-based numbers. The international calling rates will depend on the phone network that you use, as well as which country you are calling.

International phone calls are cheaper if you sign up for international call options from your mobile network. You can either buy add-ons for your mobile plan or use pay-as-you-go and an international phone calls bundle.

You can make free unlimited calls using apps such as WhatsApp, FaceTime and Zoom. These apps rely on the internet, so you will need a good network connection. You can connect via Wi-Fi or mobile data, although you may be charged if you exceed your data allowance. The apps offer both audio and video free calling options.