How To Make International Calls: Everything You Need To Know

How To Make International Calls: Everything You Need To Know
Table Of Contents

Technology has progressed extremely quickly in the last few decades. It was only 25 years ago that you needed a giant computer and AOL disk to access dial-up internet. The phone line would be tied up, and it could take hours for a high-resolution image to download on your screen. 

Nowadays, you can connect to the internet wirelessly without even needing an internet service provider. People would have thought you were a lunatic if you tried to explain the concept of Wi-Fi, LTE, or “cellular data” back in the days of dial-up. The dramatic leap forward with technology has forever changed the way that society functions.

One of the things that have been most impacted by these advances in global communications. It wasn’t that long ago that you would have needed to take out a second mortgage to afford the phone bill for an international call. In the modern age, it only takes a few extra buttons to make the call. The price is still a little steep, but it’s way better than it used to be

How Does International Calling Work?

International traveling has come back with a vengeance after the COVID-19 pandemic. The multi-year travel bans, lockdowns, economic insecurity, and general anxiety has caused a lot of people to seize their traveling dreams.

Naturally, you’ll want to be as safe as you can while you travel and keep your personal data protected. There are going to be a lot of international friendships (or maybe more) that begin as the result of all these travels. Just because the vacation ends doesn’t mean that the new relationship should end too. Surely you’ll want to stay in touch with your new friends, and what better way than a phone call?

Before you start typing numbers into your Phone app, there are a few things that you should know. Making an international call isn’t the same thing as calling up your local pizzeria to place a delivery order. You’re going to need more information than just the phone number of your new friend. Specifically, you’re going to need the following:

The IDD Code

The International Direct Dialing (IDD) number is more commonly referred to as the exit code. To make a call that’s outside the USA, you’ll need to enter the three-digit code 011. The international dialing code will signal that the number you’re about to dial isn’t in the United States. You’ll need to enter this exit code anytime that you want to make an international call. 

Technically, there are a few foreign countries that you can call where you won’t have to enter this code. Canada, Guam, and most of the Caribbean Islands all share a country code (more on that in a minute) with the United States. As a result, you won’t have to enter 011 whenever you call someone in these countries. It would be the number followed by their country code. 

The Country Code

You probably already know about area codes in the United States and how they work. The easiest way to think about country codes is that they are area codes on a global scale. Instead of being limited to a single state or region within a state, country codes serve the entire country

The majority of country codes are three digits, like American area codes. However, a lot of first-world countries use double digits as the prefix instead. There are even some countries, such as the United States (1), Canada (1), Russia (7), and Kazakhstan (7), that only use a single digit as their country code. 

In some cases, you might have to dial four numbers for a country code. The countries that make up the Caribbean Islands are an example of this as they use the United States country code of 1 along with their own.

For example, if you wanted to call Jamaica, you would need to enter 1-876 as their country code. You wouldn’t have to dial the exit code of 011 to make the call, but you’d have to dial these four digits for the country code. 

It’s only a few specific cases where you’ll have to dial more than four digits for a country code. The Isles of Man, Jersey, and Guernsey all fall under the United Kingdom's country code of 44. They also have their own country codes of 1624, 1534, and 1481, respectively.

That means that if you wanted to call someone on the Isle of Man, you’d have to enter 44-1624 as the country code. It might sound inconvenient, but the three countries only combine for a population of about 250,000. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever meet anyone that lives in one of these countries. 

The Mobile Code

This number can be challenging to find as you won’t always use it. It will largely depend on the type of phone associated with the number you’re calling.

For example, if you’re calling a mobile phone in Mexico, then you would need to enter 1 at this point in the number sequence. The same would be true if you were calling a mobile number in the United Kingdom.

The only difference is that the mobile code is 7 in those countries. Landlines don’t appear to require such a code, so make sure you know whether you’re calling a mobile phone or not. 

The City Code

A city code is basically the international term for what Americans know as an area code. There are several hundred area codes in the United States, and often several within the same city. That’s not always the case around the world, so “city code” appears to be the preferred term. Regardless of what it’s called, these numbers function the same way as an area code. 

Here is where the differences between nations will start to get noticeable. In the United States, area codes are strictly three digits across the nation. That’s not the case in every country. There are city codes as low as two digits and high as five digits. To make it even more confusing, some of these digits are “trunk codes” and are basically meaningless to an outsider.

Trunk codes are used when a call is made from within the same country. In the United Kingdom, they have a trunk code of zero which often appears before the area code. Since you’re making a call from a foreign country, you don’t have to bother with the trunk code. That means that a five-digit city code is actually only four.

In Mexico, it’s even more confusing. They use the trunk codes 01, 044, and 045. You can ignore all three of these digits whenever you’re calling Mexico from the United States. Trunk codes are another thing that you’d have to look up whenever you were trying to make an international call. 

US and International Phone Numbers: The Differences

Finally, something that you’ve heard of before, right? Well, don’t get too excited because these aren’t going to look like how you’d think. In the United States, every phone number is ten digits long when you count the area code.

In other countries, it’s way more lenient, and the count ranges from four digits to 15 of them. If someone from a different country were to give you their number, don’t be surprised if it looks nothing like the (XXX) XXX-XXXX format that you know. 


There was a ton of information in that section that was probably very confusing to read. It can be hard to explain what an international phone call will look like as pretty much every country is different. However, we can offer a few examples that might help you see more clearly what you can expect when making an international call.

Let’s say that you’re trying to call a mobile phone in London, England, with the number 5555-5555. You already know that you’ll have to dial 011 as the exit code for the United States. 

The United Kingdom country code is 44, and the London city code is 020. Since you’re not calling a local number, you won’t have to dial the 0, but since it’s a mobile phone, you’ll need to enter the 7 after the country code. When it’s all said and done, the number you dial should read 011-44-7-20-5555-5555. 

Now let’s say that you want to call a cell phone in Cancun, Mexico, with the number 555-5555. You’ll have to enter the 011 exit code and the Mexico country code of 52. The city code of Cancun is 998, but you’ll need to enter the mobile code 1 first. For this example, you would dial 011-52-1-998-555-5555. 

How Much Does It Cost To Call an International Number?

Making an international call is significantly cheaper than it used to be. That being said, international calling rates are far from being cheap.

The exact price will vary depending on your mobile service provider and the monthly phone plan that you have. In general, an international call with no special feature added to your monthly plan will cost you between $3.50 and $3.65 per minute.

If you opt into an international feature with your plan, the price usually ends up between two cents and 30 cents per minute. If you’re looking to talk to someone in another country often, you’ll want to look into one of these specialized plans as soon as possible. 

Generally, making an international or long-distance call to a landline phone is cheaper than calling a mobile number. 

Calling Options and Smarter Dialing

Few things are as fun as traveling the world. You can see sights more beautiful than your dreams, eat foods that you didn’t know existed, and have life-changing experiences.

You’re also going to meet people that could wind up being extremely important in your life. The only way for them to be a part of your life is if you stay in touch. One of the most effective ways to do that is by talking on the phone. 

As you can see, making an international phone call isn’t very simple. You’ll likely have to try very hard to successfully ring through and reach your new friend. Even if you do, you’ll want to keep the conversation short as the cost will quickly add up.

One option for cutting down the cost would be to use WhatsApp, as communication between two users is free. Skype is also an alternative that can be used to make free calls when used properly.

Whatever way you choose to stay in contact with your foreign friend, you should take an extra step to protect your privacy. You can see how easy it can be to mess up when trying to make an international call. The last thing that you want is to make a mistake and accidentally let your phone number fall into the wrong hands. Getting a second phone number is the best way to prevent this from happening. 

Visit Burner today to learn more about how it works, pick your new number, and download the app. You can enjoy a free seven-day trial and experience all that it has to offer for yourself, and it’s available for iPhone and Android.

You can use your Burner number to make international calls, avoid incurring roaming charges, and keep your personal information safe. It’s a win-win-win situation!


Dialing Procedures | International Telecommunication Union

International Calling Codes | Country Code Search

What Does International Direct Dialing Mean? |

Most Americans Have Traveled Abroad, Although Differences Among Demographic Groups Are Large | Pew Research

So Long to Long-Distance? | The Washington Post

Internet History of 1990s |

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