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Telephones and the internet


In an emergency, you can call the following services by dialling one telephone number: Fire, Police, Ambulance, Coastguard, Mountain rescue or Cave rescue.  The emergency telephone number, which is free, is 999 – you can dial this from any telephone (including mobile phones) in the UK.  (You can also dial 112 in the UK Phone Boxand any other European country).  If you are using a college (internal) phone, there may be a different number to dial, or you may need to dial another number first in order to access the public network. The operator will ask you whether you need ‘Fire, Police or Ambulance’ and you should explain what service you require. They will also ask you where you are, so that the help can be sent. It is illegal to call out the emergency services when there is not a real emergency, and you may find yourself in serious trouble if you do this.

Public telephones / payphones

There are public telephones in many places.  Some of them also give you internet access.  You will usually find illustrations and instructions to on how to use the phone.  You can pay for calls with coins, a phonecard or a credit card.  To use a public telephone:

If you are using coins: lift the handset and insert some money (at least 20p for local calls).  Enter the number. When your money has almost been used up, you will hear some beeps prompting you to add more coins or to finish your call.

If you are using a phonecard: see details below.

If you are using a credit card: lift the handset and then swipe the card through the slot.  You can then dial the number you want.  It is often more expensive to pay by credit card.

Although most public phones are provided by British Telecom, you sometimes see payphones provided by another company.  You may also find payphones inside private buildings, such as hotels, which are run by the building’s owner, who may set higher charges.

International calls

To call another country from the UK, dial 00 before the country code.  You can make international calls from most phones, including public telephones, by dialling the number directly. However it is usually cheaper to use a phonecard or to use an international calling company.


Pre-payment phone cards are usually the cheapest way of making an international call, and can also be used for calls within the UK.  You can buy phonecards from newsagents, post offices and from some other shops.  Many different companies offer these cards, so it is good to compare prices when buying one.  To make a call using a phonecard, dial the 0800 or 0808 number on the back of the phonecard to be connected to the phonecard company.  Next enter the PIN number on the back of your phonecard.  Then dial the number you want.

Costs at different times of the day

Phone calls often have different costs, depending on what time you make a call.  The most expensive time for calls inside the UK is 8am-6pm Monday to Friday.  It is usually cheaper to make calls between 6pm-8am and at weekends.  For mobile phones, the evening rate usually starts later (e.g.  7pm).  With phonecards the rate is usually the same at all times.

Finding numbers

You can find numbers of local residents and businesses in the telephone directory.  In the front of the telephone directory you will find the dialling codes for many countries and cities in the world.  You can also find contact details for local companies (listed by subject) in the Yellow Phone off the hookPages books, and from their on-line directory.

You can also call one of the Directory Enquiries services to ask for any telephone number – there is a charge for all of these services.  Several companies offer a Directory Enquiries service, with different prices, but all the numbers start 118.  The person you speak to will offer to connect you to the number they give you - this will be more expensive than dialling the number directly. The following numbers are British Telecom Directory Enquiries Services:

UK Directory Enquiries, when you call from a residential phone: 118 500

UK Directory Enquiries, when you call from a public payphone: 118 141

International Directory Enquiries, when you call from a residential phone: 118 505

International Directory Enquiries, when you call from a public payphone: 118 060

You can also use the BT Directory Enquiries service for free on-line. This has a link to some international directory enquiry websites.

Direct dialling and the operator

You can make telephone calls by keying the number directly into most telephones in the UK.  However, it is occasionally difficult to get a connection.  Or maybe you need to ask a question about using the telephone.  In this case, phone either the UK operator (100) or the international operator (155) to be connected.  Both operators are free services, but if the operator connects you to the person you want to speak to, the call is charged at a much higher rate than if you dial yourself.

Mobile phones

Mobile phones in the UK use GSM standards, so if you already have a GSM phone, you can often just buy a new SIM card and continue to use your phone.  The main mobile phone Mobile Phonenetworks at the time of writing are: T-Mobile, Virgin, Orange, Vodafone, O2 and 3.  Each of these companies offers various packages and tariffs. It is best to start by visiting a shop that sells mobile services for all networks.  Get advice from the shop assistant on the most economical package for the amount of time you plan to use your mobile phone – for example, pay-as-you-go packages are more economical if you do not use a mobile phone very often.  If you send a lot of text messages, look for a package that makes each text message more economical.  It is often very expensive to call mobile phones that are on a different network to yours – so be careful when you call other mobile numbers! Make sure you investigate all the options before signing up! Also remember that calls from ordinary landline phones to mobile phones are more expensive than calls to other ordinary phones, so people who are calling you may not want to talk for too long!

The internet and email

Getting an email account

Your university or college may give you an email address to use during your period of study.  It might not be activated until a few days after you have registered with your college or university. You can also get a free personal email address from web companies such as and

Using the internet and checking emails

There are usually places in universities and colleges where you can use the internet and check your emails, such as a computer centre, computer rooms in your department and libraries.  There may be restrictions on what you are allowed to email and download from the internet. You can also access the internet in some public libraries and internet cafes.

Images: welcoming international students
in Guildford