Calling from the US to a US-based carrier cell phone while in UK: HELP!

I'm writing out our month-long UK trip info for the assisted living residence where my 86 year old fil lives. They have orders to call us ONLY if fil has a medical emergency (hospitalization). So, I need to write out how to call us on the info sheet. If our US-based, ATT cell phone number is (123) 456-7890, how does someone in the US call our cell phone while we are in England?? Would they dial it this way: 011-44-123-456-7890 ?? Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, thanks, thanks!!!

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

Leslie, you just dial the number the same way you always do. It's one of the reasons some people don't like to take their cell phones with them. They can get woken up in the middle of the night by someone who doesn't realize that they are in Europe. Check out the Rick Steves discussion of cell phones.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
781 posts

If they actually did that, they would possibly be calling someone in Bedford (area code 01234 in the UK National Telephone Numbering Plan)

Posted by Leslie
Helena
46 posts

Oh, thank you so very much! So, I'll just tell the caregivers that they dial our cell phones just as though we were at home (just blocks from his assisted living residence). We have already informed them that it is EMERGENCY ONLY calls. And, we've told fil that we will call him. As he might forget about the time difference, we'll turn off our phones before going to bed each night! I really appreciate your help on this. Thanks, again!

Posted by Paul
Tuscaloosa, AL
877 posts

Folks back home being able to call your phone in a normal fashion is one of the main advantages of using your cell while overseas. It would help if your father-in-law's caregivers could text you with any information they need to convey, even if it isn't strictly speaking an emergency. They send texts the normal way, as they would if you were just across town instead of across the ocean. Texts are cheaper for you to receive (on some plans, incoming texts are free).

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2612 posts

AT&T cell phone texts are $10 per 50 outgoing texts and all incoming texts are free. You must sign up for it for a one month period beginning when you leave and then you have to cancel the international text option when you return (kind of a pain, but they won't let you sign up for just one month) You also see the phone number displayed from the caller, the same as you do at home, so if someone calls you there is no need to answer if it is not the emergency call.

Posted by Leslie
Helena
46 posts

We don't text, so no worries there (apparently, we are dinosaurs as regards texting!). Last question: If we want to phone my fil in the US from England, do we have to do anything special as far as country codes or anything? Or, do we simply dial his 1-his area code & number, as we would stateside. We want to phone him once a week, just to say hi. We aren't bothering with any special international phone plans as we don't plan on talking to him for more than a couple of minutes with each call. This is our first greater-than-4-day-holiday in 16 years of eldercare (he's the last parent alive), so we really want to keep our stateside contact to a minimum! We REALLY need this vacation! Thanks, again, for your help!!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Calling the US is 001, area code, number.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Leslie, As the others have mentioned, the care home will only need to dial your usual number and the network will find you wherever you are. You will of course be paying for each incoming call at the applicable AT&T rates. You might consider getting a "voice travel pack" for the duration of your trip which will reduce the costs slightly. If you're using a Smartphone, BE SURE to disable the cellular data or you could face a HUGE bill. Will you have the ability to check E-Mail whilst in the U.K.? It might put your mind at ease to receive regular up-dates from the Care Home. When dialing out going calls, I usually call home using the format +1-AC-123-4567. The "+" sign takes takes the place of the prefix digits (AFAIK). Happy travels!

Posted by Leslie
Helena
46 posts

Nope, no Smartphones for us. We've a 5 year old Motorola that just is a phone (though, you can play a tiny game of bowling on it!). No camera, we don't text (in fact, we cancelled out of our phone plan years ago), nothing fancy. Same goes for my husband's 6 year old Samsung phone. For us, our cell phones are a simple convenience & for safety. They are not our main phone (or, life!) line. We've already checked and our phones will work in the UK. As we plan on making only 4 short calls home (just to Dad) while we are in England, changing our phone plan is more trouble than it's worth. If there are any emergency calls to us, then any charges are certainly not important. We can afford it. We won't be calling anyone else (and, our friends and other family members know they are not to call us while we are on vacation unless it is a major emergency that needs our attention). The assisted living residence understands there are to be emergency only calls, NO other types. I printed out these instructions for his records, as well as making them aware of the time difference! I sure appreciate everyone's assistance on my queries!!!!!

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2900 posts

Leslie, you do need to make sure that the phone you have is a quad-band phone. Not all U.S. mobile phones work in Europe. The other thing is that you may want to check with your carrier to see if you need to do anything to enable international roaming. I'm not familiar with AT&T, but I know with T-Mobile I had to set up my plan so that international was enabled. You mention that you canceled your plans. If you don't have a subscription plan, you definitely want to check with you carrier to make sure they even allow international roaming. Some pay-as-you-go options do not work. If for some reason, you find that your phones don't work, you can go to any Car Phone Warehouse (they are all over England) and get a cheap phone with pay-as-you -go minutes for about 20 GBP.

Posted by Leslie
Helena
46 posts

Laura, thanks! We already checked and our phones are quad, so no problems there. We cancelled our texting ability (we don't text) and our phone plan does allow international roaming. The costs are not a big deal, we can afford whatever it is. Everyone has been so helpful!

Posted by j.c.
Cary, NC, United States
842 posts

You've likely thought of this, but why not have someone at home give you a quick test call after you arrive just to make sure? In case your phone does not work as planned, or goes missing, or gets run over by a truck, buy a cheap phone and a prepaid plan for the duration of your trip. Then, call back home and give that phone's number to anyone who needs it.

Posted by Leslie
Helena
46 posts

Great idea, j.c.! We hadn't thought about doing that. I'll ask a friend to do so. Thanks!

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

Leslie, if for any reason you will want/need to buy a cheap phone with prepaid service in the UK, there are plenty of places. I've had good luck at Carphone Warehouse stores (they are everywhere!). They will not only sell it to you, they will get it set up for you while you're in the store. I appreciated that.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Leslie, One other point to mention..... DON'T forget to check the Chargers supplied with your "old" Motorola phone to ensure they're designed for multi-voltage operation from 100-240 VAC. You will of course need Plug Adaptors specific to the countries you'll be visiting. If you've had the phone for awhile and still using the original battery, it might be a good idea to check the battery to see how long it "holds" a charge. It may be necessary to pick up a new battery prior to the trip. Cheers!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

That's a really good point raised by Ken, just above. Most of the older chargers were not world voltage unlike the newer ones which almost all are 100-240v 50-60 Hz. If your charger isn't suitable you will probably be better off getting a new suitable charger than trying to convert your old one. If you try to convert the power for an old charger it just may go phut!... You'll certainly need adapters. bon chance...

Posted by Steve
Gaston, Oregon, USA
869 posts

Leslie, if you are going to bring both phones, they can be of tremendous help if you two get seperated (happened to us...once)Since you are going to be there a month, this would probably be a good idea, and signing up for the "lower cost" AT&T EU phone call package is a great idea, if you don't go to the Car Phone Warehouse and pick up a cheap phone. If you have any questions AT&T is great at explaning their EU plan;call 'em! I would really encourage you to go to CP Warehouse and talk to them; that will be one of our first stops when we get there this May.

Posted by Paul
Tuscaloosa, AL
877 posts

Leslie, two things. One, you can get a friend to send you a text to see if your phone is working correctly once you arrive. If you get the text, the phone is working and connected. Texts are usually cheaper than even the shortest call. Two, you can go ahead and program the international calling code in the contacts on the phone that you might use overseas. For example, if the assisted living facility's number is 1-406-555-1212, you could put the number in your phone's contact list as 001-406-555-1212. The call will work fine even if you're calling from across town. (Putting in all the codes doesn't somehow make it an international call if dialing from home.) Doing so in advance saves you the headache of pressing the call button on the number as you probably have it right now in your contact list and being stumped why it isn't going through. Good thing not to worry with, especially if you are calling in a panic. IMPORTANT . I just checked the advice I gave above by trying to make a local call starting with the double zeros. It did not work, but this does:
On a cell phone you can shorten the "00" to a "+" sign. Just hold down the zero key to the plus sign (on most phones). That's the way I have the numbers I might call from overseas entered on my cell phone and that way works whether you are at home or out of the country. Your FIL's number would be entered as "+1-406-555-1212". (Without the quotes, of course.) I've used this technique for years.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

That's a cool tip from Paul (thanks!) about holding down the 0 to get a +. The keypad on my iPhone even indicates a small + beneath the 0. How many other things do we not see that are right before our eyes?!