Staying in touch across the pond

Friends and family members in Europe are just a phone call away – but sometimes that phone call isn't as simple as it sounds. Dialing a European phone number from the United States requires a few steps. Fortunately, they're pretty easy to get down pat:

1. Find the relevant country code

Each European country has its own unique dialing code. These codes are available online in the World Telephone Numbering Guide, so check out the guide's website to find the right country code.

2. Dial the full number

It's going to end up looking a little ridiculous, but a phone call to Europe usually requires more than one prefix:

  • Punch in "011"
  • Enter the country code
  • If the receiving number has an area or city code, dial "0" after the country code
  • Enter the area or city code (if applicable)
  • Enter the phone number

For example, if you're placing a phone call to Paris, it would be structured like this: 011 33 1 45 45 32 45, where:

  • "011" is the international call exit code for the United States
  • "33" is the French country code for inbound calls
  • "1" is Paris' city code
  • "45 45 32 45" is the local phone number

Area code information is also available in the World Telephone Numbering Guide.

3. Place the call

Be aware of the time difference as well as potential international calling rates, then place the phone call.

International rates

As if long distance isn't tough enough on relationships, phone calls between the United States and Europe tend to get costly, as well.

Each mobile carrier has its own fees regarding international calls. Here's what the major U.S. carriers charge for placing calls to Europe:

  • AT&T: International calls can cost as much as $2.71 per minute unless subscribers buy a special plan. An international calling plan might be wise for frequent Europe callers, who would then pay $6 per month plus $0.99 per minute for phone calls to most European countries.
  • Sprint: Calling a European country costs between $1.50 and $2 per minute, depending on the country and whether the call's placed to a landline or mobile, without the special long distance plan. With the Sprint International Long Distance Plan, which costs $4 per month, those calls are reduced to between $0.05 and $0.40 per minute.
  • T-Mobile: Calls to European countries cost $3 per minute without the Stateside International Talk plan. With that plan, which costs $15 per month per line, customers get unlimited calls and texts to other countries.
  • Verizon: The standard rate for calling a European country from the United States can be up to $2 per minute, but Verizon offers two international calling plans to help reduce that charge. With the Unlimited Together North America Plan ($5 per month), European calls cost less than $0.25 per minute. With the Unlimited Together World Plan ($15 per month), those calls can get even cheaper, and calls to landlines are often free.

Skype rates

There are options for contacting friends and family in Europe outside of traditional mobile calls, and fortunately, they're often more cost-effective and use data networks or Wi-Fi rather than the usual calling plan.

Skype allows its users to call mobile numbers and landlines around the globe for low costs. For example, here are a few options for calling the United Kingdom from the United States via Skype:

  • "Pay as you go" for $0.10 per minute to mobiles or $0.2.3 (yep – 2.3 cents) per minute to landlines
  • 400 monthly minutes to landlines and mobiles for $6.99 per month
  • 30 monthly minutes to landlines and mobiles for $1.49 per month
  • 100 monthly minutes to mobiles and landlines for $2.99 per month
  • Unlimited calls to landlines for $2.99 per month
  • Unlimited calls to mobiles and landlines for $12.99 per month

Skype also offers a few blanket plans for European and international calls:

  • $9.99 per month for unlimited calls to European landlines
  • $19.99 per month for unlimited calls to European mobiles and landlines
  • $13.99 per month for unlimited calls to landlines anywhere in the world

WhatsApp Calling

If both parties use WhatsApp, calling is free regardless of who's in what country. The calls use an internet connection rather than a cell plan, so if both people are connected to Wi-Fi, such calls usually don't incur any charges. Otherwise, data charges apply.

The quality of these calls, however, depends on the internet connection in use.

Several other apps, such as Facebook Messenger and Snapchat, also offer free online calling options like this.