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Calling TO the US/Canada FROM Europe - Best Way to Pay for Calls

Pauline Kenny

Inexpensive long distance phone cards/calling plans for calling to the United States and Canada from Europe.

Click for information about calling TO Europe FROM the US (international calling plans)

There are four ways to pay for long distance calls to the US/Canada from Europe. Prices range from about 0.03 per minute (International Phone Card you purchase in the country), to $0.10 per minute (ZapTel phone card), to $0.30 per minute (using your European cell phone).

Four Ways to Pay for Long Distance Calls from Europe

1. Use Prepaid International Phone Cards purchased Online

Buy a prepaid phone card/calling card online in the US that can be used for international calls (make sure it can be used when dialing from Europe to the US and is not just for calling from the US). I recommend the ZapTel True North phone card. Read more.

Caution: If using an International Phone Card from a Cell Phone, you may have to pay for the minutes used on your cell phone as well as on the International Phone Card. This varies by country and cell provider. Read more.

2. Use Prepaid International Phone Card purchased in Europe

Purchase an International Phone Card in the country where you are traveling. This is the cheapest solution for calling long distance from Europe, but if you don't use all your minutes you lose them. Some cards work all over Europe, but some are country-specific. Use these international phone cards from public phones, from your cell phone or from your vacation rental or hotel phone. The prices vary and some cards, like the Europa card, have very cheap per minute rates. See below for examples of phone cards from Italy and the United Kingdom.

Caution: If using an International Phone Card from a Cell Phone, you may have to pay for the minutes used on your cell phone as well as on the International Phone Card. This varies by country and cell provider. Read more.

3. Use Your US Long Distance Company (like AT&T)

Use your long distance company's access number and have calls billed to your home account. This can be very expensive unless you have a special International Plan. Long distance companies like Sprint, MCI and AT&T change their plans frequently, so check with them to see what is available and what the exact costs are. Note that some plans only give you cheap rates when calling from Europe to the US if you are calling your home number.

4. Use Your European Cell Phone

If you buy a cell phone for the country you are traveling to, you should still use an international calling card to call the US or Canada. The rates charged by the cell phone company are higher - but if you are making a short call, just call directly on your cell phone. Check with your cell phone provider for the rates.

International Phone Cards

Traveling?  Use a phone card outside of the U.S.

ZapTel: Good rates for calling from Europe to the US, from the US to Europe and within the US. Minutes do not expire if card is used once every six months.
Read more.

International Phone Cards in Italy

Purchase international phone cards in Italy at a Tabacchi (Tobacco) store. These cards give you very good rates for calling long distance within Europe or to the US/Canada. On the back of the card you will find the access number to call and, under a "scratch off" area, your PIN number for the card. You do not need to have the actual card with you - just the access number and PIN - so you can share one card if you want to.

Use these international phone cards from public phones, from your cell phone or from your vacation rental or hotel phone. The prices vary and some cards, like the Europa shown below, have very cheap per minute rates (e.g. 180 minutes for 5 - 0.03 per minute).

This is a 10 euro Europa card purchased in Italy.

Back of card with dialing information and your PIN number (this one has been changed).
Click image to see larger version.

The back of the card gives you local numbers to dial from several Italian cities, plus the numbers to use from public phones (Cabina Publica), cell phones (Cellulare TIM, Cellulare WIND) and for instructions in English.

Note: You are dialing a toll-free number and there is no extra charge for the call from a land line, public phone or cell phone. But if you are calling from a cell phone, you do not get as good per minute rates using the card as you would from a land line. (This information was current as of 2004, it may have changed. In many countries, cell providers charge per minute to dial toll-free numbers.)

How to Use the Card

  • Dial the access number. For instructions in English, dial 800-969-577 (Europa card only). Note: From a pay phone, you may have to insert your regular phone card first, and then dial the access number.
  • When asked, enter the PIN from the back of the card (under the "scratch off" panel").
  • To call the US/Canada from Italy, dial 001 then area code and number.

International Phone Cards in the United Kingdom

We found long distance phone cards in the Post Office and in Newsagent shops. The least expensive one is 5.00; you can get them for larger amounts. The long distance rates are very good - 0.035 per minute (3 1/2 cents). Note: Both cards we bought, one from the Post Office, one from a Newsagent, expire 90 days after you first use it!!

The toll-free access number is listed on the back of the card. There is a scratch off area on the back to get your PIN.

There is no extra charge using this phone card from a land line. Dial the toll-free number (called "freephone" and starts with 0800), punch in your PIN and then dial as you would from a land line.

See the Post Office website for more information: www.postoffice.co.uk.

Note: If you call this international access number from your cell phone, you will pay per minute for the cell call. If you dial from a land line or phone booth, there is no extra charge for the call.

International phone card from the Post Office - front.

International phone card from the Post Office - back.

Other European Calling Information

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