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Thursday, May 17, 2007
London calling. Ok, Euroanyone calling.

So I have this fancy cellphone on an outrageously expensive contract, in part so that it would be guaranteed to work in Europe, but it still wasn't easy.

So obviously first:
- make sure you have a GSM cellphone that works in some or all Euro bands
- make sure your cellphone provider has roaming agreements for Europe
- make sure your cellphone provider has activated roaming for your phone

- make sure you actually know how to dial local European numbers
- make sure you have a working test number that you can call

I thought I had taken care of all of the first set, but I was unexpectedly stymied by the second set.

Euro phone numbers look like

+44 (0)20 7387 ####


+countrycode (I can make a + on my phone by pressing 0 twice)
phone number

The number of digits after the country code may, I think, vary by country.
So it makes it difficult to know if you have a well-formed phone number.
Also, I don't know what conventions, if any, there are for toll free ("green") numbers, and a lot of calls that would be free in US/Canada (e.g. check the weather) are toll numbers (e.g. a certain number of Euro-cents per minute).

Anyway, to call this number from outside the country, you're supposed to know you don't dial the zero after the country code, e.g. from Canada

011 44 20 7387 ####

but INSIDE the country you do dial the zero, e.g.

020 7387 ####

To call Euro-Euro (from another country), it would be +44 20 7387 ####.

So I tried a couple numbers and they didn't work,
so then I spent a long time on hold with Rogers one day,
and a long time on hold with Rogers a second day,
and then it worked.

It's possible, however, that it was working all along, but
a) I didn't have any valid numbers to call
b) I wasn't composing the numbers correctly

So the moral is: know what the hell you're doing.

Other options:
- get your phone unlocked, and then buy/rent a local SIM and phone number
- buy or rent an entire phone

RailEurope will sell you a phone that works in Europe for US$39.

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