Local conventions for writing telephone numbers
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Every country has different local conventions for writing telephone numbers. Writing a telephone number in a different format will look strange to a resident, and may lead to incorrect dialing when area codes are omitted for local calls.
All numbers on this page are written for dialing within that country, and do not include any international dialing codes. In examples, a numeric digit is used only if the digit is the same in every number, and letters to illustrate groups. X is used as a wildcard to represent any digits in lists of numbers.
United States, Canada, and other NANP countries
24 countries and territories share the North American Numbering Plan, with a single country code and dialing plan. All area codes are the same length, so areas with many phone numbers overlay multiple area codes.
The traditional convention for phone numbers is (AAA) BBB-BBBB, where AAA is the area code and BBB-BBBB is the subscriber number. The format AAA-BBB-BBBB or sometimes 1-AAA-BBB-BBBB is often seen; the number 1 is the long-distance access code, and is usually required before the area code when calling long distance. While this appears to be a dialling pattern, it is actually part of the Directory Number, because the Country Code for the US is 1. Sometimes the stylized format of AAA.BBB.BBBB is seen, more common since the rise of the Internet and the dot-separated notation of domain names and their subdomains.
Since mandatory ten-digit dialing began in certain areas for long distance even within area codes around 1995 (in order to make a large new range of area codes available), and even for local calls in some metro areas, the notation in those areas has sometimes changed. The area code is now often prefixed as "AAA-" (no "1-"), or sometimes "AAA " (with only a space), instead of "(AAA) ". In metro Atlanta (the world's largest-area toll-free calling zone), it is common for example to see people write shorthand 4, 6, or 7, followed by ")" (end parenthesis) or "-" (hyphen), or sometimes "/" (forward slash) or just a space, instead of the full 404 (the city), 770 (the suburbs since 1995), or 678 (overlaid on both in 1998). This however will be complicated by GPSC's choice of 470 for the next overlay code.
In Mexico, mobile phone numbers are always written with the area code as XXX-XXX-XXXX, regardless of the area code's length. In Guadalajara, for example, where the area code is 33 and the phone numbers begin with 3 or 1, mobile phone numbers are usually of the form 331-XXX-XXXX or 333-XXX-XXXX.
Danish telephone numbers are 8 digits long, and normally written in four groups of two separated by spaces, AA AA AA AA. In recent years it has also become common to write them in two groups of four, AAAA AAAA
French telephone numbers are 10 digits long, and written in groups of two separated by spaces, for example, 0A AA AA AA AA.
German telephone numbers have no fixed length for area code and subscriber number.
There are many ways to format a telephone number in Germany. The most prominent is DIN 5008 but the international format E.123 and Microsofts canonic address format are also very common.
|DIN 5008||0AAAA BBBBBB|
|DIN 5008 with Extension||0AAAA BBBBBB-XX|
|DIN 5008 international||+49 AAAA BBBBBB|
|E.123 local||(0AAAA) BBBBBB|
|E.123 international||+49 AAAA BBBBBB|
|Microsoft||+49 (AAAA) BBBBBB|
Numbers are often written in blocks of two. Example: +49 (A AA) B BB BB (Note the blocks go from right to left)
The very old format and E.123 local form are often used by older people.
Dutch phone numbers are 8, 10 or 11 digits long (including the trunk prefix '0'). The area code ('A') is commonly separated with a dash ('-') and sometimes a space from the subscriber's number ('B'). Alternatively, the area code (including the trunk prefix) can be enclosed in parentheses.
The length of the area code for landlines is either 2 or 3 digits, depending on the population density of the area. This leaves 7 or 6 digits for the subscriber's number, resulting in a format of either 0AA-BBBBBBB or 0AAA-BBBBBB. Cellphone numbers are assigned the 1-digit area code 6, leaving 8 digits for the subscriber's number: 06-BBBBBBBB. Service numbers (area codes 800, 900, 906 and 909) have either 4 or 7 remaining digits, making them 7 or 11 digits in total: 0AAA-BBBB or 0AAA-BBBBBBB.
The trunk prefix '0' is dropped when prefixed by the country code: +31 AA BBBBBBBB, +31 6 BBBBBBBB, etcetera.
Norwegian telephone numbers are 8 digits long. A number to a fixed line is written in four groups of two separated by spaces, AA AA AA AA. Cellphone numbers are written in three groups, AAA AA AAA. This makes it easy to determine if the B-number is SMS capable.
Telephone numbers in Russia are 10 digits long. The area code ('A') is usually written between brackets. The three groups of numbers of the subscriber's number ('B') are separated by dashes ('-'), for example, (AAA) BBB-BB-BB. The length of the area code for landlines is usually from 3 to 5 digits, depending on the population density of the area (eg. (AAAA) BB-BB-BB, (AAAAA) B-BB-BB). Sometimes numbers are written +7(AAA)BBB-BBBB to include Russia's country calling code (spaces surrounding the area code and/or the last dash sometimes omitted).
Spanish telephone numbers are nine digits long, starting with '9' for fixed lines (excluding '90x') or with '6' for mobile phones. They are normally written as a first group of three numbers and then three groups of two separated by spaces, for example, AAA AA AA AA, though three groups of three AAA AAA AAA and 2-3-2-2 AA AAA AA AA (a holdover from when numbers were only seven digits long and written 3-2-2) are also seen. Mobile numbers are usually grouped by threes AAA AAA AAA.
Swiss telephone numbers are 10 digits long, and usually written 0AA BBB BB BB where 0AA is the "national destination code" and BBB BB BB is the subscriber number. Sometimes numbers are written +41 AA BBB BB BB to include Switzerland's country calling code. Certain nationwide destination codes, such as for toll-free or premium-rate telephone numbers, are written 0800 BBB BBB or 0900 BBB BBB. There are also "short numbers" for emergencies such as 112 that are written 1CC or 1CCC.
Most telephone numbers in the UK have 10 digits after the '0' trunk prefix, however, there are some 41 geographic areas (e.g. 01204, 01276, 01527, 01900, etc; and 0169 77) and some non-geographic numbering ranges (e.g. all of the 0500 and part of the 0800 range) which include some telephone numbers which have only nine digits after the '0' trunk prefix.
It is customary to put 01 and 02 geographic area codes in parentheses to show that the area code does not need to be dialled by callers located within the same area. This is recommended by Ofcom and in ITU-T recommendation E.123. Parentheses are not normally used on non-geographic area codes.
The majority of telephone number ranges covering smaller cities and towns and most rural areas (and not matching the pattern 01x1 or 011x) have area codes formed of four digits, after the '0' trunk prefix. They are written (01AAA) BBBBBB. There are a small number of these areas (about 7%) where the local number has only five digits, and these are written (01AAA) BBBBB.
There are also a very small number (about a dozen) with an extra digit on the end of the area code and then a five digit local number, written as (01AA AA) BBBBB; and just one area with similar (01AA AA) area code but only four digits in the local number, written as (01AA AA) BBBB.
Larger urban areas have shorter STD codes. These area codes match the pattern 01x1 or 011x, and the numbers are written as (01AA) BBB CCCC, e.g. (0118) 946 0555. The BBB part can be used to identify which exchange the number is based in. These area codes consist:Leeds 0113;Sheffield 0114;Nottingham 0115;Leicester 0116;Bristol 0117;Reading 0118;Birmingham 0121;Edinburgh 0131;Glasgow 0141;Liverpool 0151;Manchester 0161 andTyneside/Durham/Sunderland/Washington 0191.
Some of the largest urban areas, and Northern Ireland, have the shortest STD codes. These area codes match the pattern 02x and the numbers are written as (02A) BBBB CCCC, e.g. (020) 7222 1234. The BBBB part can be used to identify which exchange the number is based in. These area codes consist:Greater London 020;Southampton/Portsmouth 023; Coventry 024;all of Northern Ireland 028 andCardiff 029.
London numbers written or spoken as if the area code is 0207 or 0208 are incorrectly formatted. Similar formatting problems affect all 011x and 02x area codes changed between 1995 and 2000 by PhONEday and the Big Number Change.
Numbers for mobile telephones are formatted as 07AAA BBBBBB as they always contain ten digits after the '0' trunk prefix. Pager numbers follow the 076AA BBBBBB format.
Most non-geographic numbers (in the 03, 08 and 09 ranges) are formatted as 0AAA BBB BBBB. However, this convention is not always followed and numbers in non-geographic ranges are sometimes written in various other formats. Sometimes this is to try to make the number easier to read and remember, but this can also confuse the reader as to the true nature of the number, and therefore the true monetary cost of calling it.
All 0500 and some 0800 freefone numbers have only nine digits after the '0' trunk prefix and so are written as 0A00 BBBBBB. These numbers were allocated pre-2000 and no more new numbers have been allocated in that format since then. The remainder of the 0800 range and all 0808 numbers are formatted as 080A BBB BBBB as they contain ten digits after the '0' trunk prefix.
The 055 corporate numbers, 056 VoIP numbers and 070 personal numbers are often formatted as 0AA BBBB BBBB but some other formats are occasionally seen. It is especially important that personal numbers are not confused with mobile numbers as personal numbers are very much more expensive to call.
When calling from abroad, the initial '0' trunk prefix is not required, and so the E.123 format is recommended, e.g. +44 20 7222 1234 for a London number, +44 118 946 0555 for a Reading number, +44 151 496 0555 for a Liverpool number, +44 1223 345678 for a Cambridge number, and +44 7700 900555 for a mobile telephone number. UK numbers shown with a zero immediately after the country code, either with or without parentheses, are incorrectly formatted. Most non-geographic numbers with 03xx, 0500, 08xx or 09xx area codes cannot be connected when dialled from outside the UK.
Domestically, there are also a number of special service numbers such as 100 for the operator, 123 for the speaking clock and 155 for the international operator, as well as 118 AAA for various directory enquiry services, and 116 AAA for various helplines. For some services, the number you call will depend on which operator you use to connect the call. Both 112 and 999 work for calling the emergency services. These numbers cannot be called from abroad.
Telephone numbers in India are 10 digits long (excluding an initial zero which is required at times) and fall in at least four distinct categories:
- Landlines: Written as 0STD-NUMBER, where STD is the Subscriber Trunk Dialing code (long distance code) and NUMBER is the phone number. The total length of STD code and NUMBER is 10 digits.
- Mobiles: Written as XXXXX-YYYYY for ease of remembering (though the prefix is either 2-digits or 4-digits in the numbering plan). Mobile numbers which are not local need to be prefixed by a 0 while dialing, or by +91 (91 is the country code for India). A mobile number written as +91-XXXXX-YYYYY is valid throughout India, and in other countries where the + is recognized as a prefix to the country code.
- Toll Free: These are usually ten digit numbers beginning with 1-800. Sometimes they are accessible (or are toll-free) only when called from the government-owned telephone corporation, BSNL/MTNL.
- Service numbers: These are usually three or four digit numbers (e.g. Police is 100) used to access an emergency service (Fire, Ambulance, Police, Roadside assistance) or a value-added service.
Australian telephone numbers are 10 digits long, and can be written (0A) BBBB BBBB or 04MM MBB BBB (for mobile telephone numbers), where 0A is the optional "area code" and BBBB BBBB is the subscriber number. 04MM M are allocated per mobile network. When the number is to be seen by an international audience, it is written +61 A BBBB BBBB or +61 4MM MBB BBB. When written for a local audience, the optional area code is omitted.
Ten-digit non-geographic numbers beginning with 1 are written 1X0Y BBB BBB, where X is 8 for toll free numbers, 3 for fixed-fee numbers and 9 for premium services. Six digit non-geographic numbers are written 13 BB BB or 13B BBB; these are fixed-fee numbers. B's are sometimes written as letters. Occasionally, non-geographic numbers have more or fewer digits. These are written according to the third digit: if it is 0, the ten-digit pattern is used; otherwise, the six-digit pattern is.
Central American countries have the confusing custom of writing the country code for Central American countries (whether their own or another country) in parentheses instead of putting a + sign, as recommended by E.123, hence they would write (506) 2222-2222 instead of +506 2222-2222 for a number in Costa Rica. It is quite common for Central American businesses to write the whole phone number, including the country code in parentheses, on business cards, signs, stationery, etc.
Costa Rica telephone numbers are 8 digits long, usually written in the format 2NNN-NNNN (for landlines) and 8NNN-NNNN (for mobile telephone numbers). Toll-free numbers use the format 800-NNN-NNNN and premium-rate telephone numbers are written 90x-NNN-NNNN where x varies according to the type of service offered. There are also "short numbers" for emergencies such as 911.
When Costa Rica switched from 7 to 8 digit numbers, it used a scheme similar to the 8 digit number scheme already in place in El Salvador at that time.
El Salvador telephone numbers are 8 digits long, usually written in the format 2NNN-NNNN (for landline use) and 7NNN-NNNN (for mobile telephone numbers). Premium-rate numbers start with a 9.
Honduras has 7 digit landline numbers usually written NNN-NNNN, and 8 digit mobile numbers written NNNN-NNNN. The fact that landline and mobile numbers have different lengths sometimes causes confusion.
Argentinian telephone numbers always consist of 11 digits, including the geographical area code.
The Area Code
The area code can have 3, 4 or 5 digits, the first being always 0 (indicative of long distance calls). Moreover, in 1999 the whole country (except Buenos Aires, and Greater Buenos Aires) was divided into two zones. Roughly and with exceptions, one includes most of the northern half of the country; and the other, most of the southern half, though the actual reason for this division is not geographical, but the fact that each zone is administered by a different company.
So, the second digit of area codes can be 1 (only in Buenos Aires and Greater Buenos Aires code "011") or else a 2 (for towns in the southern half of the country) or a 3 (for the northern half). For example, (011) for Buenos Aires, (0341) for Rosario, (02627) for San Rafael. And the subscriber's number will accordingly have 6, 7 or 8 digits, to complete the eleven digits.
Phone numbers are mostly written as:
- (011) xxxx-xxxx (Note that only the (011) code has 3 digits),
- (0xxx) xxx-xxxx or
- (0xxxx) xx-xxxx
The area code is usually written between brackets.
The Subscriber's Number
In 1999, a general reform was introduced to telephone numbers, including the 1, 2 and 3 for area codes as explained above, and adding a 4 at the beginning of all subscriber's numbers. However, since the reform some local numbers starting with a 5 are beginning to appear. Moreover, a hyphen is usually placed to separate the last four digits. Code areas do not usually include one single city or town, but several neighbouring towns. So, the part before the hyphen (called a prefix) is usually indicative of either a town within the code area, or even of a part of a larger city, which is assigned several prefixes. As a matter of fact, each area code has only a limited number of prefixes assigned, and these are locally limited within the area.
For example the (0342) area has numbers with a 456- prefix, mostly located in the centre of Santa Fe. It also has numbers with a 460- prefix, usually for phone lines in the north east of the city. And there are lines with a 474- prefix, located in Santo Tomé. But no 444- prefix exists within this area. As for the part after the hyphen, it may usually be any succession of four digits, though sometimes a prefix is shared by two or more small towns, and then, the first digit after the hyphen carries the distinction between towns.
Sometimes, a prefix is reserved for official numbers, that is for offices depending on the national, provincial or local state. In the (0342) area, this is 457-, and phones within this prefix communicate with each other, by simply dialling the four final digits, though from other phones the prefix must be dialled as well.
Mobile phones use the same area codes as landline telephones, but the number begins with a "15", added to a string of 6, 7 or 8 digits, just as described above. Besides after the "15", the remaining of the number can start with a 3, a 4, a 5 or a 6. This "15" may be dropped though, when a call is made to a mobile phone in a different code area. And when sending text messages, the receiver's number is best dialled both without the "15" and with the long distance code, even if both sender and receiver share a code area, but without the initial "0".
To sum up, given the mobile phone (011) 154-123-4567, you will call it by dialling:
- 154-123-4567 (within the same code area),
- (011) 4-123-4567 (from a different code area, including or omitting the 15),
And you will send messages to:
- 11 4-123-4567 (even when your phone has also a 011 number).
Two sorts of special numbers exist in Argentina. On the one hand, three-digit numbers are used for special services such as to call the police, fire brigade or emergency doctors, as well as to hear the official time. Also telephone companies have three-digit numbers to report a problem in the lines, or to ask for another subscriber's number, when a paper directory is not available.
Additionally, there are other longer numbers. These include (but are not limited to):
- 0800 xxx abcd
- 0810 xxx abcd
- 0600 xxx abcd
(where the xxx indicates the same digit dialled three times, and a, b, c and d may each be any of the ten digits)
0800 lines are used by companies, and it is the receiver and not the caller who pays for the call, so that potential clients are encouraged to contact business companies for free.
0810 lines are paid by the caller, but the cost is for a local call, even if you are calling from a different area. The remaining is covered by the receiver.
And 0600 numbers are special more expensive lines, that serve such purposes as TV games, fund collecting for charity companies, hot lines, etc. Basically a part of the extra money charged to the caller is sent to the owner of the line.
Often the abcd or even (xx)xabcd part of the number is chosen, if available, to form a word that is representative of the company holding the number.
Brazil is divided into 67 two-digit geographical area codes, all of which with eight-digit numbers, in the format (AA) NNNN-NNNN. Phone lists can use NNNN NN NN. Telephones can also be written with carrier selection codes, in the format (0CCAA) NNNN-NNNN, and when a carrier number is not suggested, one can replace carrier code for xx or XX.