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How Much can I Expect to Pay for International Telephone Calls?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Feb 24, 2024
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Once upon a time, placing a telephone call to an international location was a very expensive endeavor. Fortunately, there are several options for international telephone calls today that are much more cost efficient, and require much less effort to connect. However, there are still several factors that can impact the final rate per minute that a caller will pay when making international telephone calls.

Today, making international telephone calls do not involve a great deal of manual switching, nor do they necessarily have to routed through underwater cables. Advances in technology allow for long distance telephone signals to be transferred through means of microwaves, satellite transmissions, and through the World Wide Web. All these new methods work in conjunction with the older wire technology, making it possible to place international telephone calls to and from just about every country in the world. It is the combination of these methods that often helps to determine the final rate per minute that the caller will pay.

For locations that can utilize Voice over Internet Protocol to make international telephone calls, the cost per minute is very low. This is especially true if both the originator and the recipient of the international telephone call are utilizing the Internet for making and receiving calls. In this scenario, the involvement of traditional telephone switches is either eliminated or kept at a minimum, depending on the two countries involved. The call is still direct dialed using dialing codes usually referred to as country codes, along with the local exchange telephone number. More and more companies are using Voice over IP as the means of offering low cost international calling to their customers.

However, Voice over IP is not necessarily available everywhere. This creates situations where a call may begin using Internet technology, but at some point hop onto a local phone switch and go through the usual process. In countries where telecommunications is nationalized, there may be access fees involved that will run up the cost per minute.

Most telephone service providers publish a listing of countries that may be dialed using their platform, along with the rate per minute that will be billed. Depending on the country of origin, the country of destination, and the type of technology involved with switching the call, the rate can be extremely low or somewhat expensive. However, it should be noted that rates for international telephone calls are still only a fraction of what they cost even ten years ago.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By lluviaporos — On Jul 29, 2011

Every time I load up Skype to use it for calling someone who doesn't have an internet option for phone calls, I end up losing the money.

If you don't use it for ages, it eventually expires, which really annoys me, because there's no good reason for it!

So, I now call myself on my cellphone whenever it says it is about to expire my credit, so they don't remove it.

Since they ask for a minimum payment each time, and it doesn't all get used on one call, it can really add up if they remove it.

By browncoat — On Jul 28, 2011

Whenever I need to call someone overseas and Skype is not an option for whatever reason, I get a phone card to do it. They sell them at most gas stations and convenience stores and they tend to be super cheap.

Some of them are annoying to use, but I know my father used to program his phone to dial all the numbers automatically, so it must be possible.

You should definitely shop around to get the best price. There are several competing companies and they all have different prices for different countries (or in some cases, for different areas of countries).

Personally, I would not go overseas without one of these in my pocket, just in case. Usually they can be used on public phones, and in some cases if you don't have a credit card, they are the only option.

By umbra21 — On Jul 28, 2011

When I was a teenager I had a love interest who lived in Romania. We had met over a chat, so there was internet and we could communicate, but Skype didn't exist yet so phone calls were still very expensive.

I thought my parents were awful, not letting me call him whenever I liked! But in reality, back then it must have cost them twenty or thirty dollars every time we talked on the phone.

We came up with other ways of keeping in touch, like sending paper letters and little packages of things, and sending each other music and so on. But, I'm glad that's no longer really an issue for most people, because it felt heart breaking at the time!

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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