Calling a toll free number from abroad

The information on this page focuses on how to dial US and Canadian toll free numbers from other countries, but much of the info may also apply if you are dialing elsewhere.

First of all, to reach a toll free number from abroad the same dialing sequence used for calling regular numbers should work: International prefix - Country code - Toll free number. Be sure to leave out any initial zero in the toll free number.

Dialing a toll free number from abroad may not work

Toll free numbers are used within a country's national borders to facilitate toll free calling. They are not technologically designed to be dialed free of charge from outside the country where they are registered. It's the reason why some toll free number subscribers choose to block incoming international calls and often advise foreign callers to contact them on a regular telephone number. Moreover, some local carriers will not even route calls to a foreign toll free number.

However, today's technology is changing the way we connect, giving us many more choices than we used to have in the pre wireless/Wi-Fi world, so I will try to describe your choices for dialing a toll free number from abroad.

Calling US/Canadian toll free numbers from abroad using a landline or local SIM card

If this is your only choice for dialing a toll free number it's worth a try, although it is the least likely to work. If it does work the call will not be free.

Normally, to call a toll free number registered in the US, Canada or any other country using the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) from abroad you should use the dialing instructions we provide on this site. If the call goes through you are usually informed that your call isn't free.


  • US toll free number 1 800 555 5555 would be dialed from the UK by adding 00 or the plus sign: 00 1 800 555 5555 or +1 800 555 5555
  • Canadian toll free number 1 888 999 9999 would be dialed from the US as is because both countries use the NANP

Another way to dial North American toll free numbers from abroad is to replace the 3 digit toll free codes with different codes introduced years ago:

  • 880 replaces 800 - so the example UK to US call above would become: 00 1 880 555 5555 or +1 880 555 5555
  • 881 replaces 888 - again, the example US to Canada call above would be: 1 881 999 9999
  • 882 replaces 877
  • 883 replaces 866

These codes were originally introduced for calls to toll free numbers dialed between NANP countries, allowing the caller and the call receiver to each share their part of the cost (the caller would pay international charges and the callee would pay their national toll free rate). Moreover, according to this official PDF document, the codes were supposedly retired in 2004. However, I've been getting reports stating that, not only they still work as described above, but it seems that they can be used to replace regular North American toll free codes when dialing from any country, and not just countries using the North American Numbering Plan.

Dialing from your cell phone using a roaming plan with your wireless provider

If you are using an international roaming plan with your wireless carrier, your caller ID stays the same regardless of location therefore you will likely be able to connect to a toll free number back home. You will however incur international charges.

To dial use + or the international prefix as with any international call.

Using Wi-Fi calling or a VoIP service with your smartphone

Many wireless providers and relatively newer smartphones offer the choice to activate Wi-Fi calling, a feature allowing calls or text messages over a Wi-Fi connection. Needless to say, this is especially useful in areas with no cell phone signal.

Toll free calling from abroad at no charge via Wi-Fi calling is one of the perks included with some US and Canadian wireless plans. Make sure you check with your provider for more information and also find out if your smartphone has this feature. Activating Wi-Fi calling on your phone before traveling abroad might be a requirement.

A similar way to dial via a Wi-Fi connection is using a smartphone app like Skype (dialing toll free numbers in the US, Canada, UK and several other countries from anywhere is free of charge). Other similar apps may also include this feature.

To dial use + or the international prefix.

Universal International Freephone Numbers

International Freephone Numbers are an exception to the rules above. These numbers are assigned a separate country code which is 800. Calls to these numbers are free when dialed from certain countries that have adopted this system. Not many companies have an International Freephone number due to high costs associated with subscribing to this type of service.

A phone number of the format +800 ???? ???? is an International Freephone Number.

Read more on UIFNs.

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