Country codes, how did they arise and why?

A country code is what you dial in to call another country. +46 is the country code for Sweden. But how is it that Sweden has that particular number? When were the country codes created and who decided which countries would receive which codes? That is something we are going to give answers to below.

Why was country codes created?

For us, it may sound obvious to have different country codes. But considering that the phone was invented in the 1870s, it took a long time before they were introduced. It was not before the early 1960s that the concept of country codes emerged.

At that time, rotary phones were used, you know those who had a number disc where you rotated one digit at a time. The mechanism in the disk then controlled the rotation counterclockwise to produce pulses down the telephone line. Entering telephone numbers took time and therefore they wanted to avoid telephone numbers being too long. With the country codes, it was ensured that a telephone number never became more than 11 digits.

Who decided how the country codes would be distributed?

It was the ITU – International Telecom Union, a body that contains various countries’ network suppliers, which together agreed on how the different codes would be distributed.

Which countries have which codes?

On a rotary phone, a “1” takes significantly shorter time to enter than a “9”. The countries that were most influential in the telecommunications union, combined with those who had the largest population, were given the shortest and thus the simplest codes to enter. Therefore, it may not be surprising that the US and Canada received the single-digit country code +1. They had a well-developed network and had good contacts with the rest of the world which made this an area that many people were presumed to call.

A bit more surprising may be that Africa got the + 2-series. Europe got the following numbers, +3 and +4. Countries with much influence received “nicer” country codes, such as +33 (France) and +44 (England).

At that time, the then USSR network was rather poorly developed but had a large land mass and large population. Therefore, they got the world’s other single-digit code but with the fairly high number +7. Only North America and the USSR received single-digit codes. The rest of the world later got two or three digits.

Uzbekistan drew the shortest straw, or the longest number, when they were assigned the country number +998.

Politics affects

There is a country code listed as “Reserved” without other comments in the official list of country codes, namely +886. But the fact is that if you use the country code +886 you will call Taiwan. This is because mainland China did not receive any code at all to begin with. Instead, the country code belonged to the People’s Republic of China, which at that time was advocated by Taiwan. The mainland China did not receive its own code because Taiwan still claimed the Chinese mainland. China now has +86 as its country code, but because of China’s influence over this list, Taiwan is not shown in the list of official codes.

Country codes in alphabetical order

COUNTRYCOUNTRY CODE
Afghanistan93
Albania355
Algeria213
American Samoa1-684
Andorra376
Angola244
Anguilla1-264
Antarctica672
Antigua and Barbuda1-268
Argentina54
Armenia374
Aruba297
Australia61
Austria43
Azerbaijan994
Bahamas1-242
Bahrain973
Bangladesh880
Barbados1-246
Belarus375
Belgium32
Belize501
Benin229
Bermuda1-441
Bhutan975
Bolivia591
Bosnia and Herzegovina387
Botswana267
Brazil55
British Indian Ocean Territory246
British Virgin Islands1-284
Brunei673
Bulgaria359
Burkina Faso226
Burundi257
Cambodia855
Cameroon237
Canada1
Cape Verde238
Cayman Islands1-345
Central African Republic236
Chad235
Chile56
China86
Christmas Island61
Cocos Islands61
Colombia57
Comoros269
Cook Islands682
Costa Rica506
Croatia385
Cuba53
Curacao599
Cyprus357
Czech Republic420
Democratic Republic of the Congo243
Denmark45
Djibouti253
Dominica1-767
Dominican Republic1-809, 1-829, 1-849
East Timor670
Ecuador593
Egypt20
El Salvador503
Equatorial Guinea240
Eritrea291
Estonia372
Ethiopia251
Falkland Islands500
Faroe Islands298
Fiji679
Finland358
France33
French Polynesia689
Gabon241
Gambia220
Georgia995
Germany49
Ghana233
Gibraltar350
Greece30
Greenland299
Grenada1-473
Guam1-671
Guatemala502
Guernsey44-1481
Guinea224
Guinea-Bissau245
Guyana592
Haiti509
Honduras504
Hong Kong852
Hungary36
Iceland354
India91
Indonesia62
Iran98
Iraq964
Ireland353
Isle of Man44-1624
Israel972
Italy39
Ivory Coast225
Jamaica1-876
Japan81
Jersey44-1534
Jordan962
Kazakhstan7
Kenya254
Kiribati686
Kosovo383
Kuwait965
Kyrgyzstan996
Laos856
Latvia371
Lebanon961
Lesotho266
Liberia231
Libya218
Liechtenstein423
Lithuania370
Luxembourg352
Macau853
Macedonia389
Madagascar261
Malawi265
Malaysia60
Maldives960
Mali223
Malta356
Marshall Islands692
Mauritania222
Mauritius230
Mayotte262
Mexico52
Micronesia691
Moldova373
Monaco377
Mongolia976
Montenegro382
Montserrat1-664
Morocco212
Mozambique258
Myanmar95
Namibia264
Nauru674
Nepal977
Netherlands31
Netherlands Antilles599
New Caledonia687
New Zealand64
Nicaragua505
Niger227
Nigeria234
Niue683
North Korea850
Northern Mariana Islands1-670
Norway47
Oman968
Pakistan92
Palau680
Palestine970
Panama507
Papua New Guinea675
Paraguay595
Peru51
Philippines63
Pitcairn64
Poland48
Portugal351
Puerto Rico1-787, 1-939
Qatar974
Republic of the Congo242
Reunion262
Romania40
Russia7
Rwanda250
Saint Barthelemy590
Saint Helena290
Saint Kitts and Nevis1-869
Saint Lucia1-758
Saint Martin590
Saint Pierre and Miquelon508
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines1-784
Samoa685
San Marino378
Sao Tome and Principe239
Saudi Arabia966
Senegal221
Serbia381
Seychelles248
Sierra Leone232
Singapore65
Sint Maarten1-721
Slovakia421
Slovenia386
Solomon Islands677
Somalia252
South Africa27
South Korea82
South Sudan211
Spain34
Sri Lanka94
Sudan249
Suriname597
Svalbard and Jan Mayen47
Swaziland268
Sweden46
Switzerland41
Syria963
Taiwan886
Tajikistan992
Tanzania255
Thailand66
Togo228
Tokelau690
Tonga676
Trinidad and Tobago1-868
Tunisia216
Turkey90
Turkmenistan993
Turks and Caicos Islands1-649
Tuvalu688
U.S. Virgin Islands1-340
Uganda256
Ukraine380
United Arab Emirates971
United Kingdom44
United States1
Uruguay598
Uzbekistan998
Vanuatu678
Vatican379
Venezuela58
Vietnam84
Wallis and Futuna681
Western Sahara212
Yemen967
Zambia260
Zimbabwe263

 

If you want to find the country code for a specific country, there are plenty of websites that can help you, for example  CountryCode.org.

Latest update nov 2019

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