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Many areas of Europe still use the pulse phones.  You know, those old phones that emit seven clicks when you dial a seven!  Pulse phone technology is incompatible with most modern voice mail systems.  A phone dialer can help you connect with your voice mail or automated long distance service when using a pulse-based phone service.


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Travel Advice/Travel Tips -  Bring a Tone Dialer for Pulse Phone Systems

Although increasingly rare in Western Europe, some hotels  may have rotary phones, or push-button phones that do not use tone technology. Instead, these phones use what is called pulse technology and emit a pulse that repeats in relationship to the number that you dial. Rotary phones are less rare in Eastern Europe, but rapidly being replaced by digital phone networks.

Pulse phones are unable work with automated voice mail systems or other computer driven services such as operator-less long distance. If you hear a familiar single musical beep when you dial any number on a phone, it’s a “tone” phone capable or working with all automated systems. If not, you will need a tone dialer.

A tone dialer is a small device about the size of a deck of cards that mimics the sounds emitted by a touch-tone phone.

  • The tone dialer can be used to adapt any rotary or push-button pulse-type phone to work with automated services. 
  • Pocket tone dialers are available from Radio Shack for less than $25.

To use a tone dialer

  •  First, dial the number of the service that you want to access using the pulse-based phone.
  •  Once the phone is connected to the service, place the tone dialer over the mouthpiece of the phone and press the keys that corresponds to the numbers or letters that you need to enter (e.g. a password or  access code ).
  • Once you have finished entering codes and are ready to speak to a person or leave a voice mail message, just remove the tone dialer and speak through the mouthpiece.

Most tone dialers can be programmed to store numbers and dial a sequence of often-used access codes (including pauses), which will automate the connection process to some degree.

Tone dialers are not expensive and are a great convenience for travelers who will be making many calls during their trip.

  • Note: they are not required baggage for the average traveler who does not need to access computer and tone based phone services.
  • Local phones work fine for normal voice calls.


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