My summer vacation: The London Eye

Raymond Chen

One of the popular tourist attractions in London is the London Eye. When I went to the Web site to pre-order tickets, there was a field for telephone number.

It had an up/down spinner.

Telephone numbers in the United States are ten digits long, and since this was an international order, I also needed the +1 prefix.¹ But I doubt they really expected me to hit the up-arrow ten million times.²

Our group included some people who were interested in the combination London Eye + River Cruise ticket, but others who are not fans of the whole “going high up in the air in a glass room” thing, but who were nevertheless interested in the River Cruise portion. What’s the way to purchase and schedule the tickets?

When you purchase the combination tickets online, the time you pick is for the River Cruise portion. So pick a time that works for everyone, and purchase the standalone River Cruise tickets for the same time slot. After you complete your purchase, you get an email message with instructions on how to book the London Eye portion of the trip.

If you decide to do both events on the same day, then this is the recommendation I received from the London Eye people:

Order of events Time to allow in between
London Eye, then River Cruise 45 minutes
River Cruise, then London Eye 60 minutes

(One turn on the London Eye takes 30 minutes. The River Cruise lasts 40 minutes.)

When you arrive at the London Eye, there’s a good chance you will be dismayed by the length of the queue. Just get into the queue before your scheduled time, and you’ll be okay. Somebody comes around every few minutes to confirm that you were in the queue in time.

Note, however, that if you choose to follow the Eye with a Cruise, a longer-than-expected queue will eat into your buffer time.

¹ Since this was marked as a numeric field, there is no way to enter the plus sign. Or an “x” for extension.

² If you start by hitting the down-arrow, you can set a negative telephone number! That gets me a minus sign, but I need a plus sign for the international dialing prefix.



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  • Neil Rashbrook 0

    Ah yes, #25 on the list of Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Phone Numbers: Phone numbers are numbers.

    • James Sutherland 0

      The + (or lack thereof) would be irritating; in the UK, handling number as numerical values also has the irritating problem in many cases of eating the leading 0 (where US numbers use a 1 to indicate long-distance, the UK uses a 0). The up-down spinner is quite comical though, the thought of trying to enter a number that way …

      I took my wife on the ‘Thames Clipper’ boat, then crossed back again on the cable car (‘Emirates Air Line’ I think?). We both have US and UK numbers now, forwarding from one to the other depending where we are at the time, which simplifies a lot of things: much easier to use an in-country number in the expected format. Some things do manage to work just fine with foreign numbers – but not enough to be comfortable without one IMO.

  • cheong00 0

    I wonder if the bother to use input type=number, why not just use input type=tel?

    Maybe it’s because the option is not offered by web component they use?

  • Rik Pronk 0

    Regarding the + in a phone number, I do recall it’s also valid to use a double zero (00) prefix as a replacement of the +. That said, if it’s fully treated as a number those leading zeroes will also just be stripped.

    • Raymond ChenMicrosoft employee 0

      Falsehood number 23. In the United States, the international dialing prefix is 011, not 00.

      • Julien Oster 0

        Well, yeah, but assuming that the people behind the website are in the UK, they would have to prefix their call with 00 to reach you.

        As a German who’s been living in the US for a few years, but still keeps ties, I am well versed into entering the “least confusing” alternative into phone number fields by now.

        One of the most interesting differences is that US numbers are fixed length. In Germany at least, they are variable length prefix free numbers. My parents live in a very big city and still have a 6 digit number, simply because they had that number for many decades. (Other minor differences: There is no “x” notation for extensions. Area codes start with 0 and are variable length as well. Germany has separate numbers for police and “emergency”: 110 and 112; the latter often perceived as for the “fire department”, which isn’t strictly false, but you can call for any non-police emergency.)

        • Raymond ChenMicrosoft employee 0

          True, but at the time, I didn’t know what the UK international dialing prefix is. In the US, we barely know our own international dialing prefix, much less anybody else’s.

          • Julien Oster 0

            Oh, I see. I think it’s more common knowledge in Europe, given that several countries are packed tightly on the continent, and it’s common to have relatives in another country, or just be on vacation abroad a lot. (We also tend to have much more vacation, making traveling more common. I’m still amazed at my coworkers here in the US taking one week long vacations to other countries… how is there time for anything?)

            At least pre-ubiquitous-Internet, when there was more reason for plain old phone calls.

          • Tyler Knott 0

            Fun fact: the US, Canada and many Caribbean nations are part of what’s called the North America Numbering Plan (NANP) which means they all share the same international calling prefix (+1) with different area codes within the system. This probably contributes to American ignorance of international dialing as most of our immediate neighbors, particularly our English-speaking neighbors, can be reached without having to use proper international dialing.

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