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To call Egypt:

1. Dial the international access code: 011 from the U.S. or Canada; 00 from the U.K., Ireland, or New Zealand; or 0011 from Australia.

2. Dial the country code, 2.

3. Dial the city code and then the number.

To make international calls: To make international calls from Egypt, first dial 00 and then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Ireland 353, Australia 61, New Zealand 64). Next, dial the area code and number. For example, if you wanted to call the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., you would dial 00-1-202-588-7800.

For directory assistance: The once-disastrous state of directory assistance in Egypt has undergone a miraculous transformation in recent years. Now you can dial 140 and get English-speaking directory assistance for inside Egypt that is accurate and up to date. The same service exists online at www.140online.com, but the numbers are less likely to be up to date. For business phone numbers and addresses, try www.yellowpages.com.eg. For international directory assistance, dial 144.

For operator assistance: If you need operator assistance in making a call, dial 120 if you're trying to make an international call and 140 if you want to call a number in Egypt.

Toll-free numbers: Toll free numbers start with 0800 in Egypt. There is a partial and hard-to-search list of them on the Telecom Egypt site (www.telecomegypt.com.eg/English/Home_FindNumber_aNumSearchFreePhone.asp). Calling an 800 number in the States from Egypt is not toll-free; in fact, it costs the same as an overseas call.

In 2007, Cairo phone numbers (city code 02) were changed from 7 to 8 digits. The rule of thumb is, on the west side of the Nile (Giza, Mohandiseen, Agouza, Dokki, and so on), add a 3. On the east side of the river, and in the middle of the river (downtown, Heliopolis, Maadi, Garden City, Zamalek, and Manial), add a 2.

Meanwhile, mobile numbers are all 10 digits and do not need an area code.

Cellphones

The three letters that define much of the world's wireless capabilities are GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), a big, seamless network that makes for easy cross-border cellphone use throughout Europe and dozens of other countries worldwide. In the U.S., T-Mobile and Cingular Wireless use this quasi-universal system; in Canada, Microcell and some Rogers customers are GSM; and all Europeans and most Australians use GSM. GSM phones function with a removable plastic SIM card, encoded with your phone number and account information. If your cellphone is on a GSM system, and you have a world-capable multiband phone such as many Sony Ericsson, Motorola, or Samsung models, you can make and receive calls across civilized areas around much of the globe. Just call your wireless operator and ask for international roaming to be activated on your account. Unfortunately, per-minute charges can be high -- usually $1 to $1.50 in Western Europe and up to $5 in places such as Russia and Indonesia.

For many people, renting a phone is a good idea. In Egypt, you will need to buy or rent a handset, buy a phone number, and purchase a prepaid phone credit. Many five-star hotels' business centers rent phones, too. The Conrad and the Four Seasons, for example, will supply you with a handset for around LE125 a day ($23/£12). With a perfectly functional, low-end handset running LE300 to LE600 ($55-$109/£28-£56) on the local market, however, it makes sense just to buy if you're going to need it for more than a couple of days.

SIM cards and phone numbers can be purchased for about LE125 ($23/£12) from almost any store advertising the products of one of the three local mobile service providers: Mobinil, Vodafone, and Etisalat. You will have to give them a copy of your passport and fill out a form.

Prepaid credit, available where you buy your SIM card and phone number, comes in various denominations from LE10 to LE100, and you pay the face value of the card plus about 15%. I usually get the guys in the store to deal with the complicated business of entering the code rather than struggle with the automated voice system in Arabic. Outgoing calls are about LE0.15 (3¢/1p), and incoming calls are free.

North Americans can rent a phone before leaving home from InTouch USA (tel. 800/872-7626; www.intouchglobal.com) or RoadPost (tel. 888/290-1606 or 905/272-5665; www.roadpost.com). InTouch will also, for free, advise you on whether your existing phone will work overseas; simply call tel. 703/222-7161 between 9am and 4pm EST, or go to http://intouchglobal.com/travel.htm.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.