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American Express -- There is an office at 5085 Westheimer, Ste. 4600, on the third floor of the Galleria Mall II (tel. 713/626-5740). It's open Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm and Saturday from 10am to 5pm.

Area Codes -- Houston has 10-digit dialing for local calls. Local numbers begin with one of three area codes: 713, 281, or 832.

Dentists -- For a referral, call tel. 800/922-6588.

Doctors -- For minor emergencies or to see a doctor without an appointment, call Texas Urgent Care at tel. 281/477-7490.

Drugstores -- Walgreens, 3317 Montrose Blvd., at Hawthorne Street (tel. 713/520-7777), is open 24 hours a day. In the vicinity of the Medical Center, there is a 24-hour Eckerd Drug Store at 7900 S. Main St. (tel. 713/660-8934).

Hospitals -- The Ben Taub General Hospital, 1502 Taub Loop, at the Texas Medical Center (tel. 713/873-2600), has a fully equipped emergency room.

Internet Access -- If you're not traveling with a computer and your hotel doesn't have a business center, Houston's main library and all its branches have computers for public use; go to www.houstonlibrary.org to find locations. Faster connections can be had for a price at Copy.com, 1201-F Westheimer, in the Montrose area (tel. 713/528-1201); it has several computers and is open from 7am to midnight on weekdays, 11am to 7pm on Saturdays, and noon to 9pm Sundays. If you have a computer and would prefer not to use your hotel's computer connections, check out the usual Internet haunts -- coffee bars and restaurants and the public areas of certain hotels.

Maps -- Salespeople, repairmen, and others who must travel about rely on something called a "Key Map," a binder of detailed maps that divides Houston into a grid system. This homegrown creation became so popular here that it has been copied by map companies in other cities. It may offer more information than most visitors want. You can buy standard street maps at any drugstore and at many convenience stores, and you'll find some helpful maps of downtown, the Museum District, and other parts of the city at the visitor center in city hall.

Newspapers & Magazines -- The local daily is the Houston Chronicle. The Houston Press, a free weekly that covers local politics and culture, can be found around town at restaurants, stores, and just about anywhere people congregate.

Police -- Dial tel. 911 in an emergency; for nonemergencies, dial tel. 311.

Post Office -- The downtown branch, 401 Franklin St. (tel. 713/226-3066), is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 7pm and Saturday from 9am to noon.

Safety -- Houston is a safe town for visitors. Exercise caution at night in the downtown areas that lie outside the theater district.

Taxes -- The local hotel tax is 17%, the local sales tax 8.25%.

Transit Information -- Call the Texas Dept. of Transportation's hot line tel. 713/802-5074.

Weather -- Call tel. 713/228-8703.

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.