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Telephones

Many convenience groceries and packaging services sell prepaid calling cards in denominations up to $50, as well as inexpensive cellphones for which you pay as you go. Many public pay phones at airports now accept American Express, MasterCard, and Visa. Local calls made from most pay phones (if you can find one) cost either 25¢ or 35¢. Most long-distance and international calls can be dialed directly from any phone. To make calls within the United States and to Canada, dial 1 followed by the area code and the seven-digit number. For other international calls, dial 011 followed by the country code, the city code, and the number you are calling.

Calls to area codes 800, 888, 877, and 866 are toll-free. However, calls to area codes 700 and 900 can be expensive -- charges of 95¢ to $3 or more per minute. Some numbers have minimum charges that can run $15 or more.

For reversed-charge or collect calls, and for person-to-person calls, dial the number 0 and then the area code and number; an operator will come on the line, and you should specify whether you are calling collect, person-to-person, or both. If your operator-assisted call is international, ask for the overseas operator.

For directory assistance ("Information"), dial tel. 411 for local numbers and national numbers in the U.S. and Canada. For dedicated long-distance information, dial 1, then the appropriate area code plus 555-1212.

Mobile Phones

Someone without a cellphone in Florida is as rare as an albino crocodile. But it happens. Reception varies from excellent to spotty, depending on where you are. The Everglades used to be an abysmal place to use a mobile phone, but thanks to new cellphone towers, reliable service is almost as guaranteed as a gator sighting. Typically, however, the more remote in the state you are, the less chance your phone will work. But it is getting better.

If you need to stay in touch at a destination where you know your phone won't work, rent a phone from InTouch USA (tel. 800/872-7626; www.intouchglobal.com) or a rental-car location, you'll pay $1 a minute or more for airtime. Or you can purchase an inexpensive pay-as-you-go mobile phone -- they're all but ubiquitous at convenience stores and other retail outlets.

If you're not from the U.S., you'll be appalled at the poor reach of our GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) wireless network, which is used by much of the rest of the world. Your phone will probably work in most major U.S. cities; it definitely won't work in many rural areas. To see where GSM phones work in the U.S., check out www.t-mobile.com/coverage/national_popup.asp. And you may or may not be able to send SMS (text messaging) home.

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.