Generally, hotel surcharges on long-distance and local calls are astronomical, so you're better off using your cellphone or a public pay phone. Most convenience stores in northern New England sell prepaid calling cards in denominations of up to $50; for international visitors these can be the least expensive way to call home.
Many public pay phones at airports now accept American Express, MasterCard, and Visa credit cards directly. Local calls made from a pay phones in most of northern New England costs from 25¢ to 50¢ each; pennies aren't accepted.
Most long-distance and international calls can be dialed directly from any phone. For 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, city code, and the number you are calling.
Calls to area codes 800, 888, 877, and 866 are toll-free.
For reversed-charge or collect calls, and for person-to-person calls, dial the number 0 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 local directory assistance ("information") in most towns in northern New England, dial tel. 411; for long-distance information, dial 1, plus the appropriate area code, plus tel. 555-1212.
Just because your cellphone works at home doesn't mean it'll work deep in the woods of northern Maine -- or even at that rustic country B&B, thanks to our nation's (and the region's) fragmented and competing cellphone coverage systems. You may or may not be within your roaming area, even if you have a national calling plan.
It's a good bet that your phone will work in the region's major cities, so look over your wireless company's coverage map on its website before heading out to be sure; T-Mobile, Sprint, and Nextel are particularly weak at covering rural areas.
If you need to stay in touch at a destination where you know your phone won't work, rent a phone that will from InTouch USA (tel. 800/872-7626; www.intouchglobal.com) or from some rental car desks; just be aware that you'll pay $1 a minute or more for airtime anytime you use the phone.
If you're not from the U.S., you'll be appalled at the poor reach of the GSM wireless network (which is used by much of the rest of the world) here. Your phone will probably work in most cities and interstate corridors in northern New England, and along much of the southern Maine coast; but it definitely won't work in most of the rural areas, which means nearly all the rest of the region. You also may or may not be able to use SMS (in other words, send text messages) home.
Hey, Google, did you get my text message? -- It's bound to happen: The day you leave this guidebook back at the hotel for an unencumbered stroll through Burlington, you'll forget the address of the lunch spot you had earmarked. If you're traveling with a mobile device, send a text message to tel. 466453 (GOOGLE) for a lightning-fast response. For instance, type "carnegie deli new york" and within 10 seconds you'll receive a text message with the address and phone number.
This nifty trick works in a range of search categories: Look up weather ("weather philadelphia"), language translations ("translate goodbye in spanish"), currency conversions ("10 usd in pounds"), movie times ("harry potter 60605"), and more. If your search results are off, be more specific ("the abbey gay bar west hollywood"). For more tips and search options, see www.google.com/intl/en_us/mobile/sms. Regular text message charges apply.
Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)
If you have Web access while traveling, you might consider a broadband-based telephone service (in technical terms, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP) such as Skype (www.skype.com) or Vonage (www.vonage.com), which allows you to make free international calls if you use their services from your laptop or in a cybercafe. The people you're calling must also use the service for it to work; check the sites for details.
Without Your Own Computer -- Although there's no definitive directory for cybercafes -- these are independent businesses, after all -- start with the websites www.cybercaptive.com and www.cybercafe.com. Larger cities in northern New England, such as Portland and Burlington, always have a couple of cybercafes; in small towns, though, it's often hit-or-miss (usually miss).
Most airports have Internet kiosks that provide basic Web access for a per-minute fee that's usually higher than cybercafe prices. Check out copy shops like Kinko's (now called FedEx Kinkos), which offer computer stations with fully loaded software plus Wi-Fi access. Starbucks coffee shops have a partnership with T-Mobile allowing public Wi-Fi access, for a fee; you need to subscribe to the service through T-Mobile's web site (www.t-mobile.com).
New England's public libraries are great at offering Internet access, nearly always for free; you may need to submit a driver's license or library card or other piece of identification as a deposit. Finally, although youth hostels are thin on the ground in northern New England, they normally offer at least one computer from which you can access the Internet. (Avoid hotel business centers, which often charge exorbitant rates.)
With Your Own Computer -- More and more hotels, resorts, airports, cafes, and retailers are going Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity), becoming "hotspots" that offer free high-speed Wi-Fi access or charge a small fee for usage. Wi-Fi is even found in campgrounds, RV parks, and even entire towns. Most laptops sold today have built-in wireless capability. To find public Wi-Fi hotspots at your destination, go to www.jiwire.com; its Hotspot Finder holds the world's largest directory of public wireless hotspots.
For dial-up access, most business-class hotels in the U.S. offer dataports for laptop modems, and a few thousand hotels in the U.S. and Europe now offer free high-speed Internet access.
Wherever you go, bring a connection kit of the right power and phone adapters, a spare phone cord, and a spare Ethernet network cable -- or find out whether your hotel supplies them to guests.
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.