Hotel costs for long-distance and local calls made from guest rooms vary widely. Local calls can be complimentary, or astronomically expensive; long-distance calls typically fall into the latter category. If you intend to use the room phone, definitely inquire about phone charges. You may be better off using a mobile phone, prepaid calling card (available at convenience and grocery stores in denominations up to $500), or a public pay telephone, which cost 25¢ or 35¢ for local calls (and are increasingly scarce). Many public pay phones at airports accept credit cards. 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, 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 (chat lines, bulletin boards, "dating" services, and so on) can be absurdly expensive.
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. 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 411 for help finding numbers in the U.S. and Canada; for long-distance information, dial 1, the appropriate area code, plus 555-1212.
Mobile (cell) phone and texting service in New Orleans is generally good, with AT&T/T-Mobile and Verizon faring best, and Sprint lagging a bit behind. Some dead zones still exist around the city and inside old brick buildings. International mobile phone service can be hit-or-miss (despite what you may have been told before you began your trip). If you plan to use your phone a lot while in New Orleans, it may be worthwhile to invest in an inexpensive "pay as you go" phone from a local outlet. There's an AT&T store at 201 St. Charles Ave. (tel. 504/581-2900) and a Verizon store at 109 St. Charles Ave. (tel. 504/524-8888). Depending on the current offers, you may even get a generous credit for calls when you buy the phone -- enough to last through your trip, perhaps. Various calling plans are available. Most no longer charge for roaming but additional costs for texting or data downloading can add up. Definitely discuss the options to determine which one best suits your needs before making a commitment, and read the agreement to make sure you're not purchasing more services or a longer-term agreement than you need.
If you have a computer and Internet service, consider using a broadband-based telephone service (Voice over Internet protocol, or VoIP) such as Skype (www.skype.com) or Vonage (www.vonage.com), which allow you to make free international calls from your laptop or in a cybercafe. Neither service requires the people you're calling to also have that service (though there are fees if they do not).
Internet & Wi-Fi
Nearly all major hotels have free Wi-Fi in their lobbies, as do many cafes and all Starbucks (there's one in the French Quarter in the Canal Place Mall, 365 Canal St.; tel. 504/566-1223). The vast majority of hotels also offer some form of in-room Internet access, usually high speed, often wireless. A few include the cost in the room charge, but most add a usage fee between $5 and $15 daily. Most larger hotels have business centers with computers for rent.
To find public Wi-Fi hot spots, try www.jiwire.com; its Hotspot Finder holds the world's largest directory of public wireless hot spots. It may be nearly as easy to boot up and see what signals you get; or walk down any commercial street and look for "Free Wi-Fi" signs. It's a pretty well-wired city.
The Riverside Internet Café in the Riverwalk mall (tel. 504/299-1945) has rental computers, as does the Krystal Burger at 116 Bourbon St. (available 24 hr.; $5 for 20 min.).
FedEx Offices with fully loaded rental computer stations with Internet can be found at 555 Canal St. (tel. 504/654-1057) and 762 St. Charles Ave. (tel. 504/581-2541). Louis Armstrong Airport has Internet kiosks that provide basic Web access for a per-minute fee that's usually higher than cybercafe prices. To find other cybercafes, check www.cybercaptive.com and www.cybercafe.com.