Many convenience groceries and packaging services sell prepaid calling cards in denominations up to $50. Many public pay phones at airports now accept American Express, MasterCard, and Visa. Local calls made from most pay phones 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, 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 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 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 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.
Just because your cellphone works at home doesn't mean it'll work everywhere in the U.S. (thanks to the fragmented cellphone system in the United States). If you live in the U.S., it's a good bet that your phone will work in Arizona's major cities, but take a look at your wireless company's coverage map on its website before heading out; T-Mobile, Sprint, and Nextel are particularly weak in rural areas. (To see where GSM phones work in the U.S., check out www.t-mobile.com/coverage.) If you're visiting from another country, be sure to find out about international calling rates and roaming charges before using your phone in the United States. You could ring up a huge phone bill with just a few calls.
Options for staying connected in the U.S. include renting a mobile phone from a company such as Roberts Rent-A-Phone (tel. 800/964-2468; www.roberts-rent-a-phone.com). However, you can also buy an inexpensive phone and prepaid minutes from such companies as TracFone (www.tracfone.com). These phones are readily available in such stores as Walmart and Target and usually cost less than $20. Prepaid minutes might cost $20 for 60 minutes, though double-minute plans can lower this cost. Another alternative if you are traveling with your laptop computer or have a smart phone is to install Skype (www.skype.com), a VoIP (voice over internet protocol) program/app that allows you to use your computer or smart phone as an internet-based telephone. Doing this allows you to call other Skype users at no charge.
Internet & Wi-Fi
As you might expect from a city that is home to both Microsoft and Amazon, Seattle is wired (and wireless) to the max. If you arrive by plane, you'll immediately find free Wi-Fi at Seattle Tacoma International Airport. Around the airport, you'll also find Internet-enabled phones that allow you to check email and access the Web. These phones charge 35¢ per minute with a $5 minimum. Almost all hotels in the city now offer Wi-Fi in guest rooms, although at the corporate business hotels, you will usually have to pay a daily fee for access. However, at some hotels that charge for access from the guest rooms, there is free Wi-Fi in the lobby. Likewise, espresso bars and cafes all over the city offer Wi-Fi. Among the cafes I frequent are Ancient Grounds, Bauhaus Books & Coffee, Cafe Allegro, Caffe Ladro, Caffé Vita, El Diablo Coffee Co., and Zeitgeist Art/Coffee. There are also computers available at the Seattle Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave. (tel. 206/386-4636; www.spl.org). For a listing of free Wi-Fi locations, visit www.wififreespot.com.
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.