The telephone system is entirely automatic and connects the entire country. Helpful numbers to know are tel. 111 for directory assistance, tel. 120 for tourist information and snow reports, tel. 140 for help on the road, tel. 162 for weather forecasts, and tel. 163 for up-to-the-minute information on road conditions. Hotels add substantial service charges for calls made from your room; it's considerably less expensive to make calls from a public phone booth.
To use an old-fashioned coin-operated telephone, lift the receiver and insert 40 centimes to get a dial tone. Be sure to have enough coins on hand, as you must insert more for each message unit over your initial deposit. If you insert more coins than necessary, the excess amounts will be returned. A pay phone will accept up to 5F.
To make a local call, dial directly after you hear the dial tone (no area code needed); for other places in Switzerland, dial the area code and then the number. To call a foreign country, dial the code of the country first, then the area code, and then the number.
To call Switzerland:
1. Dial the international access code: 011 from the U.S.; 00 from the U.K., Ireland, or New Zealand; or 0011 from Australia.
2. Dial the country code: 41.
3. Dial the city code, dropping the zero, and then the number.
To make international calls: To make international calls from Switzerland, first dial 00 and then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Ireland 353, Australia 61, New Zealand 64). Next you dial the area code and number. For example, if you wanted to call the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., you would dial 00-1-202-588-7800.
For directory assistance: Dial 111 if you're looking for a number inside Switzerland country, and dial 1159 for numbers to all other countries.
For operator assistance: If you need operator assistance in making a call, dial 111.
Toll-free numbers: Numbers beginning with 0800 within Switzerland are toll-free, but calling a 1-800 number in the States from Switzerland is not toll-free. In fact, it costs the same as an overseas call.
The three letters that define much of the world's wireless capabilities are GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), a big, seamless network that makes for easy cross-border cellphone use throughout Europe and dozens of other countries worldwide. In the U.S., T-Mobile, and AT&T Wireless use this quasi-universal system; in Canada, Microcell and some Rogers customers are GSM, and most Australians use GSM. GSM phones function with a removable plastic SIM card, encoded with your phone number and account information. If your cellphone is on a GSM system, and you have a world-capable multiband phone such as many Sony Ericsson, Motorola, or Samsung models, you can make and receive calls across civilized areas around much of the globe. Just call your wireless operator and ask for "international roaming" to be activated on your account. Unfortunately, per-minute charges can be high -- usually $1 to $1.50 in western Europe and up to $5 in places like Russia and Indonesia.
For many, renting a phone is a good idea. While you can rent a phone from any number of overseas sites, including kiosks at airports and at car-rental agencies, we suggest renting the phone before you leave home. North Americans can rent one before leaving home from InTouch USA (tel. 800/872-7626; www.intouchglobal.com) or RoadPost (tel. 888/290-1616 or 905/272-5665; www.roadpost.com). InTouch will also, for free, advise you on whether your existing phone will work overseas. The major gateways to Switzerland are either Geneva or Zurich. At the airport in either city, you can rent cellphones from Rent@phone, whose desks are clearly indicated with signs. To contact Rent@phone in Geneva, call tel. 022/717-82-63; in Zurich, tel. 043/816-50-63. You can also log onto www.rentaphone.ch.
Buying a phone can be economically attractive, as many nations have cheap prepaid phone systems. Once you arrive at your destination, stop by a local cellphone shop and get the cheapest package; you'll probably pay less than $100 for a phone and a starter calling card. Local calls may be as low as 10¢ per minute, and in many countries, including Switzerland and Liechtenstein, incoming calls are free.
Internet & Wi-Fi
To find cybercafes in your destination, check www.cybercaptive.com and www.cybercafe.com.
Most major 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 FedEx Office (http://fedex.kinkos.com/fpfk/index.php), which offers computer stations with fully loaded software (as well as Wi-Fi).
To find public Wi-Fi hotspots at your destination, go to www.jiwire.com; its Wi-Fi Finder holds one of the world's largest directories of public wireless hotspots.
For dial-up access, most business-class hotels throughout the world offer dataports for laptop modems, and a few thousand hotels in 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.