Within the District of Columbia, the area code is 202. In Northern Virginia it's 703, and in D.C.’s Maryland suburbs, the area code is 301. You must use the area code when dialing a phone number, whether it’s a local 202, 703, or 301 phone number.
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 (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 reverse-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.
AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile are the primary cellphone networks operating in Washington, D.C., so there’s a good chance you’ll have full and excellent coverage anywhere in the city. International visitors should check their GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) wireless network to see where GSM phones and text messaging work in the U.S.
You can rent a phone before you leave home from InTouch USA (www.intouchusa.us; tel. 800/872-7626 in the U.S., or 703/222-7161 outside the U.S.). You can purchase a pay-as-you-go phone from all sorts of places, from Amazon to any Verizon Wireless store. In D.C., Verizon has a store at Union Station (tel. 202/682-9475) and another at 1314 F St. NW (tel. 202/624-0072), to name just two convenient locations.
If you have Web access while traveling, consider a broadband-based telephone service 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). Also look into Google's phone calling option, www.google.com/voice, which allows free calls in the U.S. and charges varying rates for calls to destinations outside the U.S. Check the websites for details.
Internet and Wi-Fi
More and more hotels, resorts, airports, cafes, and retailers are offering free Wi-Fi. Likewise, all three D.C. airports offer complimentary Wi-Fi. All D.C. hotels listed in this guide offer Internet access, and most offer it for free. Or, you could just head to your corner Starbucks, which has offered Wi-Fi service with its lattes for quite some time.
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.