Discover America Radio

Communication and Media

Internet Access

Travellers will have few problems staying connected. Most hotels and some motels have either a public computer terminal or wi-fi (sometimes free), and even the small towns usually have one coffee shop, internet café, library or hotel with wi-fi. If you’re not from the U.S., remember that you will need an AC adapter for your laptop, plus a plug adapter for U.S. sockets.



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Includes content provided by Lonely Planet. The views expressed in Lonely Planet content are those of Lonely Planet, told without fear or favour. This information is as accurate as possible, but it is provided ‘as is’ and we accept no responsibility for loss, injury or inconvenience resulting from this information. You should verify critical information (like visas, health and safety) before you travel.

©2012 Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd. All rights reserved. 

Post

For 24-hour postal information contact the U.S. Postal Service, which is reliable and inexpensive.

For sending urgent or important letters and packages either domestically or overseas, Federal Express and United Parcel Service offer more-expensive door-to-door delivery services.

Postal rates for first-class mail within the USA are 45¢ for letters weighing up to 1oz (20¢ for each additional ounce) and 32¢ for postcards. First-class mail goes up to 13oz, and then priority-mail rates apply.

International airmail rates (except to Canada and Mexico) are 98¢ for a 1oz letter or a postcard; to Canada and Mexico it’s 80¢.

If you have the correct postage, you can drop mail weighing less than 13oz into any blue mailbox (postbox). To send a package weighing 13oz or more, go to a post office.

Poste-restante mail can usually be sent to you c/o General Delivery at any post office that has its own zip code. Domestic mail is usually held for 10 days and international mail for 30 days before it’s returned to the sender. You’ll need photo ID to collect mail.



Lonely Planet logo

Includes content provided by Lonely Planet. The views expressed in Lonely Planet content are those of Lonely Planet, told without fear or favour. This information is as accurate as possible, but it is provided ‘as is’ and we accept no responsibility for loss, injury or inconvenience resulting from this information. You should verify critical information (like visas, health and safety) before you travel.

©2012 Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd. All rights reserved. 

Telephone

The U.S. phone system comprises regional service providers, competing long-distance carriers and several mobile-phone and pay-phone companies.

Cell Phones
In the USA, cell phones use GSM 1900 or CDMA 800, operating on different frequencies from other systems around the world. The only foreign phones that will work in the USA are GSM tri- or quad-band models. If you have one of these phones, check with your service provider about using it in the USA. Ask if roaming charges apply, as these will turn even local U.S. calls into pricey international calls.

It might be cheaper to buy a compatible prepaid SIM card for the USA, like those sold by AT&T or Cingular, which you can insert into your international mobile phone to get a local phone number and voicemail. Planet Omni and Telestial offer these services, as well as cell phone rentals.

If you don’t have a compatible phone, you can buy inexpensive, no-contract (prepaid) phones with a local number and a set number of minutes, which can be topped up at will. Virgin Mobile, T-Mobile, AT&T and other providers offer phones starting at $15, with a package of minutes starting around $40 for 400 minutes.

Huge swathes of rural America, including many national parks and recreation areas, don’t pick up a signal. Check your provider’s coverage map.

Dialling Codes
All phone numbers within the USA consist of a three-digit area code, followed by a seven-digit local number. Typically, if you are calling a number within the same area code, you only have to dial the seven-digit number; however, some places now require you to dial the entire 10-digit number even for a local call. If dialling the seven-digit number doesn’t work, try all 10.

If you are calling long distance, dial 1 plus the area code plus the phone number. If you’re not sure whether the number is local or long distance (new area codes are added all the time, confusing even residents), try one way, and if it’s wrong, usually a recorded voice will correct you.

Toll-free numbers begin with 800, 888, 877 and 866 and when dialling, are preceded by 1. Most can only be used within the USA, some only within the state, and some only from outside the state. You won’t know until you try dialling. The 900- series of area codes and a few other prefixes are for calls charged at a premium per-minute rate – phone sex, horoscopes, jokes etc.

1 is the international country code for the USA if calling from abroad (the same as Canada, but international rates apply between the two countries).

011 to make an international call from the USA (followed by country code, area code and phone number)

00 for assistance making international calls

411 directory assistance nationwide

800-555-1212 directory assistance for toll-free numbers

Pay Phones
Local calls at pay phones that work (listen for a dialling tone before inserting coins) cost 35¢ to 50¢ for the first few minutes; talking longer costs more. Only put in the exact amount because pay phones don’t give change. Some pay phones (e.g. in national parks) only accept credit cards or prepaid phone cards. Local calls from pay phones get expensive quickly, while long-distance calls can be prohibitive, especially if you use the operator (0) to facilitate long-distance or collect (reverse-charge) calls. It’s usually cheaper to use a prepaid phone card or the access line of a major carrier like AT&T.

Phone Cards
Prepaid phone cards are a good solution for travellers on a budget. Read the fine print, as many cards contain hidden charges such as ‘activation fees’ or per-call ‘connection fees’ in addition to the rates.



Lonely Planet logo

Includes content provided by Lonely Planet. The views expressed in Lonely Planet content are those of Lonely Planet, told without fear or favour. This information is as accurate as possible, but it is provided ‘as is’ and we accept no responsibility for loss, injury or inconvenience resulting from this information. You should verify critical information (like visas, health and safety) before you travel.

©2012 Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd. All rights reserved. 

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