Communications

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TRAVEL TIPS

Communications

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All newer laptops operate equally well on 110 and 220 volts and so require only an adapter. Never plug your computer into any socket without first asking about surge protection: although Scotland is computer-friendly, few hotels and B&Bs outside the major cities have built-in current stabilizers. It's worthwhile to purchase a surge protector in the United Kingdom that plugs into the socket.

All hotels and many B&Bs have facilities for computer users, such as dedicated computer rooms and wired or wireless connections for Internet access. Most cafés offer free Wi-Fi access.

Phones

The good news is that you can now make a direct-dial telephone call from virtually any point on Earth. The bad news? You can't always do so cheaply. Calling from a hotel is almost always the most expensive option; hotels usually add huge surcharges to all calls, particularly international ones.

When you're calling anywhere in Great Britain from the United States, the country code is 44. When dialing a Scottish or British number from abroad, drop the initial 0 from the local area code. For instance, if you're calling Edinburgh Castle from New York City, dial 011 (the international code), 44 (the Great Britain country code), 131 (the Edinburgh city code without the initial 0), and then 225–9846 (the number proper).

Calling Within Scotland

There are three types of public pay phones: those that accept only coins, those that accept only phone cards, and those that take British Telecom (BT) phone cards and credit cards. For coin-only phones, insert coins before dialing (minimum charge is 60p). Sometimes phones have a "press on answer" (POA) button, which you press when the caller answers.

Calls from residential phones are charged according to the time of day: evenings, nighttime, and weekend rates are cheaper. Daytime rates—weekdays 7 am–7 pm—are 4p per minute for a local call and 8p for a national call. A minimum fee of 60p (including a 40p connection charge) applies to calls from BT public payphones, which will purchase two 10p units of time. Thereafter call time is purchased in 10p units. This excludes calls to free phone services. A daytime call to the United States will cost 24p a minute on a regular phone (evenings 7 pm–7 am, and weekends are a few pence cheaper), and £2 a minute on a pay phone.

To call a number with the same area code as the number from which you are dialing, omit the area-code digits when you dial. For long-distance calls within Britain, dial the area code (which usually begins with 01), followed by the telephone number. In provincial areas the dialing codes for nearby towns are often posted in phone booths.

To call the operator, dial 100; directory inquiries (information), 118–500; international directory inquiries, 118–505.

In Scotland cell phone numbers, the 0800 toll-free code, and local-rate 0345 numbers do not have a 1 after the initial 0, nor do many premium-rate numbers, for example 0891, and special-rate numbers, for example 08705.

Numbers that start with 0800, 0808, or national information numbers that start with 0345 and 0845 are free when called from a U.K. BT landline: other telephone line providers like Virgin charge other rates, and they cost anywhere from 15p to £1 a minute when called from a cellular phone. Additionally, 0870 numbers are not toll-free numbers; in fact, numbers beginning with 0871 or the 0900 prefix are premium-rate numbers, and it costs extra to call them. The amount varies and is usually relatively small when dialed from within the country but can be excessive when dialed from outside the United Kingdom. Many businesses, especially those offering low-cost services (such as Ryanair or Megabus) communicate with customers via their websites. If they do have a customer services phone number, it’s costly to use it. There are some handy cellphone Android/iPhone Apps (including weq4u.co.uk) that help you save money on premium rate number calls.

Calling Outside Scotland

The country code for the United States is 1.

To make international calls from Scotland, dial 00 for international access, then the country code, area code, and number. For the international operator, credit card, or collect calls, dial 155.

Access Codes

AT&T Direct. 0800/331–0500; www.att.com.

MCI WorldPhone. 0800/955–0925; consumer.mci.com.

Sprint International Access. 0808/234–6616 ; www.sprint.com.

Calling Cards

You can purchase BT (British Telecom) phone cards for use on public phones from shops, post offices, and newsstands. They're ideal for longer calls and come in values of £10 and £20. An indicator panel on the phone shows the number of units you've used; at the end of your call the card is returned. Where credit cards are taken, slide the card through, as indicated. Beware of buying cards that require you to dial a free phone number; some of these are not legitimate. It's better to get a BT card.

Mobile Phones

If you have a multiband phone (some countries use different frequencies than what's used in the United States) and your service provider uses the world-standard GSM network (as do T-Mobile, Cingular, and Verizon), you can probably use your phone abroad. Roaming fees can be steep, however: 99¢ a minute is considered reasonable. And overseas you normally pay the toll charges for incoming calls. It's almost always cheaper to send a text message than to make a call, since text messages have a very low set fee (often less than 5¢).

If you just want to make local calls, consider buying a new SIM card (note that your provider may have to unlock your phone for you to use a different SIM card) and a prepaid-service plan in the destination. You'll then have a local number and can make local calls at local rates.

Cell phones are getting less and less expensive to purchase. Rather than renting one, it may be cheaper to buy one to use while you're abroad. Rates run from as low as £20 a month for unlimited calls with a pay-as-you-go card.

Contacts

Cellular Abroad. 800/287–5072; www.cellularabroad.com.

Mobal. 888/888–9162; www.mobalrental.com.

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