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Internet

Nearly all hotels have Wi-Fi but the service is not always free. Sometimes you must purchase blocks of time from the front desk or online using a credit card. The cost can be high. Some hotels have an Internet room for guests needing to check their email. Otherwise, Internet cafés are common, and many coffee shops and restaurants let you use Wi-Fi if you make a purchase.

Phones

The good news is that you can make a direct-dial telephone call from Germany to 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. In some countries you can phone from call centers or even the post office. Calling cards usually keep costs to a minimum, but only if you purchase them locally. Because most Germans own mobile phones, finding a telephone booth is becoming increasingly difficult. As expensive as mobile phone calls can be, they are still usually a much cheaper option than calling from your hotel.

The country code for Germany is 49. When dialing a German number from abroad, drop the initial "0" from the local area code.

Many companies have service lines beginning with 0180. The cost of these calls averages €0.12 per minute. Numbers that begin with 0190 can cost €1.85 per minute and more. Free service numbers start with 0800.

Calling Within Germany

The German telephone system is very efficient, so it's unlikely you'll have to use an operator unless you're seeking information. For information in English, dial 11837 for numbers within Germany and 11834 for numbers elsewhere. But first look for the number in the phone book or online (www.teleauskunft.de), because directory assistance is costly. Calls to 11837 and 11834 cost at least €0.50, more if the call lasts more than 30 seconds.

A local call from a telephone booth costs €0.10 per minute. Dial the "0" before the area code when making a long-distance call within Germany. When dialing within a local area code, drop the "0" and the area code.

Telephone booths are no longer a common feature on the streets, so be prepared to walk out of your way to find one. Phone booths have instructions in English as well as German. Most telephone booths in Germany are card-operated, so buy a phone card. Coin-operated phones, which take €0.10, €0.20, €0.50, €1, and €2 coins, don't make change.

Calling Outside Germany

The country code for the United States is 1. As for all international calls from Europe, you need to dial "00" before the country code. If you dial a number for anouther European city from Germany, the "0" from the local area code is usually dropped.

International calls can be made from any telephone booth in Germany. It costs only €0.13 per minute to call the United States, day or night, no matter how long the call lasts. Use a phone card. If you don't have a good deal with a calling card, there are many stores that offer international calls at rates well below what you will pay from a phone booth. At a hotel, rates will be at least double the regular charge.

Access Codes

AT&T Direct. 0800/225–5288.

MCI WorldPhone. 0800/955--0925.

Sprint International Access. 0800/888–0013.

Calling Cards

Post offices, newsstands, and money exchange places sell cards with €5, €10, or €20 worth of credit to use at public pay phones. An advantage of a card: it charges only what the call costs. A €5 card with a good rate for calls to the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada is Go Bananas!

Mobile Phones

You can buy an inexpensive unlocked mobile phone and a SIM card at almost every corner shop and even at the supermarket. All shops require identification to purchase a SIM card. This is the best option if you just want to make local calls. If you bring a phone from abroad, your provider may have to unlock it 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. If your trip is extensive, you could also simply buy a new cell phone in your destination, as the initial cost will be offset over time.

Many prepaid plans, like Blau World, offer calling plans to the United States and other countries, starting at €0.03 per minute. Many Germans use these SIM cards to call abroad, as the rates are much cheaper than from land lines.

If you have a multiband phone (some countries use different frequencies from what's used in the United States) and your service provider uses the world-standard GSM network (as do T-Mobile, AT&T, 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, because text messages have a very low set fee (often less than 5¢).

Cellular Abroad rents and sells GMS phones and sells SIM cards that work in many countries. Mobal rents mobiles and sells GSM phones (starting at $49) that will operate in 140 countries. Planet Fone rents cell phones, but the per-minute rates are expensive.

If you travel internationally frequently, save one of your old mobile phones or buy a cheap one on the Internet; ask your cell phone company to unlock it for you, and take it with you as a travel phone, buying a new SIM card with pay-as-you-go service in each destination.

Contacts

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

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

Planet Fone. 888/988–4777; www.planetfone.com.