Many hotels now have in-room wireless Internet; ask about rates before you plug in. You will also find Internet terminals in airports and train stations in many cities and towns. Many hotels and public places have been turned into Wi-Fi (in Europe: WLAN) "hotspots." Usually you must pay a fee to log on, though some hotels will provide the service for free. The cost is generally high, at 5 SF for a half hour, 15 SF for three hours, or 25 SF for one full day's access. Unused portions of your time may only be stored for one week. Some cities provide Wi-Fi service for free.
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. 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. And then there are mobile phones, which are sometimes more prevalent—particularly in the developing world—than land lines; 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 Switzerland is 41. When dialing a Swiss number from abroad, drop the initial 0 from the local area code.
Calling Within Switzerland
Dial 1811 or 1818 for information within Switzerland (1.60 SF for the initial connection, 0.25 to 0.70 SF the first minute and around 0.20 SF thereafter) 24 hours a day. All telephone operators speak English, and instructions are printed in English in all telephone booths.
Dial the local area code (including the 0) when calling any local number.
There's direct dialing to everywhere in Switzerland. For local area codes, consult the pink pages, and for international country and city codes, consult the green-banded pages at the front of the telephone book. Include the area code preceded by 0 when dialing anywhere within Switzerland.
To make a local call on a pay phone, pick up the receiver, insert a phone card, and dial the number. A local call costs 0.50 SF plus 0.10 SF for each additional unit. Toll-free numbers begin with 0800. Swisscom phone cards are available in 5 SF, 10 SF, or 20 SF units; they're sold at post offices, train stations, airports, and kiosks. Slip a card into an adapted public phone, and a continual readout will tell you how much money is left on the card. The cost of the call will be counted against the card, with any remaining value still good for the next time you use it. If you drain the card and still need to talk, the readout will warn you: you can either pop in a new card or make up the difference with coins, although very few phones still accept coins. Many phone booths now also accept Visa, MasterCard, and American Express cards, but be sure to have a four-digit PIN code.
Calling Outside Switzerland
The country code is 1 for the United States and Canada, 61 for Australia, 64 for New Zealand, and 44 for the United Kingdom.
You can dial most international numbers direct from Switzerland, adding 00 before the country code. If you want a number that cannot be reached directly, or if you need an international phone number, dial 1811 or 1818 for a connection. It's cheapest to use the booths in train stations and post offices: calls made from your hotel cost a great deal more. For precise information on the cost of any call, dial 0800/868788. Current rates for calls to the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, Australia and New Zealand are 0.12 SF per minute weekdays and 0.10 SF per minute on weekends and Swiss holidays.
A variety of international phone cards in denominations of 10 to 50 SF are available in newspaper shops. They often offer the cheapest rates. You can use the code on the card until you run out of units.
If you have a multiband phone (some countries use different frequencies than what are 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, 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. 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.
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.
Cellular phones (natels) may be rented at either the Geneva or Zürich airport from Rent@phone. You can arrange for a rental on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. The Rent@phone desks are clearly indicated in each airport.
Cellular Abroad (800/287-5072. www.cellularabroad.com.)
Mobal (888/888-9162. www.mobal.com.)
Planet Fone (888/988-4777. www.planetfone.com.)
Rentaphone (044/5050130. www.rentaphone.ch.)
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