Make sure your laptop is dual-voltage; most, but not all, 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. Electrical fluctuations and surges can short your adapter or even destroy your computer, so 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 a dedicated PC room or broadband and Wi-Fi services for Internet access.
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), and then 225-9846 (the number proper).
Calling Within Scotland
Cell phones are ubiquitous, but 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 10p). Sometimes phones have a "press on answer" (POA) button, which you press when the caller answers.
All calls are charged according to the time of day. Standard rate is weekdays 8 am to 6 pm; cheap rate is weekdays 6 pm to 8 am and all day on weekends, when it's even cheaper. A local call before 6 pm costs 15p, 30p from a pay phone for three minutes. A daytime call to the United States will cost 24p a minute on a regular phone (weekends are cheaper), 80p 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 the booth.
To call the operator, dial 100; directory inquiries (information), 118-500; international directory inquiries, 118-505.
In Scotland cellular-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.
Freephone (toll-free) numbers start with 0800 or 0808; national information numbers start with 0845. A word of warning: 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.
Calling Outside Scotland
The country code for the United States is 1.
To make international calls from Scotland, dial 00 + the country code + area code + number. For the international operator, credit card, or collect calls, dial 155.
AT&T Direct (0800/013-0011. www.att.com.)
MCI WorldPhone (0800/279-5088. www.consumer.mci.com.)
Sprint International Access (0808/234-6616. www.sprint.com.)
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, are composed of units of 20p, and come in values of £2, £5, £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.
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 buy; so much so that it's now cheaper to buy a new cell phone while abroad than it is to rent one. Rates run from as low as £20 a month for unlimited calls with a pay-as-you-go card.
Cellular Abroad (800/287-5072. www.cellularabroad.com.)
Mobal (888/888-9162. www.mobalrental.com.)
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