Communications

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Communications

Phones

Los Cabos is on U.S. Mountain Time. The region has good telephone service, with pay phone booths along the streets and the Corridor, and wide cell-phone reception. Most phones have Touch-Tone (digital) circuitry. Phone numbers in Mexico change frequently; a recording may offer the new number, so it's useful to learn the Spanish words for numbers 1 through 9. Beware of pay phones and hotel-room phones with signs saying "Call Home" and other enticements. Some of these phone companies charge astronomical rates.

The country code for Mexico is 52. When calling a Mexico number from abroad, dial the country code and then the area code and local number. At this writing, the area code for all of Los Cabos is 624. All local numbers now have seven digits.

Calling Within Mexico

For local or long-distance calls, one option is to find a caseta de larga distancia, a telephone service usually operated out of a small business; look for the phone symbol on the door. Casetas have become less common as pay phones have begun to appear even in the smallest towns and increasing numbers of people have cell phones. Rates at casetas seem to vary widely, so shop around. Sometimes you can make collect calls from casetas, and sometimes you cannot, depending on the operator and possibly your degree of visible desperation. Casetas generally charge 50¢–$1.50 to place a collect call (some charge by the minute); it's usually better to call por cobrar (collect) from a pay phone.

Calling Outside Mexico

To make a call to the United States or Canada, dial 001 before the area code and number. For operator assistance in making an international call dial 090.

AT&T, MCI, and Sprint access codes make calling long-distance relatively convenient, but you may find the local access number blocked in many hotel rooms. First ask the hotel operator to connect you. If the hotel operator balks, ask for an international operator, or dial the international operator yourself. One way to improve your odds of getting connected to your long-distance carrier is to travel with more than one company's calling card (a hotel may block Sprint, for example, but not MCI). If all else fails, call from a pay phone.

Access Codes

AT&T Direct (800/331-0500. www.att.com.)

MCI WorldPhone (800/674-7000. www.mci.com.)

Sprint International Access (866/866-7509. www.sprint.com.)

Directory and Operator Assistance

Directory assistance in Mexico is 040 nationwide. For international assistance, dial 020 first for an international operator and most likely you'll get one who speaks English; indicate in which city, state, and country you require directory assistance and you will be connected with directory assistance there.

Mobile Phones

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, 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¢). Verizon offers very reasonable Mexican calling plans that can be added to your existing plan.

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.

There are now companies that rent cell phones (with or without SIM cards) for the duration of your trip. You get the phone, charger, and carrying case in the mail and return them in the mailer.

Contacts

Cellular Abroad (800/287-5072. www.cellularabroad.com.)

Daystar (877/820-7397. www.daystarwireless.com.)

Mobal (888/888-9162. www.mobalrental.com.)

Planet Fone (888/988-4777. www.planetfone.com.)

Public Phones

Occasionally you'll see traditional black, square pay phones with push buttons or dials; although they have a coin slot on top, local calls are free. However, these coin-only pay phones are usually broken. Newer pay phones have an unmarked slot for prepaid phone cards called Telmex cards. The cards are sold in 30-, 50-, or 100-peso denominations at newsstands or pharmacies. Credit is deleted from the Telmex card as you use it, and your balance is displayed on a small screen on the phone. Some phones have two unmarked slots, one for a Telmex card and the other for a credit card. These are primarily for Mexican bank cards, but some accept Visa or MasterCard.

Toll-Free Numbers

Toll-free numbers in Mexico start with an 800 prefix. To reach them, you need to dial 01 before the number. Most of the 800 numbers work in the United States only and are listed simply: 800/123-4567; you cannot access a U.S. 800 number from Mexico. Some U.S. toll-free numbers ring directly at Mexican properties. Don't be deterred if someone answers the phone in Spanish. Simply ask for someone who speaks English. Toll-free numbers that work in other countries are labeled accordingly.

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