Communications

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Communications

Internet

As in most North American cities, Internet cafés and Wi-Fi service can be found throughout Vancouver and Victoria. Most hotels and B&Bs also have Internet connections; many of the larger properties have Wi-Fi, which is usually free. It's harder to find Internet cafés in smaller towns in the Okanagan, Tofino, and Ucluelet, but many lodgings have some kind of connection that you can use. Internet and Wi-Fi access are available free at all 22 branches of the Vancouver Public Library. Internet cafés throughout the city charge about C$3 per half hour.

Contacts

Cybercafés. Cybercafes lists over 4,000 Internet cafés worldwide. www.cybercafes.com.

Vancouver Public Library (350 W. Georgia St., Downtown, Vancouver, BC, V6B 6B2. 604/331–3603. www.vpl.vancouver.bc.ca.)

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. In some countries you can phone from call centers or even the post office. Calling cards help keep costs to a minimum, but only if you purchase them locally. And as expensive as mobile phone calls can be, they are still usually a much cheaper option than calling from your hotel.

Calling Within Canada

Vancouver uses 10-digit calling for local calls (e.g., 604/555-1212). The city's area codes are 604 and 778. Whistler and the Sunshine Coast also use a 604 area code, and for the rest of British Columbia, including Victoria and Vancouver Island, it's 250. Pay phones are easy to find, and new ones accept credit cards and prepaid calling cards. Dial 411 for directory assistance, 0 to reach an operator, and 911 for emergencies. All long-distance calls, including calls to the United States, must be prefixed with a 1.

Calling Outside Canada

The country code for the United States is 1.

Mobile Phones

If you have a multiband phone (some countries use different frequencies from those 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 really 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 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.

To avoid roaming charges, you can rent a cell phone in Vancouver. Cita Communications, at the Visitor Information Centre at the Vancouver International Airport international and domestic terminals, offers cell-phone rentals for C$4.99 a day, with local calls costing C$0.49 a minute, and SIM cards for $1 a day with calls costing C$0.35 a minute. Alternatively, cell-phone stores abound throughout downtown Vancouver.

Contacts

Cellular Abroad. Cellular Abroad rents and sells GMS phones and sells SIM cards that work in many countries. 800/287–5072. www.cellularabroad.com.

Cita Communications (604/671–4655 or 888/593–2482. www.cita.info.)

Mobal. Mobal rents mobiles and sells GSM phones (starting at $49; $99 for a phone that works in North America) that will operate in 150 countries. Per-call rates vary, but are typically more than $1 per minute. 888/888–9162. www.mobalrental.com.

Planet Fone. Planet Fone rents cell phones, but the per-minute rates are expensive. 888/988–4777. www.planetfone.com.

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