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Inexpensive Internet access is widely available in Buenos Aires. Top-end hotels tend to have high-speed in-room data ports, while budget establishments often have free Wi-Fi. Many hotels have a PC in the lobby for guests to use.
If you're traveling without a laptop, look for a ciber (Internet café) or locutorios (telephone and Internet centers). Expect to pay between 3 and 6 pesos per hour to surf the Web. Broadband connections are common.
In Buenos Aires many bars and restaurants have free Wi-Fi—look out for stickers on their windows. In general, these are open networks and you don't need to ask for a password to use them. You can also find Wi-Fi in many hotel lobbies, libraries, business and event centers, some airports, and in public spaces—piggybacking is common practice.
The country code for Argentina is 54. To call landlines in Argentina from the United States, dial the international access code (011) followed by the country code (54), the two- to four-digit area code without the initial 0, then the five- to nine-digit phone number. For example, to call the Buenos Aires number 011/4123-4567, you would dial 011-54-11-4123-4567.
Any number that is prefixed by a 15 is a cell phone number. To call cell phones from the United States, dial the international access code (011) followed by the country code (54), Argentina's cell-phone code (9), the area code without the initial 0, then the seven- or eight-digit cell phone number without the initial 15. For example, to call the Buenos Aires cell phone (011) 15/5123–4567, you would dial 011–54–9–11–5123–4567.
Argentina's phone service is run by the duopoly of Telecom and Telefónica. Telecom does the northern half of Argentina (including the northern half of the city of Buenos Aires) and Telefónica does the south. However, both companies operate public phones and phone centers throughout Argentina, called locutorios or telecentros.
Service is efficient, and direct dialing—both long-distance and international—is universal. You can make local and long-distance calls from your hotel (usually with a surcharge) and from any public phone or locutorio. Public phones aren't abundant, and are often broken; all accept coins. Phone cards can be used from both public and private phones by calling a free access number and entering the card code number.
At locutorios, ask the receptionist for una cabina (a booth), make as many local, long-distance, or international calls as you like (a small LCD display tracks how much you've spent), then pay as you leave. There's no charge if you don't get through. Note that many locutorios don't allow you to call free numbers, so you can't use prepaid calling cards from them.
All of Argentina's area codes are prefixed with a 0, which you need to include when dialing another area within Argentina. You don't need to dial the area code to call a local number. Confusingly, area codes and phone numbers don't all have the same number of digits. The area code for Buenos Aires is 011, and phone numbers have 8 digits. Area codes for the rest of the country have three or four digits, and start with 02 (the southern provinces) or 03 (the northern provinces); phone numbers have six or seven digits.
For local directory assistance (in Spanish), dial 110. Local calls cost 23¢ for two minutes at peak time (weekdays 8–8 and Saturday 8–1) or four minutes the rest of the time. Long-distance calls cost 57¢ per ficha (unit)—the farther the distance, the less time each unit lasts. For example, 57¢ lasts about two minutes to places less than 55 km (35 mi) away, but only half a minute to somewhere more than 250 km (155 mi) away.
To make international calls from Argentina, dial 00, then the country code, area code, and number. The country code for the United States is 1.
You can use prepaid calling cards (tarjetas prepagas) to make local and international calls from public phones, but not locutorios. All cards come with a scratch-off panel, which reveals a PIN. You dial a free access number, the PIN, and the number you wish to call.
Many kioscos (convenience stores) and small supermarkets sell a variety of prepaid calling cards from different companies: specify it's for llamadas internacionales (international calls), and compare each card's per-minute rates to the country you want to call. Many cost as little as 9¢ per minute for calls to the United States. Telecom and Telefónica also sell prepaid 5-, 10-, and 20-peso calling cards from kioscos and locutorios. They're called Tarjeta Países and GeoDestino, respectively. Calls to the United States cost 19¢ per minute using both.
Telecom (800/888–0110. www.telecom.com.ar.)
Telefónica (800/333–4004. www.telefonica.com.ar.)
All cell phones are GSM 850/1900 Mhz. If you have an unlocked dual-band GSM phone from North America and intend to call local numbers, buy a prepaid Argentinian SIM card on arrival—rates will be cheaper than using your U.S. network or than renting a phone. Alternatively, you can buy a basic pay-as-you-go handset and SIM card (tarjeta SIM) for around 180 pesos.
Cell numbers here use a local area code, then the cell phone prefix (15), then a seven- or eight-digit number. To call a cell in the same area as you, dial 15 and the number. To call a cell in a different area, dial the area code, including the initial 0, then 15, then the number.
Local cell charges depend on things like the company and time of day, but most cost between 50¢ and 90¢ per minute. If you call from a pay phone, the recipient is charged.
There are three main mobile phone companies in Argentina: Movistar (owned by Telefónica), Claro, and Personal. Their prices are similar, but Claro is said to have better coverage, Movistar has the most users, and Personal is the least popular service, so cards can be harder to find. You pay only for outgoing calls, which cost between 50¢ and 1 peso a minute. You can buy an SIM card from any of the companies' outlets. Top up credit by purchasing pay-as-you-go cards (tarjetas de celular), available from kioscos, locutorios, supermarkets, and gas stations or by carga virtual (virtual top-ups) at locutorios, where sales clerks add credit to your line while you wait. Cellular phones can be rented at the airport from Phonerental. A basic handset is free for the first week and costs 20 pesos a week thereafter. Outgoing local calls cost 72¢, but you pay 60¢ per minute to receive both local and international calls.
Claro (800/1232-5276. www.claro.com.ar.)
Movistar (11/5321–1111. www.movistar.com.ar.)
Personal (800/444–0800. www.personal.com.ar.)