U.S. telephone numbers have a fixed format XXX-YYY-ZZZZ. The first three digits (XXX) are the area code, which can usually be omitted when dialing from the same area. However, in large cities with multiple area codes, the area code may be required regardless. It no longer automatically implies a long distance call. The second three digits (YYY), called the "prefix" or "exchange," refer to the town or a section of a city and are always required (sometimes can mean the difference between a local call and long distance); the final four digits are unique to each phone within the exchange. You must usually dial "1" before the area code. Calls to Canada and certain Caribbean islands can be dialed as if they were in the U.S. (Caution: some Caribbean islands are expensive); calls to other locations require an international access code (011). At some locations (businesses and hotels with internal phone systems), you will need to dial an access code (usually "8" or "9") to reach an outside line before dialing the number.
Numbers with the area code 800, 888, 877, or 866 are toll free within the U.S. Outside the U.S. dial 880, 881, 882, and 883 respectively, but won't be toll free. The area code 900 is used for services with additional charges applied to the call (e.g. "adult entertainment"). Also, applies to prefix (no area code) 976.
Most visitor areas and some restaurants and bars have books with two listings of telephone numbers (often split into two books): the "white pages", for an alphabetical listing; and the "yellow pages", an advertising-filled listing of business and service establishments by category (e.g. "Taxicabs"). Directory information can also be obtained by dialing 411 (for local numbers) or 1-area-code-555-1212 (for other areas). In case 411 doesn't work locally, try 555-1212 or 1-555-1212. Directory information is normally an extra cost call. These phone numbers are also available online at each regional telephone company's web site (AT&T, Verizon, Bell South, and Quest). Although each claims to have all the local phone numbers of the others, using the site of the region you are searching for yields the best results (i.e. AT&T for most of California, Verizon for the Northeast, etc.) Beware, many residential land-line phones and all cellular (mobile) phones are unlisted. This is especially true of land lines in California and urban areas of Nevada.
Prior to the popularity of personal cell phones, pay phones were ubiquitous on sidewalks all over the United States, and commonplace in other places such as service stations (for gas/petrol). Today, however, many phone companies have removed them or have increased their charges substantially. You will probably have to enter a store or restaurant to find one, though some are against the outer wall of such businesses, usually in front.
Long-distance telephone calling cards are available at most convenience stores. Most calling cards have specific destinations in mind (domestic calls, calls to particular countries), so make sure you get the right card. Some cards may be refilled by phoning a number and giving your Visa/Mastercard number, but often operators refuse foreign cards for this purpose.
American mobile phones (known as cell phones regardless of the technology used) are not very compatible with those elsewhere. While GSM has been gaining popularity, the U.S. uses the unusual 1900 and 850 MHz frequencies; check with your operator or mobile phone dealer to see if your phone is a tri-band or quad-band model that will work here. The two largest GSM network operators are T-Mobile USA and Cingular. Roaming fees are high and text messages may not always work due to compatibility issues between networks. Alternatives to using your own phone include renting one (most larger airports have a shop, with rental fees starting at $3/day) or buying a cheap local prepaid phone. Be aware, however, that prepaid mobiles in the U.S. are not nearly as common as in Europe; fees for prepaid service are generally high.
Over 76% of Americans have Internet access, mostly in their homes and offices. Internet cafes, therefore, are not common outside of major metropolitan areas. Even within major cities, Internet cafes are rarer than in their European counterparts. However, public-access computers with Internet can often be found in libraries and in high schools, colleges, and universities (though you should always ask first).
If you bring your own computer,
If you don't bring a computer, you can access the internet by: