To support this site, please buy your goods at:
The Amazon Store
Shop in your shorts!
Shopping easy at
BlackBerry Bold 9000 Unlocked Phone with 2 MP Camera, 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS, and MicroSD Slot--International Version with Warranty (Black)
BlackBerry Pearl 8100 Unlocked Phone with Quad-Band GSM,GPRS, EDGE, 1 MP Camera, Camcorder and bluetooth v2.0 compatible--International Version with No Warranty
If you are moving to Europe bring a combo fax, printer, scanner, copier. I have this one. It works great.
Dual voltage 100 to 240 and 50 to 60 Hz.
HP Officejet J6480 All-in-One Printer
Copier, Scanner, Fax
A great little computer for travelers. For email and Skype phone this netbook computer will serve you well.
ASUS Eee PC
links in this green field take you directly to a page at Amazon.com.
That page details the item, and in some cases includes candid and critical comments
from others who have bought the item.
Amazon.com pays my site a
small commission when you click and order an item, if you put it in your shopping
cart within 24 hours based on the cookie they set on your computer. If you don't
want to make a quick decision just put it in your shopping cart, think it over,
and come back later. You benefit when buying here because Amazon.com
has a 20% to 30% discount on many items plus a free shipping
deal. The third bonus is that there is no sales tax on internet purchases in
most states. Delivery is fast
even when it is free, and returns are easy if you are not happy with the product.
You win we win. Thanks for your support!!
Have a good trip in life,
Note: Italicized notations by the author.
Rolling luggage sure beats lugging a pack on your back.
Delsey Luggage Helium Fusion Light 21 Inches Expandable Carryon
Day luggage for your walkabout.
Samsonite Lightweight 17" Tote Bag
A rugged travel combo.
McKleinUSA Buckingham Tech-Lite Ballistic Nylon Executive Travel Combo
Keep your stuff organized.
Luggage Packing Cubes
eBags 3pc Set
Wear a money belt under your shirt to protect your passport and valuables, especially if you are staying in hostels or dorms.
Victorinox Deluxe Concealed Security Belt
An RFID blocking wallet protects your passport and credit cards from identity theft in public places.
Travelon RFID Blocking Passport Case
This portable combo door stopper and alarm will give you additional security in your hotel room.
GE 50246 Smart Home
Door Stop Alarm
This is my everyday footwear, except in a storm.
Birkenstock Arizona Sandal
Just as comfortable as tennies and they look sharp.
' ' ' ' ' '
It rains. Be prepared.
Totes Titanium Auto-Open/Close Umbrella
Weather protection is important. This is a great lightweight water repellent windbreaker.
Turfer Women's Featherweight Jacket
Look sharp and be comfortable.
Eddie Bauer Basic Long-Sleeve Turtleneck
London Fog Women's Double Breasted Trench Coat
Clarks Women's Wave.Run Slip-On
Tilley Endurables TH9 Women's Hemp Hat
I wore one similar to this on my early spring trip to London and Dublin.
Leather Bomber Jacket
This is my "standard" shirt for most of the year in Europe.
Men's Combed Cotton Euro Design Ski Turtleneck
My favorite T-shirt/undershirt has a pocket for securely carrying passport, cash, and credit cards.
Turfer Tagless ComfortSoft T-Shirt with Pocket
Wool Blend Ivy Cap
To relax and sleep on the plane. This is a natural herb, not a drug.
Organic Valerian Root 515mg - 100 - Capsule
You will need one or more of these plug adapters for your appliances and chargers.
For details on electricity in Europe see chapter 11,
Electricity in Europe: Travel Voltage Fundamentals
Plug Adapter (doubler)
Universal to Continental Europe "Europlug."
4.0 mm prongs
SIMRAN PLUG ADAPTER
Adapts grounded USA plugs to European "Shucko" plug.
4.8 mm prongs
This is a universal plug adapter for the UK and Ireland.
Grounded Adaptor Plug for Britain and Ireland
The holes of many Italian outlets are too small for the Schucko plug. One of these will probably fit.
If you have the Europlug (above) you do not need this plug.
Italy Adapter Plug B
4.0 mm prongs
Plug Adapter for Italy
Universal to Grounded 3 pin
To use this with American plugs you'll also need the USA to Continental Europe adapter.
Europe to Switzerland
For charging the batteries of more than one gizmo at a time use this 250 volt universal
power strip. It comes with a grounded Continental plug.
6 Universal Outlets
220/240 Volt 50/60Hz
To use the surge strip in Britain and Ireland you will need one of these plug adapters.
Britain and Ireland
To use the surge strip in Italy you will probably need this plug adapter.
Europe to Italy
Here is a smaller power surge strip with three universal outlets. It is wired with an American grounded plug so it needs a plug adapter for the countries you are visiting.
SM-60 Universal 3 Outlet Power Strip / Surge Protector for Worldwide Travel. 110V-250V with Overload Protection.
This ungrounded plug adapter will get you plugged in just about anywhere.
All-in-One Travel Power Plug Adapter for US, UK, EU, AU.
This transformer rated for 200 watts will power many of your appliances if they are only rated for 120 volts.
Transformer - 200 Watt Non Grounded Heavy Duty
OK, this is the elephant. If you are moving over and taking your electric saw, planer, drill, etc. I recommend it.
Transformer - 1000 Watt Non Grounded Heavy Duty
Absolutely the best battery for digital cameras which use AA batteries.
AA Lithium Batteries
Rechargeable batteries are expensive but pay for themselves over and over.
This charger is good for worldwide voltage and comes with 4 pre-charged batteries.
It requires a plug adapter for the countries you are visiting.
Sanyo SEC-MQN064 Eneloop 4 Pack AA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargable Batteries
with Worldwide 110-240 volt charger
Make sure that your electrical appliances are 110-220 dual voltage so they will work in Europe.
These appliances require a plug adapter(s), NOT a converter, for the countries you are visiting.
Vagabond Compact Styler
Conair's Dual-Voltage Ionic Hair Dryer
Conair Flat Iron 2" Ceramic Straightener
Travel Hair Setter
SteamFast SF-717 Home-and-Away Mini Steam Iron (dual voltage)
Chapter 19, Part 1
HOW TO EUROPE
The Complete Travelers Handbook
Internet edition. Without photos.
A page from
This internet edition of chapter 19, "Communicating as You Travel Europe,"
is in 4 parts due to its large size. Subjects covered in the respective sections are:
This is Part 1
calling europe from the USA, country codes, city codes, local numbers, 10-10 services,
how to place a call to Europe, list of telephone country codes, local telephone service
in Europe, totally metered, telephone booths, coins and slugs, European telephone cards,
American telephone cards, discount telephone cards, cellular phones, directory assistance,
international telephone service in Europe, from telephone booths, from your hotel, from the PTT,
telephone charge cards, costs, potpourri.
sending mail to Europe, US Postal Service, mail forwarding, form of address, receiving mail in Europe, poste restante,
American Express client mail service, PTT, stamps, express parcel services, FedEx, DHL,
Airborne Express, European customs duties.
internet cafes, libraries, keyboards, your password, your laptop, connecting hardware, your ISP, hotel lines
telegram, wire funds, final notes, homeland security, meeting point
Pick up the phone. Go ahead, pick it up.
TALKING AROUND THE PLANET
What was an expensive poor quality system in Europe 30 years ago is now simply amazing. You can pick
up your phone and cheaply call billions of people around the world with clear connections.
CALLING EUROPE FROM THE USA
Traditional international telephone services from the United
States are handled by every phone company. These companies are in
fierce advertising wars claiming better quality and lower costs and
I couldn't begin to figure it out. I don't understand my phone bill.
The Standard System
All American telephone numbers have 10 digits, three for the
area code and seven for the local number. Over there it is a
different story. European numbers can have any assortment of digits
Every country in the world has a country code. For North
America, including Canada, the USA, Mexico, and The Caribbean, the
country code is 1. The UK code is 44. Holland is 31. You'll usually see the
country code written with a plus sign in front of it, for example
+353 for Ireland.
Instead of area codes, all European countries use city codes. Each city
code begins with zero. For example, 023 is the city code of Haarlem, The
Netherlands. Within Holland you would dial 023 plus the local number. But from
outside Holland you only dial 23. However,
Italy has changed their system and now requires you to dial the zero on incoming
international calls also. City codes can vary from two as in
Brussels, 02, to five as in Salzburg, 06222.
Local numbers in Europe can vary in length from four up to
nine numbers. In a small village they don't need many numbers, but
in Berlin you've got a couple of million phones.
Rates to Europe for calls from the United States mainland do
not vary from state to state. A call from San Francisco to Paris
costs the same as a call from New York to Paris. The rate period is
determined by the time at the telephone where the charge will be
The "10-10" services are decidedly a great deal. My calls to Holland
cost 4 cents per minute after a connection fee of 53 cents.
Tariffs vary between different services. You might get a lower connection
fee in exchange for a higher per minute fee, something you would want
if you make short calls. Shop around.
Some plans have varying rates during the day for domestic calls.
International rates for different countries can be significantly
The low cost 10-10 services have made life so
much easier. You can call Europe for less than the cost of a call
to someone only 30 miles away in the USA. I have used several of
the 10-10 services and change whenever I find a
better deal. You do not need to subscribe and can stop using one
and start using another whenever you wish.
Not all 10-10 numbers are available in all parts of the USA. Some are
restricted to a few states. It depends on your local phone company. My costs
are included on my regular phone bill.
Skype is an internet based communications tool. The best feature of Skype is that it
is free when you talk with another Skype subscriber. Not only that, you can see
the other person live if they have a web cam, a more or less standard appliance on
most lap top computers these days. To use Skype you download the free software and
select a user name. Then get the user names of the people you want to Skype with
and add them to to your directory. Then click and talk and watch. The other person must
have their computer turned on and have Skype running. See the advert at the top of
the left hand column.
I used Skype to stay in touch with Stephanie when she was in Paris for a month, and I
use it to talk with my friend Paula in Holland. It works anywhere in the world. Free
international calling with video — you can't beat that!
When you are traveling you must have access to an Internet LAN or WiFi connection of course.
Sometimes these are free, but not in very many places. To save money you can subscribe to
a WiFi service like Boingo for about $10 a month. Another service named Gogo
provides internet service on selected airlines while you are in the air, either on a per flight basis or a
monthly subscription basis. This is quite a bit more expensive and would only be
practical for frequent business flyers. Delta Airlines gave me a free trial on a
recent flight. If you are sitting in a major airport waiting hours for your connecting
flight you might be able to connect on the free WiFi of one of the airline lounges
from outside the door. Membership in these lounge programs costs a few hundred dollars a year
but you can sometimes catch a stray WiFi signal for free.
HOW TO PLACE A CALL TO EUROPE
From Areas Equipped With International Dialing
Dial the USA international access code: 011
Then, dial the country code.
Then, the city code, without the zero in front (do dial the
zero for Italy).
Then, the local number.
As an example, to call the Munich Tourist Office in Germany:
dial the international access code, 011,
then the country code for Germany, 49,
then the city code for Munich, 89,
then the local number, 233-96-555.
Dialed calls from the USA are charged for an initial one minute,
not three minutes as with operator assisted calls. You might want
to confirm this with your long distance carrier since they are
changing things all the time.
To make a person-to-person, collect, calling card, third number
billing, or any international call requiring the assistance of an
operator, call your long distance phone company.
From Areas Without International Dialing
If your area does not have international dialing, call your
operator to place all international calls. Tell the operator you
wish to make an overseas call and give her the country code, city
code, and local number. If your call does not require special
operator assistance (collect, charge card, person, etc.), the lower
dial rate should apply but I don't guarantee it.
10-10 Number International Dialing
You probably have an instruction sheet describing the procedure
for making international calls with your 10-10 number. I simply dial my 10-10 number and then
Dial the USA international access code: 011
Then, dial the country code.
Then, the city code, without the zero in front (do dial the
zero for Italy).
Then, the local number.
The beauty of this is that your area does not need to have
international dialing enabled. But you do need to find a 10-10
number for your area.
How To Profit From This Telephone Intelligence
How do you apply this information to your advantage? Well, after
your travel agent tells you that the lowest cost room in Paris is
$200 per day, go home and open your Michelin Red Guide - France and
find a three star hotel for $100 in the
arrondissement (section of the city) you want
to stay in. Wake up early the next morning and call the hotel to
make your reservation. The Michelin Red Guides show city codes.
It's the number next to the symbol that looks like a telephone
dial, or a daisy if you will. This appears on the first or second
line for each city heading. If there is no city code listed here,
then the phone number listed for each hotel includes the city code.
Hotels in all price categories are listed.
Many hotels are on the internet and many of them have on line booking,
either directly with the hotel or through an agency. I am skeptical of
using these web sites so I might send an email or get the phone number and
call them up. In my experience hotels are slow to respond to emails. Making
the call gives you instant results.
bashful about calling. You will get a connection within a minute at
most times. It is best to call during the week, but not during
their lunch time, noon to 13:00 or noon to 16:00 depending on the
country. Speak up, right away, slowly and clearly. Here is your
"Hello! Mr./Mrs./Miss - your last name
calling from the United States of America.
Do you speak English please?"
Odds are excellent that an English speaking person will be
available within a minute or so. If not try another hotel. For
about a dollar worth of telephoning, you should be able to make a
reservation and find out what amount of advance deposit is
required. If they do not accept credit cards you can propose sending
a check which they can hold until you get there. It will be too
expensive for them to cash it.
If you have a friend who speaks the language of the country you
are calling, you might ask them to make the call for you. This
could be especially helpful if you are looking for a room in a
small town where there might be only one or two hotels, and where
desk clerks are less likely to be fluent in English.
Why can't your travel agent make the phone call and reservation
for you, you ask? Because the $200 hotel pays the agent a 12%
commission and probably has a toll free (800) telephone number. The
$100 hotel pays no commission and it will cost to make the telephone
call. I'm not throwing disparagement on travel agents. They provide
a valuable service for many people. But you can't expect travel
agents to be altruists. They are trying to make a living like
everybody else and their business is not a piece of cognac-filled
chocolate. You have to make the call yourself if you want to be
frugal and stay in a European tourist class hotel. See chapter 14,
Hotels, Hostels, B&Bs, Private Homes:
Sleep Options for Travel in Europe
, for a description of what to
expect in a tourist class hotel.
TELEPHONE COUNTRY CODES
Here are listed the telephone codes for the countries of Europe,
and the city codes for a metropolis or two in each country. If you
need more, consult your long distance telephone provider.
Codes for dialing TO:
Albania 335. Tirana 4
Andorra 376. All points 628
Austria 43. Graz 316; Innsbruck 5122; Salzburg 662; Vienna 1
Belarus 375. Minsk 17
Belgium 32. Antwerp 3; Brussels 2; Ghent 9; Liege 4
Bosnia & Herzegovina 387.
Bulgaria 359. Sofia 2
Croatia 385. Zagreb 1
Cyprus 357. Nicosia 2
Czech Republic 420. Prague 2
Finland 358. Helsinki 9; Tampere 3; Turku 2
France 33. Bordeaux 56; Marseille 91; Nice 93; Paris 1
Germany 49. Berlin 30; Frankfurt 69; Leipzig 341; Munich 89
Greece 30. Athens 01; Patras 061; Thessaloniki 031
Hungary 36. Budapest 1; Gyor 96
Ireland 353. Cork 21; Dublin 1; Limerick 61
Italy 39. Genoa 010; Florence 055; Milan 02; Rome 06; Venice 041
Lithuania 370. Vilnius 2
Macedonia 389. Skopje 31
Monaco 33. All points 93
The Netherlands 31. Amsterdam 20; Haarlem 23; The Hague 70; Rotterdam 10
Poland 48. Gdansk 58; Warsaw 22.
Portugal 351. Lisbon 1; Porto 2
Romania 40. Bucharest 1
Russia 7. Moscow 95; St. Petersburg 812
San Marino 378
Serbia and Montenegro 381. Belgrade 11
Slovakia 421. Bratislava 7
Slovenia 386. Ljubljana 61
Spain 34. Barcelona 93; Madrid 91; Seville 95; Valencia 96
Sweden 46. Göteborg 31; Malmö 40; Stockholm 8
Switzerland 41. Basel 61; Bern 31; Geneva 22; Zurich 1
Turkey 90. Ankara 312; Istanbul 212
Ukraine 380. Kyiv 44
The United Kingdom 44. Birmingham 121; Glasgow 141; London 20
Vatican City 39; all points 06
The country code for the USA, Canada, and the Caribbean is 1.
LOCAL TELEPHONE SERVICE IN EUROPE
Telephone service in Europe is generally excellent, with
possible exceptions in some of the eastern countries. In all
countries telephone service has improved dramatically in the past
20 years. Some of their systems are better than American systems,
though they are all more expensive than ours.
especially where the system is pulse rather than tone. Speak slowly
and clearly in all countries.
On the Meter
In America we are used to having a local toll free calling area.
Within a 10 to 15 mile radius around our home we can talk all day
and not be charged a penny above our basic service cost. In Europe,
it is completely different. Every call, no matter where, is charged
by the minute. This will certainly put a cramp in your internet
browsing enjoyment if you are on a dial up modem.
Calls within a country can be made from any phone booth. Just
insert some coins, dial the city code and then the local number.
When dialing a city code from within that country, you must dial a
zero first. In Finland dial a 9 first. For example, to place a call
to the Munich Tourist Office from any city in Germany, dial the
city code, 089, and then the local number, 233-96-555.
They usually speak English at the tourist office.
Telephone booths are not as plentiful as they should be, and
unfortunately many in train stations have been sabotaged with slugs
or have had the handset cut off. What can you do with one of those?
If you see someone having trouble with a phone, wait in line at a
booth where the person seems to be enjoying a conversation. That
way you'll make sure that you get one that operates.
Instructions are usually given in three or more languages or in
easily understood diagrams, known as pictograms. The method of
operation varies from country to country. Normally, you lift the
receiver, insert some coins, get a dial tone, and then dial. The
sound of the dial tone varies from country to country. Sometimes it
even sounds like the American busy signal. Sometimes the sound of
the other phone ringing sounds like the American busy signal. The
busy signal in Europe is usually a very short repeating buzt buzt
Coins and Slugs
In France, the mode d`emploi (operating procedure) of the
older phones makes it easy to lose connections and money. Some
require French coins, but there are some in cafes and other places
that require a jeton (slug). Buy the slug from the
barkeeper. Do not put any money in the French phone until you get
an answer. Have the coin or slug ready and drop it in immediately
when the person answers. The other party can be heard over a loud
static, but they can't hear you until the coins fall in the box.
Then the static will stop and you can begin the conversation, si
vous parlez la française (if you speak French).
Some phones in Italy require a slug also. It's called a gettone
over there. Pronto?
European Telephone Cards
A new system was started by the French in the mid-1980s and has
taken hold in most of the countries of Europe. The French name is
Telecarte, and goes by local names in other countries, e.g.
Carta Telefonica in Italy, Telefonkarte in Germany,
Telefonnich Jednotek in Czechia, Telefonkártya
in Hungary, etc. These plastic cards are the size of credit cards and
contain an electronic chip or magnetic strip which indicate the amount of
credit you have.
Cards are available for about $5 and $20.
You buy the card at any telephone office or post office. They might
also be available at tourist offices, news stands, tobacco shops, money exchange
offices, and some other stores. Some cards carry advertising.
To use the card, find one of the telephones which use them.
Nowadays that is most phones. It's hard to find a coin phone
anymore. Put your card in the slot. A display shows your available
credit as you talk. You can use these phones to dial around the
world. A big advantage of using telephone cards is that these
phones are generally in excellent working order and are usually
available while the coin/slug phones are tied up by a local
teenager or are busted.
American Telephone Cards
You can also use some American telephone cards in Europe. AT+T
and others offer international service in
Europe. You usually must dial a local toll free number to use these
cards. Each country has a unique toll free system. You won't find
1-800 very often.
You can use your Visa, MasterCard, or American Express card to place
a call from some public phones. A one minute call to the USA from Italy
on your credit card will probably cost you about $50. That's not a
misprint — fifty bucks! This is a scam, of course, from a crooked telephone
service provider and your credit card company will not help you. This situation may
be forced on you if the telephone you are using will not accept the
regular Italian phone card. Find another phone. In Britain many phones
have large advertisements for credit card calls. These cost about $5.00
Discount Telephone Cards
International telephone service is a fiercely competitive
business. Every phone company is trying to get your attention with
cheap rates, while at the same time sticking it to local customers
with higher rates for calls within their country whenever they can
get away with it. For example, the Dutch phone company changed
their evening discount calling period some years back. It used to start at
18:00 (6pm) and now starts at 20:00 (8pm). There is
a way to fight back. Use a discount service, either with a card or
In Switzerland, instead of buying the Swiss Telecom calling card
I bought a "Phone Pass" at a newsstand. From any phone I could call
the USA and saved up to 75% over the cost of using the official Swiss
In talking with a fellow in Amsterdam, he claimed that he could
call a friend in another part of Holland cheaper if he dialed it
through a discount phone company via the USA. Back and forth across
the Atlantic for less than a call within the Netherlands? I can
When I lived in the Netherlands I subscribed to a service which
called itself "One Tel." Rates to the United States averaged about
5.5 cents per minute compared to 6.6 cents per minute for the
official Dutch phone company KPN. These rates are only about twice
as much as what it costs to phone your next door neighbor in
Holland. Go figure. Phone rates make about as much sense as airline
Maybe you call them mobile phones or cell phones or annoying
devices. Nevertheless you see people with one of these to their ear
everywhere you go. In and out of stores and offices, on buses and
trains, riding their bicycle or on roller skates, the yumpies of
Europe are speaking immediately important stuff, no doubt. It is a
distraction when they ring in public, but I am getting used to it.
Cell phone prohibitions are posted at the entrance to many
buildings, so I guess that some people are not getting used to it.
As much as I scoff at these little things, I used one in Europe and it
saved a big problem with meeting someone at a train station. I had made a last
minute boarding of an InterCityExpress in Düsseldorf bound for Frankfurt and
didn't have time to phone my friend in Frankfurt before getting on the train.
As I sat down I noticed that the fellow sitting opposite me was
chatting on his mobil, as they are referred to over there. When he was
done with his call I asked if I could use it. He obliged and I was able
to make my call and let Connie know when and where I would arrive.
American cell phones may or may not work in Europe. I don't need or
want one but I have read of some of the issues. As I understand it
the main issue is one of frequency. You'll need a "quad" phone to be
able to use it in the USA and in Europe. Each phone company
has its own service conditions. Before you sign up for cell phone
service make sure it will work in Europe, if you plan to bring it
over there. While you're on the phone with them ask what the cost
is for making and for receiving calls while you are in Europe.
If you need a cell phone in Europe, your best bet might be to rent
one after you get there. Tele-communications shops, springing up
all over, lease cell phones. Alternatively you can buy a phone with
a prepaid chip in many countries.
If you are outside the country of registration and you
want to call another country, you pay for two international calls.
E.g., say you have a Swiss cellular phone and are in France making
a call to Belgium, your call is routed via Switzerland and your
bill is a barrel of wampum.
Cell phone charges are handled differently in Europe. It is the
one placing the call who pays in most countries. Be careful about
calling 06 numbers in Holland, for example. 06 are the first two
digits for cell phone numbers and all calls cost approximately
10 times the cost of a regular call.
There goes a telephone card to vapor in short order. If you need to
call one of these numbers, make it short and ask for a callback.
Directory assistance ("Information") is available in Europe.
In Holland, before getting through to a real operator you will
hear a recorded voice which tells you in crisp Dutch how many calls
are waiting in front of you. Be patient for a couple of minutes.
When the operator comes on, there will be a change in the sounds.
You ask "Do you speak English, please?" The answer will be "A
little bit, yes," understating her/his ability by a wide margin.
The average Dutch operator has a better command of English than
most Americans, though all have the typical Dutch accent.
Operators in most other countries are probably capable of
speaking English, but the first one you get may not wish to try it.
Ask for an English speaking operator if you are in need of help.
Long distance and international directory assistance is also
available. These operators do speak English. You can get the number
of anyone in the United States for no charge. That's funny
AT&T charges me about 75¢ for these at home.
INTERNATIONAL TELEPHONE SERVICE IN EUROPE
From Telephone Booths
International calls within Europe can usually be made from
public pay telephones. Look for a notice in the operating
instructions on the phone booth to the effect that it is an
international telephone. The notice will give you the international
access code (IAC) for the country you are in. Each country has its
own IAC. Many, though not all, use 00 as the IAC. Note that the IAC
for the country you are calling from is different from the country
code for the country you are calling to. These codes are shown in the
listing above in the section "TELEPHONE COUNTRY CODES."
From Your Hotel Room
Most hotels charge an obscenely outrageous fee for
any call made from your room, especially for long distance calls. I
heard a hotel desk clerk in London advise a guest to use the pay
phone in the hotel lobby rather than make the call from her room.
My travel notes show that calls from Paris to Amsterdam cost
2½ times as much from my hotel compared to the
PTT. My hotel in Portugal quoted me over three times as much
as I paid at the CTT for a call to the USA.
During my house hunting trip, six weeks before our move to
Germany, my phone bill was more than the room bill by a wide margin
thanks to many calls home discussing the features of the potential new diggs
with Elizabeth who was still in California. If you must use the phone in
your hotel room, try your best to find out what it will cost before
picking it up. Also ask for an itemization (it may be called
"specification") of calls. Phone bills in Europe normally do not
include anything other than a grand total. Don't be surprised if
the hotel keeper just shrugs his shoulders at both requests and
says he doesn't know. He does know or can find out but he wants your money and is
not interested in scaring you off.
If you're there on business and must call your office in the
USA, make a quick call and ask for a call-back. You can enjoy some
nice meals with the money you will save, and avoid a showdown with
your company's major-domo of expense reports.
From the PTT
Telephone service at big city PTT offices is often
open until late at night. To use this service you do not need five pounds of
coins or a telephone card. You would want to use the PTT if you only
wanted to make one quick phone call without spending $5 for a telephone card.
At the PTT, look for the sign "Telephone," or some
similar word. If there is none, ask a clerk where you can make an
international telephone call. There may be a separate entrance for
the phone bureau, or it may be in a separate building a few blocks
away. At the phone window or desk, write down the city, state, area
code, and local number you want dialed. Sometimes the clerk will
dial the number for you and tell you which booth to go to for the
call. Alternatively, they may write down the international access
code and country code for you and direct you to a booth to dial it
yourself. After completing the call, go back to the desk and pay
up. If you are having dialing troubles, go immediately to the clerk
and let him/her know. The clerk has a meter for each phone line and
will charge you for the connection whether the line is dead or
Telephone Charge Card
Telephone charge cards are available, free of charge, from your
local telephone company business office. Call up whoever you
have as a long distance carrier and ask
for yours. They will be happy to send it out, but it may take a few
weeks. I have one of these but only use it when I absolutely
must. The convenience is great but the cost is equivalent to grand
Your telephone company charge card can be used to call back
home. Most are honored in most European countries. In small
towns in Italy and Greece, clerks had never heard of the card and
would not accept it. It was accepted in Rome but I was told that I would
have to wait an hour for a connection. In Athens I was not allowed
to use it on weekends. When overseas, these cards normally cannot
be used for calls between foreign countries.
The charge card is very handy for making calls from your hotel
room. I've done this in several countries and never had to pay the
hotel surcharge. Sometimes the hotel will make the call for you,
and sometimes they will connect you to an international operator.
If your hotel does the dialing it is best to go to the front desk
and write down the numbers for them so there will be no mistake (at
When we lived in Germany we dialed a special toll free
number which connected us to an AT+T operator. We would give her
the USA number we were calling and our AT+T charge card number. Our
monthly statement included a list of all calls, and we paid in
dollars. AT+T now offers toll free connection numbers in many
countries of Europe. AT+T is not cheap, but it will allow you to
dial 800 numbers which seem to be the norm for American businesses
these days. European telecoms and discount phone passes often will
not allow connection to a USA 800 number. If you are calling an 880
or 888 instead of an 800 you can make a connection, sometimes, maybe.
When you compare the telephone to all the other means of
communication it is a real bargain in cost and efficiency. It is
much cheaper than the telegraph and far quicker than the mail, and
you know you have someone on the other end listening. Perhaps you can
send an email cheaper but emails can sit in e-purgatory for days before being opened.
International telephone rates are one thing seemingly immune to
inflation. In fact they have been going down, not up. It costs more
to call from Europe to the United States than from the United
States to Europe, though European rates have been falling quite
substantially over the past few years.
There are three basic ways to pay for your call from Europe: pay
direct, reverse the charges, or use a phone company charge card. Within pay
direct I include European telephone cards and charges to a normal credit card like VISA,
Mastercharge, or American Express. Many public phones in Europe
allow the use of these credit cards, but at a very high cost.
For a very short
phone call, it is probably cheaper to pay direct. There is no three
minute minimum as there is for the collect and charge card calls.
When placing a collect call to the United States, there is a
charge for the initial three minutes which is usually the same
every day every hour. After the first three minutes, the per minute
charge depends on the time at the place you are calling to. Check
with your long distance phone service. Business hours are the most
expensive. Evening hours are lower. The middle of the night and
weekends are the lowest.
Charge card calls are billed in the United States at the
"operator assisted" rates. This means a minimum charge for three
minutes and is usually billed at the "station to station" rate.
Each additional minute is billed at the same rate as if it were a
But a warning is in order. Telephone service has become an
incredibly competitive industry. Companies are trying to suck you
in with seemingly attractive deals. The bills you receive may
astonish you with extras for stuff that you would expect to be in
the basic rate. It would be like buying a car
only to discover later that you had to provide the wheels, windows,
and seats. So get the whole story, if you can, when signing up for
a long distance service which you plan to use from Europe.
An old sea captain I met someplace in my travels told me that
when he needs to make a long distance call in a strange town, he
goes into a bar, orders a brandy, and asks to use the phone. They
usually have toll counters on bar phones to register the clicks for
dialed calls. I did this often in one of my favorite
bars in Holland. It's more convenient than going out to a post
office or looking for a phone booth, but there may be a lot of background noise in the bar so
ask if there is a back room where you can talk in peace and quiet.
There will probably be a higher cost when calling from a bar rather
than the PTT, so you might want to make it quick and ask for
a call back. In fact I still use bar phones when I travel in
Holland due to a scaracity of public phones. It's still the quickest way
to make a call in that country. If the bar doesn't have a toll counter
dial the international operator from the bar to use your charge card
or reverse the charges.
Though you must always
dial an international access number to make an international call,
there is at least one city where there is an exception. In
Geneva, Switzerland you can dial 059 to reach friends
across the French border in Savoie. Normally you would need to dial
00 for international access and then 33 for France.
A few ferries and some trains, for example the German
InterCity (ICE) trains, have public telephones on board. I used one of these to
call Stephanie's aunt in Italy to let her know that we were on our
way from Frankfurt. Later in the day when I tried to call again it
wasn't possible to make a connection because the train had passed
into Switzerland. The German train phone was inoperable outside
Germany. Maybe they will get this glitch fixed before long. The
train phone accepted phone cards, not coins.
NOTE TO READERS
I welcome questions and comments. If you have any concerns about your trip to
Europe that have not been covered well enough in this chapter do not hesitate to write and ask.
My email address is
When you write please include as much detail as possible. There are about 50 countries in Europe.
It will help me answer if you mention the countries and/or cities you plan to visit.
I will reply in a day or two.
Don't forget to scroll through the Table of Contents below. The other 29 chapters of
HOW TO EUROPE
are also available, free to read on line. In addition, the Google search box below can locate specific subjects
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Packing List and Last Call: For
Travel in Europe.
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