Communications

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TRAVEL TIPS

Communications

Internet

Most hotels and guesthouses now offer Wi-Fi connections. Some are free, others are not, and many can be very slow. This is, however, slowly starting to improve, and reliable Wi-Fi connections are becoming more common. Many hotels also have business centers that provide Internet access. Thais also love to do their digital work at hip coffee shops, just as the rest of the world does. Expect to pay western prices for that mocha latte.

Outside of large hotels and business centers, the electrical supply can be temperamental. Surging and dipping power supplies are normal, and power outages are not unheard-of.

Even many the smallest towns have Internet shops, although they are becoming less popular as more people have smartphones. Most restaurants and cafés offer Wi-Fi (with purchase). Shops used to dealing with foreigners often will allow you to connect a laptop. Typical Internet prices in tourist areas range from about B20 to B60 per hour, sometimes more in coffee shops. Larger hotels and resorts can charge a lot more, so make sure to ask in advance. Then again, many high-end resorts now offer free Wi-Fi, too.

Contacts

Cybercafes. Cybercafes lists more than 4,000 Internet cafés worldwide, though it is far from complete. www.cybercafes.com.

Phones

The country code for Thailand is 66. When dialing a Thailand number from abroad, drop the initial 0 from the local area code.

To call Cambodia from overseas, dial the country code (855) and then the area code, omitting the first 0. The code for Phnom Penh is 023; for Siem Reap it's 063. Unfortunately, Cambodia's international lines are sometimes jammed; booking and requesting information through websites is consequently the best option. Almost all Internet shops offer overseas calling, which runs up to 50¢ a minute, depending on the location. Skype and other Internet calling options are often the easiest, cheapest methods for international calls—especially if you’re in a place with free Wi-Fi.

To call Laos from overseas, dial the country code (856) and then the area code, omitting the first 0. The outgoing international code is 00, but IDD phones are rare. In cities, Wi-Fi is becoming more readily available and so, too, is the option of Skype.

To call Myanmar from overseas, dial the country code (95), and then the area code, omitting the first 0. The country is just starting to catch up, and communications are changing rapidly since the government lowered the price of a SIM card from $1,000-plus to just a few dollars. More and more Myanmar businesses now have websites, email addresses, and mobile-phone numbers. People are using Skype, too.

Calling Within Thailand

There are numerous phone companies and cell-phone operators throughout the country. Pay phones are still widely available, and they generally work, though long-distance calls can only be made on phones that accept both B1 and B5 coins. But fewer people are using pay phones as most people now have smartphones.

Calling Outside Thailand

The country code for the United States is 1.

To make overseas calls, you can use either your hotel switchboard—Chiang Mai and Bangkok have direct dialing—or the overseas telephone facilities at the central post office and telecommunications building. You'll find one in all towns. But by far, it's easiest now to use Skype or another online service.

Mobile Phones and Smartphones

Mobile phone plans vary widely, and some in the United States offer free roaming throughout Thailand. Check with your service provider before leaving the United States. Otherwise, the roaming charges can be deadly. Many travelers use their cell phones to send and receive text messages, a cheap way to stay in touch.

Alternatively, if you have an unlocked mobile phone, you can buy a SIM card (the chip that keeps your phone number and account) in Thailand. These are often offered for free on arrival at Thai airports. Pop the SIM card into your phone, and have a local number while visiting. Then buy phone cards (available at all minimarts) in B100 to B500 denominations and pay for calls as you go, generally B3 to B10 a minute depending on the time of day and number you are calling. International calls will run about B5 to B40 a minute.

Another option is to buy a used phone at any cell-phone shop, which are ubiquitous (all malls in Thailand have them). You can usually find a used but reliable phone for $20 to $40.

Contacts

Cellular Abroad. Cellular Abroad offers global mobile Internet services with short-term calling and data-roaming plans that might be cheaper than plans offered through your usual provider. 800/287–5072; www.cellularabroad.com.

Mobal. Mobal offers global phones with international plans that can be used on any current or future international trips. 888/888–9162; www.mobal.com.

Planet Fone. Planet Fone rents cell phones starting at $2.95 a day, or $21 a week. 888/988–4777; www.planetfone.com.

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