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Making a phone call
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Making phone calls in the USA

U.S. residents use both mobile phones and landline phones. All telephone numbers begin with a three-digit area code, which indicates the area where the call originates, followed by a seven-digit telephone number.

Mobile Phones

Before traveling to the USA, check with your mobile phone carrier to see if your phone has international capability and whether it will operate on the Global System for Mobile (GSM) communications used in the U.S.

Using your mobile and data plan outside of your home network can be very costly. Even simply receiving email will impact your data charges. Many mobile phone carriers offer a variety of international plans that can save you money. If you choose not to get an international plan, you can turn off the data on your phone (or keep your phone in airplane mode) and simply log on to Wi-Fi networks; when they are available.

If you are in the USA for a long trip, you can purchase a dedicated phone or even a U.S. number at a mobile phone retailer. Make sure your mobile phone is protected with a password to safeguard your personal information in the event your phone is lost or stolen.


Pay phones are still available in the U.S., though they are not as plentiful since the advent of the mobile phones. There are less than 500,000 pay phones throughout the U.S. and each typically costs 25 or 50 cents for a local call.

Most accommodations, whether hotels, motels or bed-and-breakfasts, have telephones in guest rooms, but often charge a fee for use, regardless if the call is local, long distance or toll free.

Prepaid Calling Cards

You can also purchase a prepaid calling card, which allows you to make long-distance telephone calls for a flat fee. They can be used at pay phones or hotel phones to help manage costs.

Emergency Calls

All emergency calls are free of charge at pay phones and hotel phones. Emergency calls include 911 calls to police and calls made to Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) — a service that enables people with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate with standard telephone users. Toll-free calls, including calls billed to calling cards or credit cards, also do not require coins at pay phones.