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The Independent Travel
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'The US has the best phone system in the world'

False, at least if you are trying to make an international call. A payphone on every street corner may be the mark of a civilised society, but the poor traveller trying to call home to say "I've arrived /been mugged/fallen in love" will find the world's highest density of telephones to be of precious little comfort.

Finding a phone is the easy bit. Procuring a hatful of quarters (25c coins) to fund the first three minutes is trickier, and aggravating in the extreme when you find the ansaphone has been left on . You pay for a minimum of three minutes, whatever happens.

Prepaid phonecards, as used everywhere in the world from Turkey to Venezuela, are little known in the USA. There are alternatives. The BT or Mercury telephone credit card, for example. But beware the "phone surfer" looking over your shoulder. He may be clocking your card number, and proceed to use it to phone home at your expense.

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