Stay Connected

Internet Access

Free internet access is available at all locations of The Seattle Public Library, including the downtown Central Library.

You can reserve a computer for up to 90 minutes with a Library card. It's a good idea to reserve a computer a week in advance. No Library card? Guest passes are available for a single 30-minute session. Visitors and non-residents can also buy a Library card.

Wireless access is available at all locations for free. The Central Library also offers areas where you can bring in your own device (be sure to bring your own network plug as well) and hook up to the internet, without time restrictions. Call the Library at 206-386-4636, send them an email, or visit their website for more information.

There are a number of public centers, including our libraries, that offer a Community Technology Center. Check out this list to see all of the Community Technology Centers in the Seattle area. Many of these centers offer free internet access. It is best to check out the list, then call the center to find out what they have to offer.

Internet cafes are fairly inexpensive ways to pay for longer internet use, and you can drink coffee while you surf, too! There are a few that offer internet use without the purchase of a beverage or food item.

Or you may just stay in your hotel room when you need to access to the internet -- most hotels offer internet connections or WiFi access.

Wi-Fi Access

WiFi is an internet connection pumped out via high-frequency radio waves. You can use it with your laptop, and other applications and devices, without plugging into a physical outlet. In order to use WiFi services, your device must be set up and enabled to do so, and you have to be within the vicinity of an access point to the WiFi service, called a hotspot. In order to use a WiFi service, you may also need to obtain settings information about the service which you will use to set up your device to use the WiFi service.

There are various data transfer rates used by WiFi providers, based on an international wireless specification standard called IEEE 802.11. Connection speeds will vary based on the actual rate provided by the WiFi provider, and other variables such as the distance between the WiFi node and your device, or barriers that might block the signal.

Your device will also need to be WiFi enabled, and most are these days.

WiFi providers often require WEP or WPA encryption. If a provider uses WEP or WPA encryption, when you arrive at the venue you will need to acquire their WiFi network's encryption key, to enter into your device's WiFi settings in order to access the provider's WiFi network. It works like a password. Talk to an employee or look for a posted sign to get the encryption key.

Providers who do not not use WEP or WPA do not use an encryption key. As long as your device is set up to use WiFi, you should be able to power up and use their WiFi network to go online without adding the encryption key password.

The Seattle Public Library, along with its wired workstations, offers WiFi access.

Post Office and Shipping

United States mailboxes are blue and are labeled U.S. MAIL. If your mail is addressed to a U.S. destination, don't forget to add the five-digit zip code after the two-letter abbreviation of the state to which the mail is addressed.

Domestic Postage Rates - USPS

Most hotels will mail out cards and letters for their guests, so ask at your hotel's guest services or front desk if they can do this. This may be easier than looking for a US mailbox while you are out sightseeing.

Telegram, Fax and Business Services

Most hotels have fax machines available for guest use. Some hotels charge extra for this service, others don't, so if this is important, find out when you make your reservation. A less expensive way to send and receive faxes may be at local business service stores.

Western Union is one of the largest and most reliable telegram and money transfer services in the world, with offices in many locations. They have an internet telegram service.

Telephone, Mobile and Cell

Cities and regions within the United States are assigned three-digit area codes. The area code in downtown Seattle and the City of Seattle is 206. There are several other area codes used in Washington State. Check out this list to find out area codes of various parts of Washington State. This is important for making calls locally. If you are inside Seattle, you do not need to dial 206 before making a call. However, if you travel over to Bremerton, which is in the 360 area code, then in Bremerton you will need to dial 206 to make a phone call to Seattle.

Local phone numbers in the United States are seven digits long, and listed in the form NNN-NNNN.

Hotels, restaurants and phone booths have two different colored phone number books available. The white paged phone books contain alphabetical listings of all phone numbers, while the yellow paged phone books contain listings of businesses and services by category, e.g. restaurants, hotels, etc. If you need help finding a particular number, call 411, which is the directory information service in the U.S.

Dial 911 for all emergency situation calls -- police, fire or medical. 911 is free to dial on all pay phones.

In the United States, calls to area codes 800, 888, 877, and 866 are toll-free. However, calls to numbers in area codes 700 and 900 can be very expensive.

Most long distance and international calls can be dialed directly from any phone. For calls within the United States and to Canada, dial 1 followed by the area code and the seven-digit number. For other international calls, dial 011 followed by the country code, city code, and telephone number of the person you are calling.

Local calls made from public pay phones cost 50 cents. Pay phones usually only accept nickels, dimes or quarters, or phone cards.

Here are a few highlights for saving money, time and sanity when you need telephone service as you travel:

  • In-room phones at hotels and credit card phone booths charge higher rates -- check before you dial and pay!
  • Pre-paid phone cards offer great deals for travelers.
  • Courtesy phones and hotel guest service desks may be better bets for local calls to get taxi cabs, make restaurant reservations and other local services.
  • If you use a mobile or cell phone, check with your phone provider to make sure you will have service in the country you are traveling to.
  • If you are travelling to a remote location that does not have cell phone service, you may need to consider getting a satellite phone.
  • Making a phone call using your laptop or PDA can be a cheap way to make phone calls while travelling.