Those $100 long-distance charges can sure throw a hotel bill out of line. That cottage in the Lake District is sweet, but it's missing one thing: a phone, for checking up on the kids. The nearest pay phone-- assuming you can figure out how to use it-- is miles away. For business or on vacation overseas, renting a cellular or satellite phone before you leave home may be just the solution.

DIGITAL CELL PHONES You can't use your United States- based cell phone in most foreign countries. Not yet, anyway. But before taking off you can equip yourself with a sophisticated digital cell phone that works in more than 60 countries as far-flung as Estonia, South Africa, and Fiji-- and includes a voice-mail system to receive calls. Sound expensive?It isn't if you consider that with one of those phone-company calling cards you'll get hit with a $3 per call set-up fee plus per-minute charges. The per-minute fees for cell phones are competitive (a one-minute cell hello costs as little as 74 cents from the U.K.), and in some cases incoming calls don't cost you anything. Also, it's nice to be able to give business associates and loved ones a contact number.

SATELLITE PHONES Just as is true back home, some places elsewhere in the world don't have cell-phone service. That's where a satellite phone comes in handy. These space-age wonders work anywhere outside the United States where there's open sky, and they have come down in price and weight: new models like Comsat's Planet 1 weigh less than six pounds and cost around $3,000. Some of the cell-phone rental companies listed in the chart below also rent satellite phones.
-- George Hobica