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Overview

United States of America

It's big, bold and brash; welcome to the United States of America! With so much to explore it's hard to know where to begin, but a good USA Travel Guide can help inform your plans.

Most visitors prefer their flights to the USA to land in one of the country's major cities. From the hustle and bustle of New York, to Los Angeles' sun-drenched culture, the national capital Washington D.C. and collegiate Boston, USA's major cities are packed with sights and plenty of cultural attractions. And for the shopaholic there are a multitude of exciting shopping centres to explore; just don't forget to bring the credit cards!

In Las Vegas – Nevada's glittering neon casino city – you'll soon find out if 'Lady Luck' is on your side. Here you can get married by an Elvis impersonator before glimpsing the dazzling lights of the city from the very top of the Eiffel Tower – that is, the half-sized replica located at the glitzy Paris casino.

There are many ways to travel but a classic road trip can't be beaten. After all, travelling through the USA is all about the journey! Hire a car and hit the legendary Route 66, which runs from Illinois in the midwest all the way to California on the west coast. Or for a stunning scenic holiday, take your time and enjoy a leisurely drive through New England; in the autumn you'll see trees explode in glorious fireworks of red, yellow and orange.

There is a wealth of beauty to discover in the centre of the country, from the quirky towns of the Great Lakes, to the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains of the interior, to the Appalachians and the home of bluegrass music and culture. Adrenalin junkies will find their spiritual homeland in the USA; hike through the primeval forests of Washington and Oregon, explore the snow-drenched Alaskan wilderness or trek through historic Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. In Arizona you will be wowed one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Grand Canyon. If you can't decide, find a local to guide you and choose from one of a vast number of USA tours.

In Orlando, you can visit Cape Canaveral, home of NASA and the Kennedy Space Station. Nearby Disneyland is the place where dreams come true, particularly if those dreams revolve around Mickey Mouse! Kids of all ages love it, so take advantage of cheap flights to the USA and book yours today.

Basics

Electricity
120 volts, 60Hz. Plugs are mainly the type with two flat pins, though three-pin plugs are also widely used. European appliances without dual-voltage capabilities will require an adapter, which can be purchased in most major departure airports.

Language
English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

Health
There are no specific health risks associated with travel within the USA. Medical facilities are excellent, but expensive. Only emergencies are treated without prior payment and treatment can be refused without evidence of insurance or proof of funds. Good medical insurance is essential.

Tipping
A 15% tip is expected by taxi drivers, bartenders, hairdressers and waiters, but don't tip in fast-food or self-service restaurants. In expensive restaurants or for large parties tip 20% of the bill. It is normal to tip staff staff such as valets and porters in hotels; this is discretionary although a minimum of $5 is expected. Most services are customarily tipped if the service is good.

Safety
Travel within the United States is generally trouble-free, however travellers should be aware that the US shares with the rest of the world an increased threat from terrorist incidents. Security has been heightened particularly at airports. Restrictions on hand luggage apply and travellers are advised to check on the latest situation with airlines in advance. Travellers should also be alert to the dangers of car and street crime in cities and should use common sense and take basic precautions. Hurricanes are common between June and November, putting the southern USA, including the Gulf Coast and the eastern US, at risk. There is a risk of wildfires in many dry areas in the US, particularly on the West Coast from March to November.

Customs
Laws vary from state to state, including speed limit, fines and punishment. The age at which you may legally buy and consume alcohol is 21 years.

Business
In such a large country, filled with so many diverse groups, business practices may differ according to each state, however rarely to any large degree. The East Coast is traditionally more formal than the West Coast, however in states such as California dress code and conservative appearance are as common as they would be in New York. Punctuality is important throughout the country and it is considered rude to be late for a meeting. Gift-giving is uncommon as it may be construed as bribery. Appropriate titles (Mr, Mrs, Ms) are used upon introduction and until otherwise stated. Americans favour politeness and greetings of 'Hello' and 'How are you?' are often expressed with sincerity. Business hours may vary in each state, but an 8am start and 5pm finish Monday to Friday is the most common with an hour over lunch. Status and age are not necessarily indicative of seniority, nor do they carry much weight in themselves. Those doing business in the States should be mindful of this fact; never make assumptions about someone's position or rank. Best practice is to be respectful to all parties. That said, the States upholds a hierarchal business structure, in which "the boss" is the ultimate decision-maker. Senior leaders have the power of the last word, and can go against the grain just as easily as they can follow popular opinion. Concentrate on winning over this individual, even if the greater group seems unsupportive. Americans value a direct style of communication. In this fast-paced, consumer culture "time is money", and small-talk is viewed as unnecessary and wasteful. Get to the point quickly, speak about issues in a frank and open manner, and don't take offence if someone questions or challenges you outright.

Communications
The international country dialling code for the United States is +1. The outgoing code is 011, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 01144 for the United Kingdom). The US has numerous area/city codes, which must be dialled before the local number required (e.g. New York Manhattan, 212, and Washington DC, 202). Mobile networks cover most of the country, including all urban areas, however unless you have a tri-band phone it is likely your cellular phone from home will not work in the United States. The largest GSM networks are T-mobile and Cingular. Internet cafes are prevalent in most towns and cities.

Duty Free
Travellers to the United States who are returning residents of the country do not have to pay duty on articles purchased abroad to the value of $800 provided their stay was longer than 48 hours and their duty-free allowance was not used in the 30-day period prior. For passengers arriving from Samoa, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, a duty-free allowance of $1,200 is allowed. The following items are included in this: 50 cigarettes and 10 cigars and 150 milliliters (5 fl. oz.) of alcoholic beverages or 150 milliliters (5 fl. oz.) of perfume containing alcohol. Restrictions may apply to goods from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Burma (Myanmar), Angola, Liberia and Sudan. It is prohibited to import Cuban cigars from any country. Travellers to the United States who are non-residents do not have to pay duty on the following items: 50 cigars or 200 cigarettes and gifts to the value of $100 provided their stay in the USA is not less than 72 hours and that the allowance has not been used in the preceding six-month period. Prohibited items for residents and non-residents include: meat or meat products, poultry, narcotics, absinthe, plants, seeds, vegetables, fruits, soil, live insects and other living plants or animal pests. Fish is prohibited unless it carries disease-free certification. Wildlife and animals or their by-products carry restrictions. Dairy products and eggs from specified countries are not allowed. Firearms and ammunition are not allowed without the necessary license and permit.

Currency

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

US$ 1 = US$ 1.00£ 0.65C$ 1.02A$ 0.97R 8.46EUR 0.79NZ$ 1.26

Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.

Health

Health Overview
There are no specific health risks associated with travel within the USA. Medical facilities are excellent, but expensive. Only emergencies are treated without prior payment and treatment can be refused without evidence of insurance or proof of funds. Good medical insurance is essential.

Visa

Americans


UK nationals
UK passport holders require a valid passport for travel to the USA. Under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), most British citizens do not require a visa for holiday, transit or business purposes providing their passports are machine-readable, the stay does not exceed 90 days, a return or onward ticket is held and they check into the US government ESTA website prior to departure.

Canadians
Canadians do not require a visa, only a valid passport. Visitors should hold tickets and documents required for return or onward destination.

Australians
Australian nationals do not require a visa for touristic stays of up to 90 days under the Visa Waiver Program; a valid machine-readable passport, a return or onward ticket is required if travelling by sea or air and they must check into the US government ESTA website prior to departure.

South Africans
South Africans must hold a passport valid at the date of entry; a visa is also required. Visitors must have return or onward tickets and the necessary documents for further travel.

Irish nationals
Irish nationals require a valid passport. Irish passport holders qualify for the visa waiver programme, but a machine-readable passport (MRP) must be presented to gain visa-free entry to the country, which allows a stay of up to 90 days. Visitors must have return or onward tickets, all necessary documents for further travel and check into the US government ESTA website prior to departure.

New Zealanders
New Zealand nationals require a valid passport, but do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days under the US Visa Waiver programme. A machine-readable passport is necessary to qualify for the programme, a return or onward ticket is required and they must check into the US government ESTA website prior to departure.

Passport/Visa Note
Visitors entering the country under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) must have a machine-readable passport (MRP) that has a bar code on the photo page. Travellers under the VWP must have passports that include biometrics if they wish to enter the country without a visa, which means that passports must contain unique personal data such as fingerprints or iris details. All passports must contain a digital photo image in order to travel visa-free. All visitors to the USA have a photograph and two fingerprints taken by an inkless scanner on arrival, including those travelling visa-free under the Visa Waiver Programme. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers travelling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. If departing from the USA, a valid passport is required by immigration authorities. All visitors who do not need a visa, under the US Visa Waiver Programme, need to register online three days before travel. This allows the US government to screen all visitors before travel. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.

Contacts

United States of America Tourism
United States Tourist Office: www.usatourist.com

Foreign Embassies in United States of America

British Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 588 6500.
Canadian Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 682 1740.
Australian Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 797 3000.
South African Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 232 4400.
Irish Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 462 3939.
New Zealand Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 328 4800.

United States of America Embassies

United States Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7499 9000.
United States Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 688 5335.
United States Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6214 5600.
United States Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 431 4000.
United States Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 668 8777.
United States Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 462 6000.

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Travel Guide powered by www.wordtravels.com, copyright © Globe Media Ltd. All rights reserved. By its very nature much of the information in this guide is subject to change at short notice and travellers are urged to verify information on which they're relying with the relevant authorities. Globe Media does not accept any responsibility for any loss or inconvenience to any person as a result of information contained above.

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