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Ahead of Pompeo trip, Trump threatens Central America with aid cuts over caravan Trump's threat comes as the secretary of state preps for a trip to the region. Special counsel pushing Paul Manafort for information on Roger Stone: Campa-Najjar responds to Hunter's attack ad Democrat Campa-Najjar responds to being called a "security risk.
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Trump reluctant to break Saudi ties over missing journalist President Trump says he's "not giving cover" to Saudi Arabia over handling of missing journalist; Congressional candidate responds to attack ad EPA fight against 'secret science' slowed amid pushback from researchers Scientists said the push was aimed at limiting research to regulate industry.
All passengers must remove shoes and outerwear and submit personal belongings to X-ray screening. Full body scans using millimeter wave or X-rays are becoming increasingly common, and are now standard for most U. Refusal to submit to a full body scan is permitted, in favor of a pat-down, though you may have to wait a few minutes for an agent to be available to do the pat-down. Should you opt for a pat-down, the TSA agent will offer to do it in private, and you also have the right to demand that it be conducted by an officer of the same sex, but no clothing other than shoes and belts will normally be removed, although the agent will feel some private areas through your clothes.
Random passengers may also be selected for additional screening. This may include an "enhanced pat-down. There are limitations on liquids including gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes in carry-on baggage.
Liquids must be in individual containers each no bigger than 3. Only one such bag, with however much liquid, is allowed per passenger. Liquids in excess of these limits will be confiscated. Liquids in checked baggage are not restricted. Medications including saline solution for contact lenses and infant and child nourishment formula, breast milk, and juice for toddlers are exempt but subject to additional testing; notify TSA agents if you are carrying these items, store them separately from your other liquids, and if possible clearly label them in advance.
These locks can be opened by TSA officials using a master key should they wish to inspect the contents of your bag. If your lock is not one of the TSA-approved locks, the TSA will break it open and you will not be entitled to any compensation for the damage. Passengers whose journeys begin in major Canadian airports and involve either U. These flights are treated the same as U. Some airports such as LaGuardia Airport in New York City that don't have customs and immigration facilities receive pre-cleared flights from Canada.
However, even if you pass through these airports, make sure that your papers are in order to allow you to enter Canada: This arrangement does not apply in the reverse direction, meaning that you must pass through Canadian customs and immigration on your flight out.
Average wait times are up to 30 minutes, but some of the busiest crossings encounter considerable delays—approaching 1—2 hours at peak times weekends, holidays. Current wait times updated hourly are available on the U. If there is suspicion, your vehicle may be searched. Since this is an all-too-common event, expect no patience from border agents. No fee is payable if you made a side trip to Canada or Mexico and are simply re-entering the U.
Greyhound offers inexpensive cross-border service from Canada and Mexico. Some routes, such as Toronto to Buffalo, have hourly service. One of the routes of the city bus system of Windsor, Ontario the Tunnel Bus takes passengers to Detroit -- pedestrians or bicycles are not allowed on the bridge, in the tunnel, or on the ferry.
Bus passengers often experience greater scrutiny from U. Entry by sea is not very common today. The most common entry points for private boats are Los Angeles , or Florida and other Eastern coastal states.
The ferries between British Columbia and Washington state are treated as land border crossings rather than sea entry points. On international trains from Montreal and Toronto, immigration formalities are conducted at the border; this takes significantly more time than it would on a bus, which means the bus is often less expensive and faster than the train.
Travellers from Vancouver clear U. Be sure to allow enough time for inspections. Amtrak trains do not cross the border into Mexico so passengers continue to the border by local public transportation or by taxi from the Amtrak station. There are no passenger trains to the border from anywhere in Mexico. There are many border crossings in urban areas which can be crossed by pedestrians. Crossings such as those in or near Niagara Falls , Detroit , Tijuana , Nogales , and El Paso are popular for persons wishing to spend a day on the other side of the border.
In some cases, this may be ideal for day-trippers, as crossing by car can be a much longer wait. The size of the U. If you have time, travel by car, bus, or rail can be interesting. The quickest and often the most convenient method of long-distance intercity travel in the U. Coast-to-coast travel takes about 6 hours from east to west, and 5 hours from west to east varying due to winds , compared to the days necessary for land transportation.
Most large cities in the U. Depending on where you are starting, it may be cheaper to drive to a nearby large city and fly or, conversely, to fly to a large city near your destination and rent a car.
The largest airlines are the three remaining mainline legacy carriers American Airlines , Delta , and United and two of the country's low-cost carriers, Southwest and JetBlue. Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines are legacy regional carriers, while smaller airlines Spirit , Frontier , Allegiant and Sun Country are trying to make inroads.
There are also smaller regional airlines that are subsidiaries of the mainline carriers and can be booked through their parents. Major carriers compete for business on major routes, and travellers willing to book two or more weeks in advance can get bargains.
However most smaller destinations are served by only one or two regional carriers, and prices there can be expensive. The difference in fees and service between low-cost and mainline carriers is, however, virtually nonexistent these days. Low-cost carriers occasionally offer more amenities than mainline carriers, such as inflight entertainment for even a short-haul flight, or free checked baggage in the price of their tickets.
Southwest Airlines, for instance, allows passengers to check in up to two pieces of bags in their base price. Mainline carriers also offer first class for a larger seat, free food and drinks and overall better service. Many travellers in first class get their seat as a free frequent flier upgrade or similar perk.
You may also be offered an upgrade at a much lower cost during check in or at the airport if there are open seats available. Depending on the cost for a last minute upgrade, the savings in checked bag fees alone may make this a worthwhile option and you'll also get priority boarding, the bigger seat, more legroom, free beverages and food.
While private flying is by no means inexpensive, a family of four or more can often fly together at a cost similar to or even favorable to buying first-class commercial airline tickets, especially to smaller airports where scheduled commercial flights are at their most expensive, and private flying is at its cheapest.
Though you may find it cheaper than flying a family of four first-class internationally, it is rarely the case, except when traveling from Western Europe. General aviation is the most practical way to reach the outer boroughs of Alaska. Air charter refers to hiring a private plane for a one-time journey. Jet Cards are pre-paid cards entitling the owner to a specific number of flight hours on a specified aircraft.
As all expenses are pre-paid on the card, you need not concern yourself with deadhead time, return flights, landing fees, etc. Many small-town airports on America's borders welcome individually-owned small aircraft.
Give them an hour or two advance notice so that they can fetch border officials to meet the tiny private plane from exotic and foreign Brockville , and you've provided just the excuse they needed to add "International Airport" to their names. Due to the popularity of flying and cars, the passenger rail network in the United States is a shadow of what it was a century ago.
While the United States still has the world's longest rail network, it is primarily used for freight transport these days. Except for certain corridors mostly in the Northeast where a second cousin of high speed rail is available , passenger trains in the United States can be surprisingly scarce, slow and expensive.
In more urban locations, Amtrak can be very efficient and comfortable, but in rural areas delays are common.
Rail Pass for international travellers only. If you plan to buy a regular ticket within a week of travelling, it pays to check the website for sometimes significant "weekly specials". There is no dedicated high-speed rail network in the United States, and driving yourself will often be quicker than taking the train when travelling long distances.
Amtrak offers many amenities and services that are lacking from other modes of transport. Amtrak's routes traverse some of America's most beautiful areas. Travellers with limited time may not find travel by train to be convenient, simply because the country is big , and that "bigness" is particularly evident in many of the scenic areas.
For those with ample time, though, train travel offers an unparalleled view of the U. Both offer a lounge car with floor-to-ceiling windows and double decker cars.
During usual American vacation times, some long-distance trains outside the Northeast can sell out weeks or even months in advance. Booking early also results in generally lower fares for all trains. Same-day reservations are usually easy, and depending on the rules of the fare you purchased, you can change travel plans on the day itself without fees.
Separate from Amtrak, many major cities offer very reliable commuter trains that carry passengers to and from the suburbs or other relatively close-by areas. Some commuter train stations have park and ride facilities where you can park your car to use the commuter train to get to a city's downtown core where traffic and parking problems complicate car use.
Parking rates at the stations vary some facilities may be operated by third parties. Some commuter train systems and services do not operate on weekends and holidays, and even those that do often have greatly reduced frequencies, so it's best to check the system's website to plan ahead. Buy tickets before you board the train as you will either face a substantially more expensive fare or a hefty fine.
America has the largest system of inland waterways of any country in the world. It is entirely possible to navigate around within the United States by boat.
Your choices of watercraft range from self-propelled canoes and kayaks to elaborate houseboats and riverboat cruises. Rivers and canals were key to developing the country, and traversing by boat gives you a unique perspective on the nation and some one of a kind scenery. Each year, many beginning boaters successfully navigate these waterways. Any kind of boating requires some preparation and planning. In general, the Coast Guard, Canal and Seaway authorities go out of their way to help recreational boaters.
They will also at times give instructions which you are expected to obey immediately. For example, small craft may be asked to give way to larger craft on canals, and weather conditions may require you to stop or change your route. Regular ferries exist to a variety of destinations on the coast. In the northwest of the country, you can travel with the ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System from Bellingham Washington all the way along Alaska's southern coast to Dutch Harbor-Unalaska.
As a bonus you get to enjoy beautiful mountain and archipelago scenery. Moreover, much of off-the-beaten-path-Alaska is just accessible by boat. There is no commercial passenger service between the continental U. America's love affair with the automobile is legendary, so travelling the United States without a car can be difficult. Most American cities have developed with automobiles in mind, so renting or bringing your own car is usually a very good idea.
There are only a few major cities where using public transportation is preferable to driving: Other very large cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Miami have limited public transport options, and the options only get worse in smaller cities. Taxis and ride-hailing services are often available, but they can get expensive and taxis especially can be hard to find outside of airports. While most Americans are happy to give driving directions, don't be surprised if many aren't familiar with the local public transport options available.
Traffic signs do not conform to international standards but, if you understand English, they should be self-explanatory. Be careful with road signs, as any of these can morph into state routes, interstates, or highways with little warning other than size and signs.
All of them are generally well maintained by the respective states, but while the main Interstate system generally links only the major towns of every state hence the name: Interstate , the U. Most sections of the roads are free to use, but there are some which levy fees. A romantic appeal is attached to the idea of long-distance car travel ; many Americans will tell you that you can't see the "real" America except by car.
Given the scarcity of public transportation in most American cities, the loss of time travelling between cities by car rather than flying can be made up by the convenience of driving around within cities once you arrive.
In addition, many of the country's major natural attractions , such as the Grand Canyon , are almost impossible to get to without an automobile or on a bus tour. If you have the time, a classic American road trip with a rented car is very easy to achieve. You may have to shop around a bit for a one-way rental.
Pay attention to how many miles they allow you to put on the vehicle, since you probably want to make detours for sightseeing.
Because of the distances, this kind of travel can mean many long days behind the wheel, so pay attention to the comfort of the car you use. Driving law is primarily a matter of state law and is enforced by state and local police. While there are some minor variations state-to-state, the rules of the road are fairly consistent across the country. All states publish an official driver's handbook which summarizes state driving laws in plain English, with some states providing a Spanish version as well.
These handbooks are usually available both on the Web and at many government offices. Foreign visitors age 18 and older can usually drive on their foreign driver's license for up to a year, depending on state law. Persons who stay in the United States for more than a year must obtain a driver's license from the state they are residing in, though exceptions might apply depending on the state they are in e.
Written and practical driving tests are usually required, but they are sometimes waived for holders of some Canadian and European licenses. Most American drivers tend to drive calmly and safely in residential neighborhoods. However, downtown surface streets and big-city expressways often become crowded with a lot of "hurried" drivers, who will exceed speed limits, make unsafe lane changes, or follow other cars at unsafe close distances known as "tailgating".
Speed limits are variable depending on the area in which you are driving; enforcement is unpredictable and varies widely from state to state. Keeping pace with other drivers will usually avoid trouble. Beware of small towns along otherwise high-speed rural roads and medium-speed suburban roads ; the lower speed limits within these towns are strictly enforced. Intercity bus travel is widespread, but not available everywhere.
Service between nearby major cities is extremely frequent. Buses often connect many smaller towns with regional cities. It's commonly considered a "lower class" way to travel, but is generally dependable, safe and affordable.
However, bus stations in some cities are located in rough neighborhoods e. Discounts are available to travellers who purchase their tickets 7—14 days in advance of their travel date. Greyhound buses typically run in hour segments, at which time all passengers must get off the bus so it can be serviced, even if it's the middle of the night. Continuing passengers are boarded before those just getting on. Megabus , Greyhound's biggest competitor, operates mainly in 30 states in the Midwestern and the eastern half of the country between the hub cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans, New York, Washington DC and several other cities surrounding and between the hubs.
It also offers connections to Montreal and Toronto in Canada. It also has a couple of routes in the west, which are not connected to the other ones in the Midwest and the East Coast. The so-called Chinatown buses are small independent companies that provide curb-side departures for a standard walk-up cash fare often much lower than other operators' fares.
Some continue further out to destinations in the Midwest and the South from the northeast. Others operate between California, Nevada and Arizona. See the relevant city guides and GoToBus.
Hispanic bus companies tend to have the most spacious buses in the country. Many are affiliate brands or subsidiaries of Mexican bus companies offering cross-border services beyond the border areas to as a far north as Chicago, to as far east as Atlanta and as far south as Mexico City. Various smaller companies offer bus services throughout the country. A number of them are grouped under the Trailways brand, which you'll often find sharing space with Greyhound. Recreational vehicles — large, sometimes bus-sized vehicles that include sleeping and living quarters — are a distinctly American way to cruise the country.
Some RVers love the convenience of being able to drive their home anywhere they like and enjoy the camaraderie that RV campgrounds offer. Other people dislike the hassles and maintenance issues that come with RVing. And don't even think about driving an RV into a huge metropolis such as New York.
Still, if you want to drive extensively within the United States and are comfortable handling a big rig, renting an RV is an option you should consider. The thrill and exhilaration of cross country travel are magnified when you go by motorcycle. Harley-Davidson is the preeminent American motorcycle brand and Harley operates a motorcycle rental program for those licensed and capable of handling a full weight motorcycle.
In some parts of the country, you can also rent other types of motorcycles, such as sportbikes, touring bikes, and dual-sport bikes. For those inexperienced with motorcycles, Harley and other dealerships offer classes for beginners. Wearing a helmet, although not required in all states, is always a good idea.
The practice of riding between lanes of slower cars, also known as "lane-sharing" or "lane-splitting," is illegal, except in California where it is tolerated and widespread. Solo motorcyclists can legally use "high-occupancy vehicle" or "carpool" lanes during their hours of operation.
American enthusiasm towards motorcycles has led to a motorcycling subculture. Motorcycle clubs are exclusive clubs for members dedicated to riding a particular brand of motorcycle within a highly structured club hierarchy. Riding clubs may or may not be organized around a specific brand of bikes and offer open membership to anyone interested in riding. Motorcycle rallies, such as the famous one in Sturgis , South Dakota, are huge gatherings of motorcyclists from around the country.
Many motorcyclists are not affiliated with any club and opt to ride independently or with friends. In general, motorcycling is seen as a hobby, as opposed to a practical means of transportation; this means, for example, that most American motorcyclists prefer not to ride in inclement weather.
However you choose to ride, and whatever brand of bike you prefer, motorcycling can be a thrilling way to see the country. A long history of hitchhiking comes out of the U. The specifics of the law vary from state to state, but in general, hitchhiking itself is legal throughout the majority of the country, though generally not on Interstate highways where pedestrians are normally prohibited or while standing within traffic lanes usually marked by a solid white line at the shoulder of the road.
If you plan to hitchhike, best practice is to thumb rides at entrance ramps, or better yet highway rest areas. However, due to increasing wariness of the possible dangers fueled in part by sensational stories in the news media , hitchhiking in the U.
International travelers to the U. Even many Americans themselves would only feel comfortable "thumbing a ride" if they had a good knowledge of the locale, and American drivers also practice caution for the same reasons.
Craigslist has a rideshare section that sometimes proves useful for arranging rides in advance. If you are open with your destination it's almost always possible to find a ride going somewhere in the country, with payment often being sharing the fuel costs. The United States is extraordinarily diverse in its array of attractions. You will never run out of things to see; even if you think you've exhausted what one place has to offer, the next destination is only a road trip away.
The Great American Road Trip see above is the most traditional way to see a variety of sights; just hop in the car and cruise down the Interstates, stopping at the convenient roadside hotels and restaurants as necessary, and stopping at every interesting tourist trap along the way, until you reach your destination. Indescribably beautiful scenery, history that reads like a screenplay, entertainment options that can last you for days, and some of the world's greatest architecture—no matter what your pleasure, you can find it almost anywhere you look in the United States.
From the spectacular glaciers of Alaska to the wooded, weathered peaks of Appalachia; from the otherworldly desertscapes of the Southwest to the vast waters of the Great Lakes ; few other countries have as wide a variety of natural scenery as the United States does.
America's National Parks are a great place to start, and to see North American wildlife. Yellowstone National Park was the first true national park in the world, and it remains one of the most famous, but there are 57 others. The Grand Canyon is possibly the world's most spectacular gorge; Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park are both home to the world's tallest living organisms; Glacier National Park is a great place to see huge sheets of ice; Canyonlands National Park could easily be mistaken for Mars; and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park features abundant wildlife among beautifully forested mountains.
And the national parks aren't just for sightseeing, either; each has plenty of outdoors activities as well. Still, the National Parks are just the beginning.
And each state has its own state parks that can be just as good as the federal versions. Most all of these destinations, federal or state, have an admission fee, but it all goes toward maintenance and operations of the parks, and the rewards are well worth it. Those aren't your only options, though.
Many of America's natural treasures can be seen without passing through admission gates. The world-famous Niagara Falls straddle the border between Canada and the U. The "purple majesty" of the Rocky Mountains can be seen for hundreds of miles in any direction, while the placid coastal areas of the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic have relaxed Americans for generations.
And, although they are very different from each other, Hawaii and Alaska are perhaps the two most scenic states; they don't just have attractions—they are attractions. The prehistory of the continent can indeed be a little hard to uncover, as most of the Native American tribes did not build permanent settlements. But particularly in the West , you will find magnificent cliff dwellings at sites such as Mesa Verde and Bandelier , as well as near-ubiquitous rock paintings Petroglyph National Park has some of the best rock art in the country, and it is located only 17 km outside of Albuquerque.
As the first part of the country to be colonized by Europeans, the eastern states of New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the South have more than their fair share of sites from early American history. The first successful British colony on the continent was at Jamestown , Virginia, although the settlement at Plymouth , Massachusetts, may loom larger in the nation's mind. In the 18th century, major centers of commerce developed in Philadelphia and Boston , and as the colonies grew in size, wealth, and self-confidence, relations with Great Britain became strained, culminating in the Boston Tea Party and the ensuing Revolutionary War.
There are a large number of historic sites related to the American Civil War , the most destructive conflict on American soil. Americans have never shied away from heroic feats of engineering, and many of them are among the country's biggest tourist attractions.
The city's architecture is also an attraction—the Capitol Building and the White House are two of the most iconic buildings in the country and often serve to represent the whole nation to the world. A number of American cities have world-renowned skylines, perhaps none more so than the concrete canyons of Manhattan , part of New York City. There, a new World Trade Center tower has risen on a site adjacent to the fallen twin towers, and the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building still stand tall, as they have for almost a century.
Chicago , where the skyscraper was invented, can no longer claim the tallest building in the country, but it still has an awful lot of really tall buildings. Some human constructions transcend skyline, though, and become iconic symbols in their own right.
The Gateway Arch in St. Even the incredible Mount Rushmore , located far from any major city, still attracts two million visitors each year. From toys to priceless artifacts, from entertainment legends to dinosaur bones—nearly every city in the country has a museum worth visiting. The highest concentrations of these museums are found in the largest cities, of course, but none compare to Washington, D. With almost twenty independent museums, most of them located on the National Mall , the Smithsonian is the foremost curator of American history and achievement.
You could spend weeks exploring the cultural institutions just in D. Many universities also operate small museums that have interesting exhibits and are often free to enter, while those interested in specific sports or topics will often be able to find museums even in some small towns that suit their tastes.
Mid-size to large cities often draw big ticket concerts , especially in large outdoor amphitheaters. Small towns sometimes host concerts in parks with local or older bands. Classical music concerts are held year round and performed by semi-professional and professional symphonies. Many cities and regions have unique sounds. Country music is popular throughout the U. Nashville is known as "Music City" because of the large number of country artists that live in the city.
It's home to the Grand Ole Opry , one of the most famous music venues in the country. Many of the most popular mainstream bands are based in Los Angeles due to the large entertainment presence and concentration of record companies. America is considered to be the spiritual home of musical theater , and many of the world's most famous musicals have had a run on Broadway in New York City at one time or another. No trip to New York would be complete without catching at least one musical on Broadway.
A quintessential American experience is the marching band festival. You can find these events almost every weekend between September and Thanksgiving throughout the country and again from March to June in California. Check local event listings and papers to find specifics. To see the best of the best, get tickets to the "finals" performance, where the ten best bands of the festival compete for the championship. This event is now held at the Lucas Oil Stadium. Both "street" or parade marching bands as well as "field" or show bands are found at almost every high school and university in America.
The United States has a professional league for virtually every sport, including pillow fighting. America's passion for sports is rivaled hardly anywhere in the world, with the leagues with the world's highest attendance both per game NFL and total MLB and other leagues that are the best and most popular in their respective sport. Watching a game is a good way to meet and interact with the locals. A few of the most popular sports are:. In most English-speaking countries, "hockey" is used for a game played on grass and "ice hockey" for the one on ice.
In North American usage, however, the former is called "field hockey", while "hockey" alone almost always means "ice hockey" or, rarely, roller hockey. One feature of the American sports landscape that is different from those of other nations is the extent to which sports are associated with educational institutions. In many regions, college sports local or university teams , especially in football and men's basketball, enjoy followings that rival or surpass those of major professional teams.
In fact, 8 of the 10 largest stadiums in the world — all seating more than , spectators — are for U. The NCAA National Collegiate Athletic Association has over 1, member schools, including essentially all of the country's best-known colleges and universities. The college football season runs from roughly September 1 through mid-December, with postseason bowl games running into early January. The college basketball regular season begins in mid-November and ends in late February or early March, followed by conference tournaments and then national post-season tournaments that run through early April.
Rowing enthusiasts may wish to watch the Harvard—Yale Regatta , a 4-mile-long 6. Many communities take great pride in their high school sports teams, and especially in smaller locales, those teams are a major part of local culture. From August to May, a high school game can be a great and cheap way to meet locals and discover the area in a way many visitors never experience. The most popular sports are usually football and boys' basketball and to a lesser extent girls' basketball , plus hockey in New England and the upper Midwest.
In some areas, a particular high school sport enjoys an elevated cultural position. Examples include football in Texas, basketball in Indiana, hockey in Minnesota, and wrestling in Iowa. The United States is home to many of the world's most famous golf courses. The most famous is the Augusta National Golf Club, where membership is strictly by invitation only and a very exclusive privilege.
The Augusta National Golf Club is the home of the Masters , one of the world's most prestigious professional golf tournaments, and also one of the four majors in men's golf. Golf is popular both as a participation and spectator sport, and the U. See also Golf United States of America. A subset of rodeo, bull riding, enjoys a moderate degree of popularity as a standalone event, with the main circuit being Professional Bull Riders.
Almost every state has one or more state fairs. These began as competitions and shows to promote agriculture and livestock; now they include industrial product exhibitions, concerts, and carnival rides and games.
There are numerous national parks throughout the United States, especially the vast interior, which offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities, including Recreational shooting , ATV riding, hiking, bird watching, prospecting, and horseback riding.
In more urban areas, some national parks are centered around historic landmarks. The United States is the birthplace of the modern amusement park , and to this day, amusement parks form an integral part of American childhood and teenage culture. The first ever permanent amusement park was built on Coney Island in New York City , and while not as glamorous as some of the newer ones, is still home to a famous historic wooden roller coaster and numerous other attractions.
The Los Angeles and Orlando areas in particular are home to numerous well-regarded amusement parks, with giants Universal and Disney operating parks in both locations. Another chain of amusement parks that is well-regarded locally, though not so well-known internationally, is Six Flags , which has multiple locations throughout the country, and is particularly known for its innovative roller coasters and other thrill rides. Other chains include the marine-themed SeaWorld , which is known for its marine mammal shows, and Cedar Fair.
Foreign currencies are almost never accepted, though some major hotel chains may accept traveller's checks in other currencies. Establishments close to the Canadian border accept Canadian currency, though usually at poor exchange rates. The Mexican peso can also be used again at poor exchange rates in border towns like El Paso and Laredo.
All the bills are the same size. Banknotes never expire and several designs of each note can circulate together, but older designs that lack modern anti-counterfeiting features may rarely be refused by some retailers. These coins only have their values written in words, not figures: When it comes to value, size doesn't matter: Though Canadian coins are sized similarly, machines usually reject them.
Humans, on the other hand, generally won't notice or care about a few small Canadian coins mixed with American, particularly in the northern parts of the country. As with most currency, coins are generally not exchangeable abroad and UNICEF provides donation boxes at airports to let you dispose of them for a good cause before flying abroad. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE. Currency exchange centers are rare outside the downtowns of major coastal and border cities, and international airports.
Some banks also provide currency exchange services, though you may sometimes be required to call in advance. Due to the high overhead of exchange rates and transaction fees, it is often better to acquire U. Smaller ATMs in restaurants, petrol stations, etc. These fees are in addition to your card issuer's own fees.
Some ATMs, such as those at courthouses or other government buildings, have no fee. As with anywhere else in the world, there is a risk of card skimmers installed on these machines that can steal your credit card details.
Stores almost never charge for this service though it may be contingent on signing up for the store's loyalty program, which is also usually free ; however, the bank that issued your card may impose a fee. Opening a bank account in the U. Major credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard and their debit card affiliates are widely used and accepted. Almost all sit-down restaurants, hotels, and shops will accept credit and debit cards; those that do not post a sign saying "Cash Only.
Many retailers have a window sticker or counter sign showing the logos of the credit cards they accept. JCB, UnionPay China and RuPay India have alliances with Discover, so they can be used at any retailer that accepts Discover cards even if the store does not display the logo on its window. Shops may also ask for photo identification for foreign-issued cards.
When making large purchases, it is typical for U. If you do not have one, you can purchase a prepaid card or gift card with Visa, MasterCard or AmEx logo in a good number of stores, but you may have to provide identification before the card is activated. Transaction authorization is made by signing a paper sales slip or a computer pad, although many retailers will waive the signature requirement for small purchases.
Cards and devices e. Many of these ask for the ZIP code i. At gas stations, you can use a foreign-issued card by paying the station attendant inside. If you have a Canadian Mastercard, you can use it at all pumps that require a ZIP code by entering the digits of your postal code ignoring letters and spaces and adding two zeroes to the end. The goods that are taxed and those that are exempt often groceries, and pharmaceuticals vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Restaurant meals are usually taxed. Taxes are usually not included in posted prices but are added to your bill, so be prepared for the total to be higher than the listed prices would indicate! Regional price variations, however, will usually have more impact on a traveller's wallet than the savings from seeking out a low- or no-sales-tax destination. Some municipalities, such as New York City, also impose a hotel tax on accommodation, which is levied on top of the sales tax.
See also Shopping in the United States. America is the birthplace of the modern enclosed shopping mall and the open-air shopping center. In addition, American suburbs have miles and miles of small strip malls — long rows of small shops with shared parking lots.
Large cities have central shopping districts that can be navigated on public transport, but pedestrian-friendly shopping streets are uncommon and usually small.
American retail stores are gigantic compared to retail stores in other countries, and have some of the longest business hours in the world, with many chains open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Discount stores tend to stay open as late as 10PM or midnight, or may be open 24 hours a day.
Sunday hours tend to be somewhat shorter, or the stores may close. Outlet centers are found along major Interstate highways outside of most American cities. If you see a driveway or yard full of stuff on a summer weekend, it's likely a garage sale or yard sale , where families sell household items they no longer need.
Churches often hold rummage sales , with proceeds generally going to their church or a mission or project they support. Flea markets called "swap meets" in Western states have vendors selling all kinds of usually inexpensive merchandise.
Thrift stores are retail stores run by churches, charities, and not-for-profit organizations that take in unwanted or un-needed household items as a donation and re-sell them to support projects they are engaged in.
There are regional variations too: Thus, if you plan to rent a car and drive between several major cities on a single visit to the U. If you intend to visit any United States National Parks , such as the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park , it is worth considering buying a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass , which gives you access to almost all of the federal parks and recreation areas for one year.
Many hotels and motels offer discounts for members of certain organizations which anyone can join, such as AAA the American Automobile Association. Tipping is widely practiced in the United States. Standards vary, but gratuities are always given to servers in restaurants and bars, taxi drivers, parking valets, and bellstaff in hotels.
The salaries made in these professions, and even their taxes, take into account that they will be tipped, so it really is inappropriate to leave them out. Tipping in many countries is very rare or often not done at all, and unthinkable to some visitors. It is however an essential part of your trip to the United States, and you will upset people greatly by refusing to tip or tipping too little tipping often being the main component of a server's income.
Tipping in the United States is so common and expected in some cases that in many service establishments, such as hair salons and restaurants, customers who did not tip are often asked to pay a tip, or in rare cases verbally scolded by staff for "stiffing" them.
While Americans themselves often debate correct levels and exactly who deserves to be tipped, generally accepted standard rates are:. Therefore, tipping for this service is regarded as even more essential. If you receive exceptionally poor or rude service and the manager does not correct the problem when you bring it to their attention, a deliberately small tip one or two coins will express your displeasure more clearly than leaving no tip at all which may be construed as a forgotten tip.
If paying your bill by cash, leave a cash tip on the table when you leave there is no need to hand it over personally or wait until it's collected , or if paying by credit card you can add it directly to the charge slip when you sign it. The rules for tipping at fast-food places are different and a bit more complicated. The key thing to remember is that tipping is associated with table service.
The procedure at fast-food restaurants and when ordering takeout even from what is otherwise a sit-down restaurant is inherently self-service, therefore tipping is not necessary. Some eateries, mostly in the fast-casual sector, will have a "tip jar" at the checkout station, but tipping in that scenario is purely optional, and you won't be expected to contribute much more than the coins you're handed back as change.
At cafeterias and buffets, a small tip is expected since staff often clears the table for you and provides refills of drinks and such. The rules for tipping concierges are also arcane. For most services — asking for maps, information, tours, etc. Tipping well can make you look good in front of your American friends, dates, and business partners, with the reverse also being true for tipping poorly. The variety of restaurants throughout the U.
In a major city such as New York, it may be possible to find a restaurant from nearly every country in the world. In addition to the usual array of independent restaurants, the U. This is particularly true of Chinese see below and other Asian cuisines.
Many restaurants, especially those serving fast food or breakfast, do not serve alcohol, and many others may only serve beer and wine. Portions are generally huge, regardless of restaurant style, although this trend has moderated as customers are becoming more health-conscious. Many restaurants offer several portion options, though it may not be immediately obvious. Ask when ordering if portion choices are available.
Taking home "leftovers" is very common and is a good way to get two meals for the price of one. Ask for a to-go box at the end of your meal if you have not cleared your plate. In much of America, home-cooked food is as good as or substantially better than typical restaurant fare. This is particularly true in rural areas and small towns.
If you have the opportunity to attend a potluck or carry-in dinner , this is a chance not to be missed. Large cities host many examples of every type of restaurant imaginable from inexpensive neighborhood eateries to extravagant full-service restaurants with extensive wine lists and prices to match.
Most medium-sized cities and suburbs will also field a decent selection. In the most upscale restaurants, rules for men to wear jackets and ties, while once de rigueur , are becoming more relaxed.
Check with the restaurant if in doubt. Fast food restaurants are ubiquitous, but the variety of this type of restaurant in the U. Alcoholic beverages are not served in these restaurants; soft drinks are standard.
Don't be surprised when you order a soda, are handed a paper cup and expected to fill it yourself from the soda fountain refills are often free. The quality of the food varies, but because of the strictly limited menu, it is generally good, especially in the daytime.
Also the restaurants are usually clean and bright, and the service is limited but friendly. A few restaurants, called drive-ins , serve you directly in your car. Most fast food places offer drive-thru service, allowing you to place an order from the establishment's menu posted on the side of a dedicated auto lane, and then paying for it and having it handed to you packaged to go at a separate side window before driving to your next destination.
Takeout food is very common in larger cities for meals that may take a little longer to prepare than in a fast-food place. Place an order by phone or online and then go to the restaurant to pick it up and take it away.
Many places also offer delivery ; in some cities, it is easier to have pizza or Chinese food delivered than to find a sit-down restaurant. Pizza and Chinese are especially ubiquitous for delivery or takeout in the U. Hardcore pizza fans will usually prefer local pizza places to the big national chains; many such restaurants also offer takeout and delivery.
Fast-casual restaurants offer a fast-food dining style i. The food takes a bit longer to prepare — and costs a few dollars more — than at fast food joints, but it's generally worth it.
Some fast-casual places even serve alcohol. Diners are quintessentially American and have remained popular since their heyday in the s and 50s. They are usually individually run, open hours and found on major roads, though they also appear in large cities and suburbs.
They offer a wide variety of huge meals that often include soup or salad, bread, beverage and dessert. They are usually busy for breakfast, in the morning, at the end of factory shifts, or after the bars close. No compendium of American restaurants would be complete without mentioning the truck stop. You will only encounter these places if you are taking an intercity auto or bus trip. They are found on the interstate highways and cater to truckers.
There will be diesel fuel and separate parking for the "big rigs" and showers for the drivers who sleep in their cabs. These fabled restaurants serve what passes on the road for "plain home cooking": Truckers know their eating: Chain sit-down restaurants have a more predictable level of quality and price compared to local diners and truck stops, although those with discerning palates will probably still be disappointed.
Some specialize in a type of food e. For the backpacker or those on very restricted budgets, American supermarkets offer an almost infinite variety of packaged or processed foods that are either ready or almost ready for consumption, including breakfast cereal, ramen noodles, canned soups, and frozen meals. In the largest cities, corner stores abound.
These small convenience stores carry a variety of snacks, drinks, and packaged foods. Many restaurants aren't open for breakfast. Those that are serve eggs, toast, pancakes, cereals, sausages, coffee, etc. Most restaurants stop serving breakfast between 10 and 11AM, but some, especially diners, will serve breakfast all day.
As an alternative to a restaurant breakfast, you can grab breakfast food such as doughnuts, muffins, fruits, coffee, and packaged drinks at almost any gas station, coffee shop, or convenience store. Continental breakfast is a term primarily used by hotels and motels to describe a cold breakfast offering of cereal, breads, muffins, fruit, etc.
Milk, fruit juices, coffee and tea are the typical beverages. There is usually a toaster. This is a quick, cheap way of getting morning food. Lunch can be a good way to get food from a restaurant whose dinners are out of your price range. Dinner , the main meal. Depending on culture, region, and personal preference, is usually enjoyed between 5 and 9PM. Making reservations is a good idea if the restaurant is popular, upscale, or you are dining in a large group.
Buffets are generally a cheap way to get a large amount of food. For a single price, you can have as many servings of whatever foods are set out. However, since food can be sitting out in the heat for hours, the quality can suffer.
Generally, buffets serve American or Chinese food. Many restaurants serve Sunday brunch , served morning through early afternoon, with both breakfast and lunch items.
There is often a buffet. Typical American food items that can be found at most restaurants or large gatherings include hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, ice cream, and pie. While many types of food are unchanged throughout the United States, there are a few distinct regional varieties of food most notably in the South. At its best, barbecue often abbreviated "BBQ" is pork or beef ribs, beef brisket, or pork shoulder slowly wood-smoked for hours.
Ribs are served as a whole- or half-rack or cut into individual ribs, brisket is usually sliced thin, and the shoulder can be shredded "pulled" or chopped. Sauces of varying spiciness may be served on the dish, or provided on the side. There are also unique regional styles of barbecue, with the best generally found in the South. California and Maryland have a style that focuses on beef barbecued in an outdoor pit or brick oven.
However, barbecue of some variety is generally available throughout the country. Barbecued meat can be served with a variety of sides, including chili, corn on the cob, coleslaw and potato salad. Barbecue restaurants are unpretentious and the best food is often found at very casual establishments.
Expect plastic dinnerware, picnic tables, and sandwiches on cheap white bread. Barbecue found on the menu at a fancy chain or non-specialty restaurant is likely to be less authentic. Ribs and chicken are eaten with your fingers; tackle pork and brisket either with a fork or in a sandwich. Some Americans though never Southerners use "barbecue" as a synonym for "cookout": These can be fun, but are not to be confused with the above.
With a rich tradition of immigration, America has a wide variety of ethnic foods — everything from Ethiopian cuisine to Laotian food is available in major cities with large immigrant populations — and they're even beginning to cross-pollinate into fusion restaurants, with menus that are a mix of two or more different types of cuisine.
Italian food is perhaps the most pervasive of ethnic cuisines in America, almost to the point where its "foreign-ness" is debatable. While more authentic fare is certainly available in fancier restaurants, Italian food in the U. There are also restaurants that specialize in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines with feta cheese and hummus fairly widespread on supermarket counters , and in somewhat smaller numbers also German and French restaurants.
Chinese food is widely available and adjusted to American tastes. Authentic Chinese food can be found in restaurants in Chinatowns in addition to communities with large Chinese populations. Japanese sushi , Vietnamese , and Thai food have also been adapted for the American market, with dedicated restaurants in larger towns.
Indian and Korean restaurants are also present. Also very popular is Latin-American cuisine , especially Mexican, which for many years came almost exclusively in the form of Tex-Mex cuisine: Nonetheless, the small authentic Mexican taquerias that were once limited mostly to California and the Southwest have now spread throughout the country. You'll also find Cuban food in South Florida and Puerto Rican and Dominican restaurants in Northeastern coastal cities, both generally serving a more authentic and less Americanized product.
The Jewish community has given a great deal to the culinary scene. While full-fledged Kosher delis are a dying breed that are nowadays mostly relegated to New York City and other places with exceptionally large Jewish populations, some specialties like bagels and pastrami have entered the culinary mainstream and are now enjoyed nationwide by Americans of all types.
Restaurants catering to vegetarians are becoming more common in the U. Most big cities and college towns will have restaurants serving exclusively or primarily vegetarian dishes. In smaller towns you may have more of a challenge. Waitstaff can be helpful answering questions about menu items, but may consider dishes with fish, chicken, egg, or beef or pork flavoring to be vegetarian.
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