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US Travel Tips
Border Crossings
Electricity
Language
Measures
Telephone
Post Office
Tipping
Holidays
Money

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Northwest Travel Planning
Travel Tips - United States

The Go Northwest! definition of the Pacific Northwest includes the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Crossing the border
Click here.

Electricity
Like Canada, residential USA uses 115 volt electrical systems at 60 hertz. You will need a voltage transformer/ converter for your electrical appliances if they operate on a different voltage. There are different types of converters for different types of appliances. Small electronics, razors and non-heating appliances can operate with a 50-watt converter. Heating appliances such as hair dryers, irons, coffee makers and other high-power electrical appliances need a 1600-watt converter. You can also purchase combination converters for both types. Mains wall sockets and plugs for 115 volts are two parallel flat blades. If those sockets are different from the ones used in your country then you will need a socket converter. You can buy a kit online at the Go Northwest! Travel Store.

Language
English is the official language in the USA.

Measures
The USA uses the imperial system, however the metric system is creeping in. You will see both systems displayed in places such as some road signs, digital temperature displays, and tourist brochures.

Phone Calls
Dialing into the USA:
1 + area code + local number

Idaho area codes: 208

Montana area codes: 406

Oregon area codes:
(except Portland): 541
Portland and area: 503

Washington area codes:
Seattle: 206
Greater Seattle: 425
Olympia: 253
western WA: 360
eastern WA: 509

Dialing out of the USA
011 + country code + area code + local number

Toll free: known as "800" numbers, dial 1 + 800 + rest of number

Emergencies: dial 911 (police, ambulance, fire)

Post Offices

If you wish to receive post while in the US, have it sent to a city's main post office marked with your name, c/o General Delivery. The post office will hold it for four weeks and you will need ID to collect.

United States Postal Service (USPS)
International visitors, find how much it currently costs send a postcard. US visitors, scroll down to find the current cost for sending postcard home. US citizens can also download a passport application from here.

Tipping
Like Canada, in the USA it is customary to tip for services such as restaurants, bars and pubs, taxis and hairdressers. Usually 15%, although the amount can range from 10% to 20% at the discretion of the person paying the bill. Always check whether a service charge was included in a restaurant bill, especially if paying by credit card, as this is the tip.

National Holidays
January 1 - New Year's Day
January, third Monday - Martin Luther King Jr. Day
February, third Monday - Presidents' Day (combined observance of George Washington's and Abraham Lincoln's birthdays)
[May, second Sunday - Mothers' Day. Not a holiday as such, but be warned, restaurants will be crowded.]
May, last Monday - Memorial Day
July 4 - Independence Day
September, first Monday - Labor Day
October, second Monday - Columbus Day
November 11 - Veteran's Day
November, fourth Thursday - Thanksgiving Day
December 25 - Christmas Day

Technically the USA observes no national holidays. Each state has jurisdiction over its holidays, and the U.S. Congress can only designate holidays for the District of Columbia and federal employees. However in practice most states observe the federal legal holidays. It varies across employers as to how holidays are observed. Often the supermarkets are open, while retail centers, banks, post offices and schools may close. Note: unlike British English "holiday" refers only to these public days. "Vacation" refers to the weeks of leave granted by employers.

Money
1 US Dollar (US$) = 100 cents.
Note denominations:
US$1000
US$500
US$100
US$50
US$20
US$10
US$5
US$2
US$1
Coin denominations:
US$1 = "Susan B. Anthony "
50 cents = "half-dollar"
25 cents = "quarter"
10 cents = "dime"
5 cents = "nickel"
1 cents = "penny"

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The United States Mint
The United States Mint is responsible for the annual production of 18-20 billion circulating coins; managing $400 million a year in commemorative and bullion coin programs; oversight of field facilities in Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco and West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Bullion Depository at Ft. Knox, Kentucky; and protection of the Nation's $100 billion in gold and silver reserves.

United States Treasury
Provides historical information about the Treasury building,
Secretaries, and Treasurers, significant dates, Treasury tours,
FAQS, Treasury duties and functions and more.

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