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American Express -- The American Express travel agency, 555 17th St., Denver (tel. 303/383-5050), is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm. It offers full member services and currency exchange.

Area Codes -- In the Denver and Boulder area, the telephone area codes are 303 and 720. In the south-central and southeast (Colorado Springs), the area code is 719. In the north and west, the area code is 970.

Automobile Organizations -- The American Automobile Association (AAA) is the major auto club in the United States. If you belong to a motor club in your home country, inquire about AAA reciprocity before you leave. You may be able to join AAA even if you're not a member of a reciprocal club; to inquire, call AAA (tel. 800/222-4357; www.aaa.com). AAA is actually an organization of regional motor clubs, so look under "AAA Automobile Club" in the White Pages of the telephone directory. AAA has a nationwide emergency road service telephone number (tel. 800/AAA-HELP [222-4357]).

Business Hours -- Generally, businesses are open weekdays from 9am to 5pm and government offices are open from 8am until 4:30 or 5pm. Stores are open 6 days a week, with many also open on Sunday; department stores usually stay open until 9pm at least 1 day a week. Discount stores and supermarkets are often open later than other stores, and some supermarkets are open 24 hours a day. Banks are usually open weekdays from 9am to 5pm, occasionally a bit later on Friday, and sometimes on Saturday. There's 24-hour access to automated teller machines (ATMs) at most banks, plus in many shopping centers and other outlets.

Drinking Laws -- The legal age for purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages is 21; proof of age is required and often requested at bars, nightclubs, and restaurants, so it's always a good idea to bring ID when you go out.

Do not carry open containers of alcohol in your car or any public area that isn't zoned for alcohol consumption. The police can fine you on the spot. And nothing will ruin your trip faster than getting a citation for DUI ("driving under the influence"), so don't even think about driving while intoxicated.

In 2008, Colorado retracted its "blue laws" banning the sale of hard alcohol and beer over 3.2% alcohol content on Sundays.

Electricity -- Like Canada, the United States uses 110-120 volts AC (60 cycles), compared to 220-240 volts AC (50 cycles) in most of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Downward converters that change 220-240 volts to 110-120 volts are difficult to find in the United States, so bring one with you.

Embassies & Consulates -- All embassies are located in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. Some consulates are located in major U.S. cities, and most nations have a mission to the United Nations in New York City. If your country isn't listed below, call for directory information in Washington, D.C. (tel. 202/555-1212), or check www.embassy.org/embassies.

The consulate of Australia is at 2629 Main St., Ste. 190, Littleton, CO 80120-4643 (tel. 303/321-2234; www.austemb.org).

The consulate of Canada is at 1625 Broadway, Ste. 2600, Denver, CO 80202 (tel. 303/626-0640; www.canadianembassy.org).

The embassy of Ireland is at 2234 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/462-3939; www.irelandemb.org). Irish consulates are in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and other cities.

The embassy of New Zealand is at 37 Observatory Circle NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/328-4800; www.nzembassy.com). New Zealand consulates are in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle.

The consulate of the United Kingdom is at 1675 Broadway, Ste. 1030, Denver, CO 80202 (tel. 303/592-5200; www.britainusa.com).

Emergencies -- In case of emergency, call tel. 911. For the Colorado Poison Center, call tel. 303/739-1123. For the Rape Crisis and Domestic Violence Hotline, call tel. 303/318-9989.

Gasoline (Petrol) -- At press time, in the U.S., the cost of gasoline (also known as gas, but never petrol) was about $2 a gallon in Denver and the vicinity. Taxes are already included in the printed price. One U.S. gallon equals 3.8 liters or .85 imperial gallons. Fill-up locations are known as gas or service stations.

Holidays -- Banks, government offices, post offices, and many stores, restaurants, and museums are closed on the following legal national holidays: January 1 (New Year's Day), the third Monday in January (Martin Luther King, Jr., Day), the third Monday in February (Presidents' Day), the last Monday in May (Memorial Day), July 4 (Independence Day), the first Monday in September (Labor Day), the second Monday in October (Columbus Day), November 11 (Veterans' Day/Armistice Day), the fourth Thursday in November (Thanksgiving Day), and December 25 (Christmas). The Tuesday after the first Monday in November is Election Day, a federal government holiday in presidential-election years (held every 4 years, and next in 2012).

Internet Access -- Coffee shops, libraries, FedEx Office locations, and most hotels offer Internet access on Colorado's Front Range.

Laundromats -- There are numerous laundromats in Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and the rest of Colorado; consult local phone books.

Legal Aid -- If you are "pulled over" for a minor infraction (such as speeding), never attempt to pay the fine directly to a police officer; this could be construed as attempted bribery, a much more serious crime. Pay fines by mail or directly into the hands of the clerk of the court. If accused of a more serious offense, say and do nothing before consulting a lawyer. Here the burden is on the state to prove a person's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and everyone has the right to remain silent, whether he or she is suspected of a crime or actually arrested. Once arrested, a person can make one telephone call to a party of his or her choice. International visitors should call their embassy or consulate.

Lost & Found -- Be sure to tell all of your credit card companies the minute you discover your wallet has been lost or stolen and file a report at the nearest police precinct. Your credit card company or insurer may require a police report number or record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. Visa's U.S. emergency number is tel. 800/847-2911 or 410/581-9994. American Express cardholders and traveler's check holders should call tel. 800/221-7282. MasterCard holders should call tel. 800/307-7309 or 636/722-7111. For other credit cards, call the toll-free number directory at tel. 800/555-1212.

If you need emergency cash over the weekend when all banks and American Express offices are closed, you can have money wired to you via Western Union (tel. 800/325-6000; www.westernunion.com).

Mail -- At press time, domestic postage rates were 26¢ for a postcard and 42¢ for a letter. For international mail, a first-class letter of up to 1 ounce costs 90¢ (69¢ to Canada and Mexico); a first-class postcard costs the same as a letter. For more information go to www.usps.com and click on "Calculate Postage."

If you aren't sure what your address will be in the United States, mail can be sent to you, in your name, c/o General Delivery at the main post office of the city or region where you expect to be. (Call tel. 800/275-8777 for information on the nearest post office.) The addressee must pick up mail in person and must produce proof of identity (driver's license, passport, and so on). Most post offices will hold your mail for up to 1 month and are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm, and Saturday from 9am to 3pm.

Always include zip codes when mailing items in the U.S. If you don't know your zip code, visit www.usps.com/zip4.

Maps -- The region's best map store, Mapsco Map and Travel Center, 800 Lincoln St., Denver, CO 80203 (tel. 800/456-8703 or 303/830-2373; www.mapsco.com), offers USGS and recreation maps, state maps and travel guides, raised relief maps, and globes.

Medical Conditions -- If you have a medical condition that requires syringe-administered medications, carry a valid signed prescription from your physician; syringes in carry-on baggage will be inspected. Insulin in any form should have the proper pharmaceutical documentation. If you have a disease that requires treatment with narcotics, you should also carry documented proof with you -- smuggling narcotics aboard a plane carries severe penalties in the U.S.

For HIV-positive visitors, requirements for entering the United States are somewhat vague and change frequently. For up-to-the-minute information, contact AIDSinfo (tel. 800/448-0440 or 301/519-6616 outside the U.S.; www.aidsinfo.nih.gov) or the Gay Men's Health Crisis (tel. 212/367-1000; www.gmhc.org).

Newspapers & Magazines -- The Denver Post (www.denverpost.com) is Colorado's largest daily newspaper, with coverage of the Denver metropolitan area plus news of the state. The Rocky Mountain News (www.rockymountainnews.com) also covers the metropolitan area. Each publishes a weekday edition; only the News prints on Saturday, and only the Post appears on Sunday. A widely read free weekly, Westword (www.westword.com), is known as much for its controversial jabs at local politicians and celebrities as for its entertainment listings. In Boulder and Colorado Springs, the daily newspapers are the Daily Camera and The Gazette, respectively.

Police -- Call tel. 911 for emergencies.

Smoking -- As of 2006, smoking was banned in all public places in Colorado, including restaurants and bars.

Taxes -- Colorado has a 2.9% state sales tax; local jurisdictions often add another 4% or 5%. Lodging tax is typically 10% to 15%. The United States has no value-added tax (VAT) or other indirect tax at the national level. Every state, county, and city may levy its own local tax on all purchases, including hotel and restaurant checks and airline tickets. These taxes will not appear on price tags.

Telegraph, Telex & Fax -- Telegraph and telex services are provided primarily by Western Union (tel. 800/325-6000; www.westernunion.com). You can telegraph (wire) money, or have it telegraphed to you, very quickly over the Western Union system, but this can cost 15% to 20% of the amount sent.

Most hotels have fax machines available for use (be sure to ask about the charge to use them). Many hotel rooms are wired for guests' fax machines. A less expensive way to send and receive faxes may be at stores such as the UPS Store.

Telephones -- Many groceries and packaging services sell prepaid calling cards in denominations up to $50; for international visitors these can be the least expensive way to call home. Many public pay phones now accept American Express, MasterCard, and Visa credit cards. Local calls made from pay phones in most locales cost either 25¢ or 35¢ (no pennies, please). 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 the number you are calling.

Calls to area codes 800, 888, 877, and 866 are toll free. However, calls to area codes 700 and 900 can be very expensive -- usually a charge of 95¢ to $3 or more per minute, and they sometimes have minimum charges that can run as high as $15 or more.

For reversed-charge or collect calls, and for person-to-person calls, dial the number 0, then the area code and number; an operator will come on the line, and you should specify whether you are calling collect, person-to-person, or both. If your operator-assisted call is international, ask for the overseas operator.

For local directory assistance ("information"), dial tel. 411; for long-distance information, dial 1, then the appropriate area code and 555-1212.

Time -- All of Colorado is in the Mountain Standard Time Zone. The continental United States is divided into four time zones: Eastern Standard Time (EST), Central Standard Time (CST), Mountain Standard Time (MST), and Pacific Standard Time (PST). Alaska and Hawaii have their own zones. When it's 9am in Los Angeles (PST), it's 7am in Honolulu (HST), 10am in Denver (MST), 11am in Chicago (CST), noon in New York City (EST), 5pm in London (GMT), and 2am the next day in Sydney.

Daylight saving time is in effect from 1am on the second Sunday in March to 1am on the first Sunday in November, except in Arizona, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Daylight saving time moves the clock 1 hour ahead of standard time.

Tipping -- In Colorado, tips are a very important part of certain workers' income, and gratuities are the standard way of showing appreciation for services provided. (Tipping is certainly not compulsory if the service is poor!) In hotels, tip bellhops at least $1 per bag ($2-$3 if you have a lot of luggage) and tip the chamber staff $1 to $2 per day (more if you've left a disaster area for him or her to clean up). Tip the doorman or concierge only if he or she has provided you with some specific service (for example, calling a cab for you or obtaining difficult-to-get theater tickets). Tip the valet-parking attendant $1 every time you get your car.

In restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, tip service staff 15% to 20% of the check, tip bartenders 10% to 15%, tip checkroom attendants $1 per garment, and tip valet-parking attendants $1 per vehicle.

As for other service personnel, tip cab drivers 15% of the fare; tip skycaps at airports at least $1 per bag ($2-$3 if you have a lot of luggage); and tip hairdressers and barbers 15% to 20%.

Toilets -- You won't find public toilets or "restrooms" on the streets in most U.S. cities, but they can be found in hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, museums, department stores, railway and bus stations, and service stations. Restaurants and bars in resorts or heavily visited areas may reserve their restrooms for patrons.

Useful Phone Numbers -- City of Denver (non-emergency): tel. 311. Colorado Road Conditions: tel. 303/639-1111. U.S. Dept. of State Travel Advisory: tel. 202/647-5225 (manned 24 hr.). U.S. Passport Agency: tel. 202/647-0518. U.S. Centers for Disease Control International Traveler's Hotline: tel. 404/332-4559.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.