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Fast Facts Hawaii

Area Codes--Hawaii’s area code is 808; it applies to all islands. There is a long-distance charge when calling from one island to another.

Customs--For details regarding U.S. Customs and Border Protection, consult your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, or U.S. Customs (www.cbp.gov). You cannot take home fresh fruit, plants, or seeds (including some leis) unless they are sealed. You cannot seal and pack them yourself. For information on what you’re allowed to bring home, contact one of the following agencies:

        U.S. Citizens:U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20229 (www.cbp.gov; tel. 877/CBP-5511).

        Canadian Citizens:Canada Border Services Agency (www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca; tel. 800/461-9999 in Canada, or 204/983-3500).

        U.K. Citizens:HM Customs & Excise (www.hmce.gov.uk; tel. 0845/010-9000 in the U.K., or 020/8929-0152).

        Australian Citizens: Australian Customs Service (www.customs.gov.au; tel. 1300/363-263).

        New Zealand Citizens: New Zealand Customs, The Customhouse, 17–21 Whitmore St., Box 2218, Wellington (www.customs.govt.nz; tel. 64/9-927-8036 outside of NZ, or 0800/428-786).

Electricity--Like Canada, the United States uses 110 to 120 volts AC (60 cycles), compared to 220 to 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 if you’re traveling to Hawaii from abroad.

Embassies & Consulates--All embassies are in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Some consulates are 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, check www.embassy.org/embassies or call for directory information in Washington, D.C. (tel. 202/555-1212).

        The embassy of Australia is at 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036 (www.usa.embassy.gov.au; tel. 202/797-3000). Consulates are in New York, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, and San Francisco.

        The embassy of Canada is at 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001 (www.canadainternational.gc.ca/washington; tel. 202/682-1740). Other Canadian consulates are in Chicago, Detroit, and San Diego.

        The embassy of Ireland is at 2234 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (www.embassyofireland.org; tel. 202/462-3939). 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 (www.nzembassy.com; tel. 202/328-4800). New Zealand consulates are in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle.

        The embassy of the United Kingdom is at 3100 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (http://ukinusa.fco.gov.uk; tel. 202/588-6500). Other British consulates are in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Family Travel--With beaches to build castles on, water to splash in, and amazing sights to see, Hawaii is paradise for children. Take a look at “The Best of Hawaii for Kids,” in chapter 1. Be sure to check out the “Especially for Kids” boxes in each island chapter for suggested family activities.

        The larger hotels and resorts offer supervised programs for children and can refer you to qualified babysitters. By state law, hotels can accept only children ages 5 to 12 in supervised activities programs, but can often accommodate younger kids by hiring babysitters to watch over them. Contact People Attentive to Children (PATCH) for referrals to babysitters who have taken a training course on childcare. On Oahu, call tel. 808/839-1988; on the Big Island, call tel. 808/325-3864 in Kona or tel. 808/961-3169 in Hilo; on Maui, call tel. 808/242-9232; on Kauai, call tel. 808/246-0622; on Molokai and Lanai, call tel. 800/498-4145; or visit www.patchhawaii.org. The Nanny Connection (www.thenannyconnection.com; tel. 808/875-4777) on Maui is a reputable business that sends experienced Mary Poppins-esque nannies to resorts and beaches to watch children for $19 per hour and up, depending on the number of children and holiday hours. Tutoring services are also available.

        Baby’s Away (www.babysaway.com) rents cribs, strollers, highchairs, playpens, infant seats, and the like on Oahu (tel. 800/496-6386 or 808/640-6734), the Big Island (tel. 800/996-9030 or 808/756-5800), and Maui (tel. 800/942-9030 or 808/298-2745). The staff will deliver whatever you need to wherever you’re staying and pick it up when you’re done.

        Gay & Lesbian Travelers--Hawaii welcomes all people with aloha. The number of gay- or lesbian-specific accommodations on the islands is limited, but most properties welcome gays and lesbians as they would any traveler. Since 1990, the state’s capital has hosted the Honolulu Pride Parade and Celebration. Register to participate at www.honolulupride.org.

        Gay Hawaii (www.gayhawaii.com) and Pride Guide Hawaii (www.gogayhawaii.com) are websites with gay and lesbian news, blogs, business recommendations, and other information for the entire state. Also check out the website for Out in Hawaii (www.outinhawaii.com), which calls itself “Queer Resources and Information for the State of Hawaii,” with vacation ideas, a calendar of events, information on Hawaii, and even a chat room.

        For more gay and lesbian travel resources, visit www.frommers.com.

Health--Mosquitoes, Centipedes & Scorpions--While insects can get a little close for comfort in Hawaii (expect to see ants, cockroaches, and other critters indoors, even in posh hotels) few of them cause serious trouble. Mosquitoes do not carry disease here (barring an isolated outbreak of dengue fever in 2001). Giant centipedes—as long as 8 inches—are occasionally seen; scorpions are rare. Around Hilo on the Big Island, little red fire ants can rain down from trees and sting unsuspecting passersby. If you are stung or bitten by an insect and experience extreme pain, swelling, nausea, or any other severe reaction, seek medical help immediately.

Hiking Safety--Before you set out on a hike, let someone know where you’re heading and when you plan to return; too many hikers spend cold nights in the wilderness because they don’t take this simple precaution. It’s always a good idea to hike with a pal. Select your route based on your own fitness level. Check weather conditions with the National Weather Service (www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl; tel. 808/973-5286 on Oahu), even if it looks sunny: The weather here ranges from blistering hot to freezing cold and can change in a matter of hours or miles. Do not hike if rain or a storm is predicted; flash floods are common in Hawaii and have resulted in many preventable deaths. Plan to finish your hike at least an hour before sunset; because Hawaii is so close to the equator, it does not have a twilight period, and thus it gets dark quickly after the sun sets. Wear sturdy shoes, a hat, clothes to protect you from the sun and from getting scratches, and high-SPF sunscreen on all exposed areas. Take plenty of water, basic first aid, a snack, and a bag to pack out what you pack in. Watch your step. Loose lava rocks are famous for twisting ankles. Don’t rely on cellphones; service isn’t available in many remote places.

Vog--When molten lava from Kilauea pours into the ocean, gases are released, resulting in a brownish, volcanic haze that hovers at the horizon. Some people claim that exposure to the smog-like air causes headaches and bronchial ailments. To date, there’s no evidence that vog causes lingering damage to healthy individuals. Vog primarily affects the Big Island—Kona, in particular—but is sometimes felt as far away as Maui and Oahu. You can minimize the effects of vog by closing your windows and using an air conditioner indoors. The University of Hawaii recommends draping a floor fan with a wet cloth saturated in a thin paste of baking soda and water, which captures and neutralizes the sulfur compounds. Cleansing your sinuses with a neti pot and saltwater is also helpful. One more word of caution: If you’re pregnant or have heart or breathing problems, you should avoid exposure to the sulfuric fumes in and around Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Ocean Safety--Many people who visit Hawaii underestimate the power of the ocean. With just a few precautions, your Pacific experience can be a safe and happy one. Before getting into the water, take a moment to watch where others are swimming. Notice the pattern of the swells. If you get caught in big surf, dive underneath each wave until the swell subsides. Never turn your back to the ocean; rogue waves catch even experienced water folk unaware.

        Note that sharks are not a big problem in Hawaii; in fact, local divers look forward to seeing them. Only 2 of the 40 shark species present in Hawaiian waters are known to bite humans, and then usually it’s by accident. But here are the general rules for avoiding sharks: Don’t swim at dusk or in murky water—sharks may mistake you for one of their usual meals. It should be obvious not to swim where there are bloody fish in the water, as sharks become aggressive around blood.

Seasickness--The waters in Hawaii can range from calm as glass (off the Kona Coast on the Big Island) to downright turbulent (in storm conditions); they usually fall somewhere in between. In general, expect rougher conditions in winter than in summer and on windward coastlines versus calm, leeward coastlines. If you’ve never been out on a boat, or if you’ve been seasick in the past, you might want to heed the following suggestions:

*       The day before you go out on the boat, avoid alcohol, caffeine, citrus and other acidic juices, and greasy, spicy, or hard-to-digest foods.

*       Get a good night’s sleep the night before.

*       Take or use whatever seasickness prevention works best for you—medication, an acupressure wristband, ginger tea or capsules, or any combination. But do it before you board; once you set sail, it’s generally too late.

*       While you’re on the boat, stay as low and as near the center of the boat as possible. Avoid the fumes (especially if it’s a diesel boat); stay out in the fresh air and watch the horizon. Do not read.

*       If you start to feel queasy, drink clear fluids like water, and eat something bland, such as a soda cracker.

Stings--The most common stings in Hawaii come from jellyfish, particularly Portuguese man-of-war and box jellyfish. Since the poisons they inject are very different, you’ll need to treat each type of sting differently.

        A bluish-purple floating bubble with a long tail, the Portuguese man-of-war is responsible for some 6,500 stings a year on Oahu alone. These stings, although painful and a nuisance, are rarely harmful; fewer than 1 in 1,000 requires medical treatment. The best prevention is to watch for these floating bubbles as you snorkel (look for the hanging tentacles below the surface). Get out of the water if anyone near you spots these jellyfish. Reactions to stings range from mild burning and reddening to severe welts and blisters. Most jellyfish stings disappear by themselves within 15 to 20 minutes if you do nothing at all to treat them. "All Stings Considered: First Aid and Medical Treatment of Hawaii’s Marine Injuries," by Craig Thomas and Susan Scott (University of Hawaii Press, 1997), recommends the following treatment: First, pick off any visible tentacles with a gloved hand or a stick; then, rinse the sting with salt- or fresh water, and apply ice to prevent swelling. Avoid applying vinegar, baking soda, or urine to the wound; doing so may actually cause further damage. Be sure to see a doctor if pain persists or a rash or other symptoms develop.

        Transparent, square-shaped box jellyfish are nearly impossible to see in the water. Fortunately, they seem to follow a monthly cycle: 8 to 10 days after the full moon, they appear in the waters on the leeward side of each island and hang around for about 3 days. Also, they seem to sting more in the morning, when they’re on or near the surface. The stings from a box jellyfish can cause hive-like welts, blisters, and pain lasting from 10 minutes to 8 hours. "All Stings Considered" recommends the following treatment: First, pour regular household vinegar on the sting; this will stop additional burning. Do not rub the area. Pick off any vinegar-soaked tentacles with a stick and apply an ice pack. Seek medical treatment if you experience shortness of breath, weakness, palpitations, or any other severe symptoms.

Punctures--Most sea-related punctures come from stepping on or brushing against the needle-like spines of sea urchins (known locally as wana). Be careful when you’re in the water; don’t put your foot down (even if you are wearing booties or fins) if you can’t clearly see the bottom. Waves can push you into wana in a surge zone in shallow water. The spines can even puncture a wet suit. A sea urchin puncture can result in burning, aching, swelling, and discoloration (black or purple) around the area where the spines entered your skin. The best thing to do is to pull out any protruding spines. The body will absorb the spines within 24 hours to 3 weeks, or the remainder of the spines will work themselves out. Again, contrary to popular thought, urinating or pouring vinegar on the embedded spines will not help.

Marine Life Awareness

Exploring the kaleidoscopic underwater world is the highlight of many Hawaiian vacations. Yet this salty environment is vulnerable to intrusion; swimmers can accidentally kill live coral colonies by stepping on or kicking them, or by introducing toxic sunscreen into the water. Chasing marine life such as dolphins, seals, or sea turtles prevents these animals from feeding and resting and can result in big fines. Hawaii Wildlife Fund (www.wildhawaii.org) and the Coral Reef Alliance (http://coral.org) are nonprofit agencies that strive to protect and conserve the marvelous marine life of Hawaii. Visit their websites to find out how you can protect yourself and the underwater critters you’re hoping to ogle.

Cuts--Stay out of the ocean if you have an open cut, wound, or new tattoo. The high level of bacteria present in the water means that even small wounds can become infected. Staphylococcus, or “staph,” infections start out as swollen, pinkish skin tissue around the wound that spreads and grows rather than dries and heals. Scrub any cuts well with fresh water and avoid the ocean until they heal. Consult a doctor if your wound shows signs of infection.

        Internet & Wi-Fi--In every island, branches of the Hawaii State Public Library System have free computers with Internet access. To find your closest library, check www.librarieshawaii.org/sitemap.htm. There is no charge for use of the computers, but you must have a Hawaii library card, which is free to Hawaii residents and members of the military. Visitors can visit any branch to purchase a $10 visitor card that is good for 3 months.

        If you have your own laptop, every Starbucks in Hawaii has Wi-Fi. For a list of locations, go to www.starbucks.com/retail/find/default.aspx. Many, if not most, hotel lobbies have free Wi-Fi.

        Most interisland airports have Internet kiosks that provide basic Web access for a per-minute fee that’s usually higher than cybercafe prices. The Honolulu International Airport (http://hawaii.gov/hnl) provides Wi-Fi access for a fee through Shaka Net. Check out copy shops like FedEx Office, which offers computer stations with fully loaded software (as well as Wi-Fi).

Mail--At press time, domestic postage rates were 33[ce] for a postcard and 49[ce] for a letter. For international mail, a first-class postcard or letter up to 1 ounce costs $1.15. For more information go to www.usps.com.

        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 the like). Most post offices will hold mail for up to 1 month, and are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm, and Saturday from 9am to noon.

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

Medical Requirements--Unless you’re arriving from an area known to be suffering from an epidemic (particularly cholera or yellow fever), inoculations or vaccinations are not required for entry into the United States.

Mobile Phones--Cellphone coverage is decent throughout Hawaii, but tends to be inconsistent in the more remote and mountainous regions of the Islands.

        If you’re not from the U.S., you’ll be appalled at the poor reach of our GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) wireless network, which is used by much of the rest of the world. You may or may not be able to send SMS (text messaging) home.

        Do not use your cellphone while you are driving. Strict laws and heavy fines ($97–$150) are diligently enforced.

Money & Costs--Frommer’s lists exact prices in the local currency. The currency conversions quoted below were correct at press time. However, rates fluctuate, so before departing consult a currency exchange website such as www.oanda.com or www.xe.com/ucc/convert/classic to check up-to-the-minute rates.

The Value of US$ vs. Other Popular Currencies

US$       Can$        UK£     Euro (€)                Aus$         NZ$

1          C$1.09      £.59      €.72       A$.992      NZ$1.15

What Things Cost in Hawaii    US$

Hamburger          6.00–19.00

Movie ticket (adult/child)    11.00/7.50

Taxi from Honolulu Airport to Waikiki              40.00

Entry to Bishop Museum (adult/child)                20.00/15.00

Entry to Wet [’]n’ Wild (adult/child)   48.00/38.00

Entry to Honolulu Zoo (adult/child)    14.00/6.00

Entry to Maui Ocean Center (adult/child)            27.00/20.00

Tour of Maui Tropical Plantation (adult/child)    16.00/6.00

Entry to Haleakala National Park (person/car)    5.00/10.00

Old Lahaina Luau (adult/child)            109.00/78.00

20-ounce soft drink at convenience store            2.50

16-ounce apple juice            3.50

Cup of coffee      3.00

Moderately priced three-course dinner without alcohol       60.00

Moderately priced Waikiki hotel room (double)145.00–195.00

        ATMs (cashpoints) are everywhere in Hawaii—at banks, supermarkets, Longs Drugs, and Honolulu International Airport, and in some resorts and shopping centers. The Cirrus (www.mastercard.com; tel. 800/424-7787) and PLUS (www.visa.com; tel. 800/843-7587) networks span the country; you can find them even in remote regions. Go to your bankcard’s website to find ATM locations at your destination. Be sure you know your daily withdrawal limit before you depart.

        Note: Many banks impose a fee every time you use a card at another bank’s ATM, and that fee is often higher for international transactions (up to $5 or more) than for domestic ones (rarely more than $2.50). In addition, the bank from which you withdraw cash is likely to charge its own fee. Visitors from outside the U.S. should also find out whether their bank assesses a 1- to 3-percent fee on charges incurred abroad.

        Credit cards are accepted everywhere except TheBus (on Oahu), most taxicabs (all islands), and some small restaurants and bed-and-breakfast accommodations.

Packing Tips--Hawaii is very informal. Shorts, T-shirts, and sandals will get you by at most restaurants and attractions; a casual dress or a polo shirt and long pants are fine even in the most expensive places. Jackets for men are required only in some of the fine-dining rooms of a very few ultra-exclusive resorts, such as the Halekulani on Oahu and the Big Island’s Mauna Kea Beach Hotel—and they’ll cordially provide men with a jacket if you don’t bring your own. Aloha wear is acceptable everywhere, so you may want to plan on buying an aloha shirt or a Hawaiian-style dress while you’re in the islands. If you plan on doing activities such hiking, horseback riding, or ziplining, bring close-toed shoes; they’re required.

        The tropical sun poses the greatest threat to anyone who ventures into the great outdoors, so pack sun protection: a good pair of sunglasses, strong sunscreen, a light hat, and a water bottle. Dehydration is common in the tropics.

        One last thing: It can get really cold in Hawaii. If you plan to see the sunrise from the top of Maui’s Haleakala Crater, venture into the Big Island’s Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, or spend time in Kokee State Park on Kauai, bring a warm jacket. Temperatures “upcountry” (higher up the mountain) can sink to 40[dg]F (4[dg]C), even in summer when it’s 80[dg]F (27[dg]C) at the beach. Bring a windbreaker, sweater, or light jacket. And if you’ll be in Hawaii between November and March, toss some rain gear into your suitcase, too.

Passports--Virtually every air traveler entering the U.S. is required to show a passport. All persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda are required to present a valid passport. Note: U.S. and Canadian citizens entering the U. S. at land and sea ports of entry from within the western hemisphere must now also present a passport or other documents compliant with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI; check www.getyouhome.gov for details). Children 15 and under may continue entering with only a U.S. birth certificate, or other proof of U.S. citizenship.

Australia--Australian Passport Information Service (www.passports.gov.au; tel. 131-232 in Australia).

Canada--Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G3 (www.ppt.gc.ca; tel. 800/567-6868).

Ireland--Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (www.foreignaffairs.gov.ie; tel. 01/671-1633).

New Zealand--Passports Office, Department of Internal Affairs, 47 Boulcott St., Wellington, 6011 (www.passports.govt.nz; tel. 0800/225-050 in New Zealand or 04/474-8100).

United Kingdom--Visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency, or contact the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), 89 Eccleston Sq., London, SW1V 1PN (www.ips.gov.uk; tel. 0300/222-0000).

United States--To find your regional passport office, check the U.S. State Department website (http://travel.state.gov) or call the National Passport Information Center (tel. 877/487-2778) for automated information.

Safety--Although tourist areas are generally safe, visitors should always stay alert, even in laidback Hawaii (and especially in Waikiki). It’s wise to ask the island tourist office if you’re in doubt about which neighborhoods are safe. Avoid deserted areas, especially at night. Don’t go into any city park at night unless there’s an event that attracts crowds—for example, the Waikiki Shell concerts in Kapiolani Park. Generally speaking, you can feel safe in areas where there are many people and open establishments.

        Avoid carrying valuables with you on the street, and don’t display expensive cameras or electronic equipment. Hold on to your pocketbook, and place your billfold in an inside pocket. In theaters, restaurants, and other public places, keep your possessions in sight.

        Oahu has seen a series of purse-snatching incidents, in which thieves in slow-moving cars or on foot have snatched handbags from female pedestrians. The Honolulu police department advises women to carry purses on the shoulder away from the street or, better yet, to wear the strap across the chest instead of on one shoulder. Women with clutch bags should hold them close to their chest.

        Remember also that hotels are open to the public and that security may not be able to screen everyone entering, particularly in large properties. Always lock your room door—don’t assume that once inside your hotel you’re automatically safe.

        Burglaries of tourists’ rental cars in hotel parking structures and at beach parking lots have become more common. Park in well-lighted and well-traveled areas, if possible. Never leave any packages or valuables visible in the car. If someone attempts to rob you or steal your car, do not try to resist the thief or carjacker—report the incident to the police department immediately. Ask your rental agency about personal safety, and get written directions or a map with the route to your destination clearly marked.

        Generally, Hawaii has the same laws as the mainland United States. Nudity is illegal in Hawaii. There are no legal nude beaches (I don’t care what you have read). If you are nude on a beach (or anywhere) in Hawaii, you can be arrested.

        Smoking marijuana also is illegal. Yes, there are lots of “stories” claiming that marijuana is grown in Hawaii, but the drug is illegal; if you attempt to buy it or light up, you can be arrested.

Senior Travel--Discounts for seniors are available at almost all of Hawaii’s major attractions and occasionally at hotels and restaurants. The Outrigger hotel chain, for instance, offers travelers ages 50 and older a 20-percent discount on regular published rates—and an additional 5 percent off for members of AARP. Always ask when making hotel reservations or buying tickets. And always carry identification with proof of your age—it can really pay off.

Smoking--It’s against the law to smoke in public buildings, including airports, shopping malls, grocery stores, retail shops, buses, movie theaters, banks, convention facilities, and all government buildings and facilities. There is no smoking in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Most B&Bs prohibit smoking indoors, and more and more hotels and resorts are becoming nonsmoking even in public areas. Also, there is no smoking within 20 feet of a doorway, window, or ventilation intake (so no hanging around outside a bar to smoke—you must go 20 ft. away).

Taxes--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.

        Hawaii state general excise tax is 4 percent. Hotel tax is 17.75 percent on Oahu and 17.25 percent on all the other islands. Oahu adds an additional .5 percent surcharge on all items purchased there (including hotel rooms) to pay for construction of an elevated public rail system.

Telephones--All calls on-island are local calls; calls from one island to another via a land line are long distance and you must dial 1, then the Hawaii area code (808), and then the phone number. Many convenience groceries and packaging services sell prepaid calling cards in denominations up to $50. Many public pay phones at airports now accept American Express, MasterCard, and Visa. Local calls made from most pay phones cost 50[ce]. Most long-distance and international calls can be dialed directly from any phone. To make 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 (chat lines, bulletin boards, “dating” services, and so on) can be expensive—charges of 95[ce] to $3 or more per minute. Some numbers have minimum charges that can run $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 directory assistance (“Information”), dial 411 for local numbers and national numbers in the U.S. and Canada. For dedicated long-distance information, dial 1, then the appropriate area code plus 555-1212.

Time--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. For example, when it’s 7am in Honolulu (HST), it’s 9am in Los Angeles (PST), 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, in effect in most of the United States from 2am on the second Sunday in March to 2am on the first Sunday in November, is not observed in Hawaii, Arizona, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Daylight saving time moves the clock 1 hour ahead of standard time.

Tipping--Tips are a major 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 $2 per bag ($3–$5 if you have a lot of luggage) and tip the housekeepers $2 per person 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 $2 to $5 every time you get your car.

        In restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, tip service staff and bartenders 18 to 20 percent of the check, and tip valet-parking attendants $2 per vehicle.

        As for other service personnel, tip cab drivers 15 percent of the fare; tip skycaps at airports at least $2 per bag ($3–$5 if you have a lot of luggage); and tip hairdressers and barbers 18 to 20 percent.

Toilets--You won’t find public toilets or “restrooms” on the streets in Hawaii but they can be found in hotel lobbies, restaurants, museums, department stores, railway and bus stations, service stations, and at most beaches. Large hotels and fast-food restaurants are often the best bet for clean facilities. Restaurants and bars in heavily visited areas may reserve their restrooms for patrons.

Travelers with Disabilities--Travelers with disabilities are made to feel very welcome in Hawaii. There are more than 2,000 ramped curbs in Oahu alone, many hotels are equipped with wheelchair-accessible rooms and pools, and tour companies provide many special services. Beach wheelchairs are available at one beach on Maui (Kamaole I; ask lifeguard) and six beaches on Oahu. Call the City and County of Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation (tel. 808/768-3027) for locations.

        For tips on accessible travel in Hawaii, go to the Hawaii Tourism Authority website (www.gohawaii.com/oahu/about/travel-tips/special-needs). The Hawaii Center for Independent Living, 200 N. Vineyard Blvd. A501, Honolulu, HI 96817 (www.cil-hawaii.org; tel. 808/522-5400), can provide additional information about accessibility throughout the Islands.

        Access Aloha Travel (www.accessalohatravel.com; tel. 800/480-1143) specializes in accommodating travelers with disabilities. Agents book cruises, tours, rental vans (available on Maui and Oahu only), accommodations, and airfare (as part of a package only). On Maui and Kauai, Gammie Homecare (www.gammie.com; Maui: tel. 808/877-4032; Kauai: tel. 808/632-2333) rents everything from motorized scooters to shower chairs.

        For more on organizations that offer resources to travelers with disabilities, go to www.frommers.com.

Visas--The U.S. State Department has a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allowing citizens of the following countries to enter the United States without a visa for stays of up to 90 days: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. (Note: This list was accurate at press time; for the most up-to-date list of countries in the VWP, consult http://usvisas.state.gov.) Even though a visa isn’t necessary, in an effort to help U.S. officials check travelers against terror watch lists before they arrive at U.S. borders, visitors from VWP countries must register online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before boarding a plane or a boat to the U.S. Travelers must complete an electronic application providing basic personal and travel eligibility information. The Department of Homeland Security recommends filling out the form at least 3 days before traveling. Authorizations will be valid for up to 2 years or until the traveler’s passport expires, whichever comes first. Currently, there is a US$14 fee for the online application. Existing ESTA registrations remain valid through their expiration dates. Note: Any passport issued on or after October 26, 2006, by a VWP country must be an e-Passport for VWP travelers to be eligible to enter the U.S. without a visa. Citizens of these nations also need to present a round-trip air or cruise ticket upon arrival. E-Passports contain computer chips capable of storing biometric information, such as the required digital photograph of the holder. If your passport doesn’t have this feature, you can still travel without a visa if the valid passport was issued before October 26, 2005, and includes a machine-readable zone; or if the valid passport was issued between October 26, 2005, and October 25, 2006, and includes a digital photograph. For more information, go to http://usvisas.state.gov. Canadian citizens may enter the United States without a visa but will need to show a passport and proof of residence.

        Citizens of all other countries must have (1) a valid passport that expires at least 6 months later than the scheduled end of their visit to the U.S., and (2) a tourist visa. For information about U.S. visas, go to http://usvisas.state.gov. Or go to one of the following:

        Australian citizens can obtain up-to-date visa information from the U.S. Embassy Canberra, Moonah Place, Yarralumla, ACT 2600 (tel. 02/6214-5600) or by checking the U.S. Diplomatic Mission’s website at http://canberra.usembassy.gov/visas.html.

        British subjects can obtain up-to-date visa information by calling the U.S. Embassy Visa Information Line (tel. 09042-450-100 from within the U.K. at £1.20 per min.; or tel. 866/382-3589 from within the U.S. at a flat rate of $16, payable by credit card only) or by visiting the American Embassy London’s website at http://london.usembassy.gov/visas.html.

        Irish citizens can obtain up-to-date visa information through the U.S. Embassy Dublin, 42 Elgin Rd., Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 (http://dublin.usembassy.gov; tel. 1580-47-VISA [8472] from within the Republic of Ireland at €2.40 per min.).

        Citizens of New Zealand can obtain up-to-date visa information by contacting the U.S. Embassy New Zealand, 29 Fitzherbert Terrace, Thorndon, Wellington (http://newzealand.usembassy.gov; tel. 644/462-6000).

Water--Generally the water in your hotel or at public drinking fountains is safe to drink (depending on the island, it may have more chlorine than you like).

Wi-Fi--See “Internet & Wi-Fi,” earlier in this section.

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.