Area Codes -- Oregon has three area codes. In the Portland area, where 10-digit dialing is required for local calls, 503 is the main area code. However, you may occasionally encounter the 971 area code. Outside of the northwest corner of the state (roughly Mount Hood and Portland to the coast and south to Salem), the area code is 541.
Automobile Organizations -- Motor clubs will supply maps, suggested routes, guidebooks, accident and bail-bond insurance, and emergency road service. 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. For membership information or for emergency road service, call AAA (tel. 800/222-4357; www.aaa.com).
Business Hours -- The following are general hours; specific establishments' hours may vary. Banks are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm (some also Sat 9am-noon). Stores are open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm, and Sunday from noon to 5pm (malls usually stay open Mon-Sat until 9pm). Bars are legally allowed to be open until 2am.
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. Don't even think about driving while intoxicated.
Aside from on-premises sales of cocktails in bars and restaurants, hard liquor can be purchased only in liquor stores. Beer and wine are available in convenience stores and grocery stores. Brewpubs tend to sell only beer and wine, but some also have licenses to sell hard liquor.
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.
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 embassy of Australia is at 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202/797-3000; www.usa.embassy.gov.au).
The embassy of Canada is at 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001 (tel. 202/682-1740; www.canadianembassy.org). Other Canadian consulates are in Buffalo (New York), Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle.
The embassy of Ireland is at 2234 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/462-3939; www.embassyofireland.org). Other 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). Other 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 (tel. 202/588-6500; http://ukinusa.fco.gov.uk). Other British consulates are in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Emergencies -- Call tel. 911 to report a fire, call the police, or get an ambulance anywhere in the U.S. This is a toll-free call. (No coins are required at public telephones.)
Gasoline (Petrol) -- At press time, in the U.S., the cost of gasoline (also known as gas, but never petrol) was running close to $3 per gallon in most places. Taxes are already included in the printed price. One U.S. gallon equals 3.8 liters or .85 imperial gallons. Fill-up locations are primarily known as gas 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).
Insurance -- For information on traveler's insurance, trip cancelation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, please visit www.frommers.com/planning.
Internet Access -- Nearly anywhere you go in Oregon, even in small towns, you can find some way to connect to the Internet. Among the more common places to get access to the Internet are cybercafes, public libraries, and in hotel lobbies, where computers are often available for guests' use.
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 your embassy or consulate.
Mail -- At press time, domestic postage rates were 28¢ for a postcard and 44¢ for a letter. For international mail, a first-class letter of up to 1 ounce costs 98¢ (75¢ to Canada and 79¢ to Mexico); a first-class postcard costs the same as a letter. 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 the 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 http://zip4.usps.com.
Newspapers & Magazines -- The Oregonian is the Portland daily paper and is available throughout most of the state. Portland Monthly is a good lifestyle monthly that offers plenty of coverage of what's hot in Portland. Oregon Coast magazine is another publication worth picking up.
Police -- Call tel. 911 for emergencies. If 911 doesn't work, dial 0 (zero) for the operator and state your reason for calling.
Smoking -- Smoking is prohibited in restaurants and bars in Oregon.
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. Luckily for anyone visiting Oregon, this state is a shopper's paradise -- there's no sales tax. However, you may have to pay taxes on a rental car or hotel room (even some campgrounds charge a "bed tax").
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. Oregon, for the most part, is in Pacific Standard Time. For example, when it's 9am in Portland (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 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 and bartenders 15% to 20% of the check, 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. Large hotels and fast-food restaurants are often the best bet for clean facilities. Restaurants and bars in resorts or heavily visited areas may reserve their restrooms for patrons.
Visitor Information -- Contact Travel Oregon (tel. 800/547-7842; www.traveloregon.com) or Travel Portland, 1000 SW Broadway, Ste. 2300, Portland, OR 97205 (tel. 877/678-5263 or 503/275-8355; www.travelportland.com).
Most cities and towns in Oregon have either a tourist office or a chamber of commerce that provides information. When approaching cities and towns, watch for signs along the highway directing you to these information centers.
For Oregon regional websites, try the Oregon Tourism Commission's website at www.traveloregon.com, where you can also check out blog postings. Learn about local Oregon news, sports, and entertainment at www.oregonlive.com, the Oregonian newspaper's website. This latter website also has lots of great blogs. My favorites are "The Beer Here," "Wine Bytes," "Travels with Terry," and "Foods Don't Lie." For general Oregon travel blogs, visit www.travelblog.org.
To get information on outdoor recreation in Oregon's national forests, contact the Nature of the Northwest Information Center, 800 NE Oregon St., Ste. 965, Portland, OR 97232 (tel. 971/673-2331; www.naturenw.org). For information on Crater Lake, contact Crater Lake National Park, P.O. Box 7, Crater Lake, OR 97604 (tel. 541/594-3000; www.nps.gov/crla).
For information on camping in Oregon state parks, contact the Oregon State Park Information Center, 725 Summer St. NE, Ste. C, Salem, OR 97301 (tel. 800/551-6949 or 503/986-0707; www.oregon.gov/oprd/parks).
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.