Area Codes -- Philadelphia and its suburbs' telephone area codes are 215, 267, 484, 610, and 835. Lancaster County and the Pennsylvania Dutch region use area code 717.
Business Hours -- Philly banks are generally open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, with some open Saturday from 9am to noon. TD Banks offer extended hours and are open Sunday. Most bars and restaurants serve food until 10 or 10:30pm. Those near Rittenhouse Square and in Old City tend to stay open later, and some Chinatown places stay open until 3am. Bars must close at 2am. Offices are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. Stores are open daily from about 10am to 7pm; most Center City shops keep doors open later on Wednesday evenings. Old City, Rittenhouse Square, South Street, and Northern Liberties are the most active late-night districts.
Doctors -- Most hotel concierges will be able to point you toward medical care.
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.
Bars and restaurants can serve alcohol until 2am. Because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania controls all packaged good sales, wine and liquor can be purchased only at state-controlled Wine and Spirits Shops (tel. 717/783-7637; www.lcb.state.pa.us), most of which are open 6 days a week until 9pm, some of which also have limited hours on Sundays. One larger, centrally located Wine and Spirits Shop is 1218 Chestnut St. (btw. 12th and 13th sts.; tel. 215/560-4380). Some convenience stores and bars have licenses to sell bottles and cans of beer. For cases and kegs of beer, you'll need to seek out a beer distributor such as Bella Vista Beer Distributor at 755 S. 11th St. (btw. Fitzwater and Catharine sts.; tel. 215/627-6465; www.bellavistabeverage.com).
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 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, 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). Consulates are in New York, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
The embassy of Canada is at 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001 (tel. 202/682-1740; www.canadainternational.gc.ca/washington). 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). Irish consulates are in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and other cities. See website for complete listing.
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 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 -- For help from police, the fire department, or an ambulance, dial tel. 911.
Hospitals -- Medical care in Philadelphia is world renowned. Major hospitals include Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, aka "CHOP," 34th Street and Civic Center Boulevard (tel. 215/590-1000; www.chop.edu); Hahnemann University Hospital, Broad and Vine streets (tel. 215/762-7000; www.hahnemannhospital.com); University of Pennsylvania Hospital, 3400 Spruce St. (tel. 215/662-4000; www.pennhealth.com); Pennsylvania Hospital, 8th and Spruce streets (tel. 215/829-3000; www.pennhealth.com/pahosp); and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, 11th and Walnut streets (tel. 215/955-6000; www.jeffersonhospital.org).
Insurance -- For information on traveler's insurance, trip-cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, please visit http://www.frommers.com/planning.
Legal Aid -- While driving, 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. In the U.S., 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. The international visitor should call his or her 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 mail in person and must produce proof of identity (driver's license or passport, for example). Most post offices will hold 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.
Newspapers & Magazines -- Philadelphia has two main print journals, both owned by the same firm. The Philadelphia Inquirer is the more internationally minded of the two, and has a great Friday "Weekend" supplement of listings and prices of entertainment, as well as events and tours. The Philadelphia Daily News has more local news and sports coverage. Find them at newsstands, corner pay boxes, and convenience stores. Visit both papers online at www.philly.com. The Metro is a free daily offered at SEPTA stations. Free alternative weeklies PW (Philadelphia Weekly) and City Paper offer a glimpse of the younger side of city life; you'll find them in street-corner boxes. Philadelphia magazine (where I work) is the city's upscale magazine and is sold at bookstores and newsstands. It is available online at www.phillymag.com, and has a mobile application offering a glimpse of its signature "Best of Philly" winners. For the most complete selection of local and international journals and newspapers, try Avril 50, 3406 Sansom St. (tel. 215/222-6108; www.avril50.com), in University City. Center City has a Barnes & Noble at 1805 Walnut St. (tel. 215/665-0716) and a Borders bookstore at 1 S. Broad St. (tel. 215/568-7400).
Packing -- Maybe it's me, but a year of weather in Philadelphia feels like how a year of weather should be. Cold and sometimes snowy in winter, hot and sometimes muggy in summer, beautifully temperate in spring and fall, the local climate goes to an occasional extreme, but, overall, plays to each season's stereotype. Translation: In spring and fall, pack for cooler days and nights (layers usually work). In summer, dress light. In winter, come heavy. You'll likely be walking a bunch, so pack some comfortable footwear. To the chagrin of many old-timers, Philadelphia has taken a turn for the über-casual. Restaurants that once required coat and tie now welcome hoodies and jeans. Still, you'd feel out of place if you sauntered into, say, Lacroix, the Fountain, or Amada wearing a backwards baseball cap and old sneakers. For more helpful information on packing for your trip, download our convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
Police -- Police, fire, and rescue all respond to tel. 911. Philadelphia city police are regular fixtures on busy city streets. You'll find them walking, in patrol cars, and especially on bikes. Members of the Philadelphia Parking Authority wear dark blue uniforms similar to the police's -- don't confuse them or get in their way. You might end up on reality TV.
Smoking -- The minimum age to buy and to smoke cigarettes is 18. A citywide smoking ban is in effect for all public interiors, including all restaurants, shops, museums, and a large majority of bars. Smoking is prohibited within 20 feet of all Philadelphia building entryways (but you might not want to remind that to a smoker standing outside a bar).
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. At press time, Philadelphia's hotel tax adds 14.2% onto room rates, 6% for state tax, and 8.2% city surcharge. There is a 7% tax on restaurant meals and general sales, and a 10% tax on liquor. Clothing and food bought in groceries is tax-free.
Time -- Philadelphia follows Eastern Standard Time (EST). The continental United States is divided into three other time zones: 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 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 (summer 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.
For help with time translations, and more, download our convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
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 big mess 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 every time you get your car.
In restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, tip service staff and bartenders 18% 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 cabdrivers 15% to 20% 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 18% to 20%.
For help with tip calculations, currency conversions, and more, download our convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
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. Starbucks prides itself on its clean, accessible facilities.
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.