Area Codes -- Boston proper, 617 and 857; immediate suburbs, 781 and 339; northern and western suburbs, 978 and 351; southern suburbs, 508 and 774.

Business Hours -- Offices are usually open weekdays from 9am to 5 or 6pm. Banks are open weekdays from 9am to 4pm or later and sometimes on Saturday morning; most offer 24-hour access to automated teller machines (ATMs). Stores typically open between 9 and 10am and close between 6 (neighborhood shops) and 9pm (mall and shopping center locations) from Monday through Saturday. Sunday hours for shops that have them are usually 11am or noon to 5 or 6pm. Some drugstores and grocery stores are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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Doctors -- The front-desk staff at your hotel can often recommend a doctor, or you can use one of the referral services available through local hospitals. They include Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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, particularly near college campuses (in the Boston area, that's everywhere), so it's always a good idea to bring ID when you go out. At sporting events, everyone buying alcohol must show ID. Liquor stores and some supermarkets and convenience stores sell alcohol Monday though Saturday during regular business hours; in communities where selling alcohol on Sunday is legal, sales begin at noon. Happy hours with discounted drinks are illegal, but discounted food is permitted. Most restaurants have full liquor licenses, but some serve only beer, wine, and cordials. Last call typically is 30 minutes before closing time (1am in bars, 2am in clubs).

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.

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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. To find an embassy's contact info, visit www.embassy.org/embassies.

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Emergencies -- Call 911 for fire, ambulance, or the police.

Hospitals -- The closest hospitals to downtown are Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit St., and Tufts Medical Center, 800 Washington St. At the Harvard Medical Area on the Boston-Brookline border are Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Ave.; Brigham and Women's Hospital, 75 Francis St.; and Children's Hospital Boston, 300 Longwood Ave. In Cambridge are Mount Auburn Hospital, 330 Mount Auburn St., and Cambridge Hospital, 1493 Cambridge St.

Nonemergency MinuteClinics deal with ear infections, strep throat, and such, but not with dire emergencies. At press time, the only one in the immediate Boston area is in the CVS at the Porter Square Shopping Center, 36 White St., off Mass. Ave., Cambridge (tel. 617/876-5519; www.cvs.com).

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Newspapers & Magazines -- The city has two daily newspapers, the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald. 

Other publications in town: DigBoston, which covers news, entertainment, and dining; and Improper Bostonian, packed with event and restaurant listings. Available on newsstands, Boston magazine is a lifestyle-oriented monthly with cultural and restaurant listings.

Smoking -- In a word, no. State law bans smoking in all workplaces, including restaurants, bars, and clubs, and the MBTA forbids smoking in subway stations. You can't smoke in hotels, either.

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Time -- Boston is in the Eastern time zone. The continental United States encompasses four time zones: Eastern Time (ET), Central Time (CT), Mountain Time (MT), and Pacific Time (PT). Alaska and Hawaii have their own zones. At noon in Boston and New York (ET), it's 7am in Honolulu (HT), 9am in Los Angeles (PT), 10am in Denver (MT), 11am in Chicago (CT), 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.

Tipping -- Tips are a very important part of some workers' income, and gratuities are the standard way of showing appreciation for services provided. In hotels, tip bellhops at least $1 per bag ($5 or more if you have a lot of luggage) and tip the chamber staff $2 per day (more if you've left a big mess). 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 or $2 every time you get your car.

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In restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, tip service staff and bartenders 15% to 20% of the check, tip checkroom attendants $1 or $2 per garment, and tip valet-parking attendants $1 per vehicle.

Tip cabdrivers 15% to 20% of the fare; tip skycaps at airports at least $1 per bag ($5 or more if you have a lot of luggage); and tip hairdressers and barbers 15% to 20%.

Toilets -- You won't find public restrooms on the streets in most U.S. cities; seek them out 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 heavily visited areas, including Boston and Cambridge, may reserve their restrooms for patrons.

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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.