Area Codes -- Boston proper, 617 and 857; immediate suburbs, 781 and 339; northern and western suburbs, 978 and 351; southern suburbs, 508 and 774. Note: To make a local call, you must dial the 3-digit area code and the 7-digit number.

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.

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 (tel. 800/711-4644) and Brigham and Women's Hospital (tel. 800/294-9999).

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.

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 directory assistance in Washington, D.C. (tel. 202/555-1212) or check


The embassy of Australia is at 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202/797-3000;

The embassy of Canada is at 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001 (tel. 202/682-1740; The local Canadian consulate is at 3 Copley Place, Ste. 400, Boston, MA 02116 (tel. 617/262-3760;

The embassy of Ireland is at 2234 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/462-3939; The local Irish consulate is at 535 Boylston St., 5th floor, Boston, MA 02116 (tel. 617/267-9330;

The embassy of New Zealand is at 37 Observatory Circle NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/328-4800; Contact the honorary consul to the New England area at P.O. Box 1318, 57 N. Main St., Concord, NH 03302 (tel. 603/225-8228).


The embassy of the United Kingdom is at 3100 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202/588-6500; The Boston-area British consulate is at 1 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02142 (tel. 617/245-4500).

Emergencies -- Call tel. 911 for fire, ambulance, or the police. This is a free call from pay phones. Dialing 911 on a cellphone connects you to a state police dispatcher, who transfers the call to the local authorities. The Boston police direct emergency number is tel. 617/343-4911.

Hospitals -- The closest hospitals to downtown are Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Fruit St. (tel. 617/726-2000;, and Tufts Medical Center, 800 Washington St. (tel. 617/636-5000; At the Harvard Medical Area on the Boston-Brookline border are Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Ave. (tel. 617/667-7000;; Brigham and Women's Hospital, 75 Francis St. (tel. 617/732-5500;; and Children's Hospital Boston, 300 Longwood Ave. (tel. 617/355-6000; In Cambridge are Mount Auburn Hospital, 330 Mount Auburn St. (tel. 617/492-3500;, and Cambridge Hospital, 1493 Cambridge St. (tel. 617/665-1000;


Nonemergency MinuteClinics (tel. 866/389-2727; 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;

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


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). 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

Newspapers & Magazines -- The daily Boston Globe, Boston Herald, New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal are available at convenience stores, newsstands, some supermarkets, and sidewalk newspaper boxes all over the Boston area. The Boston Phoenix, a free weekly with extensive entertainment and restaurant listings, comes out on Thursday and is available from newspaper boxes.

Where, a monthly magazine available free at most hotels, lists information about shopping, nightlife, attractions, and current shows at museums and art galleries. Newspaper boxes dispense free copies of Stuff@Night, a biweekly Phoenix offshoot with selective listings and arts coverage; the irreverent Weekly Dig, which covers news, entertainment, and dining; the biweekly Improper Bostonian, packed with event and restaurant listings; and the weekly Tab, which lists neighborhood-specific event information. Available on newsstands, Boston magazine is a lifestyle-oriented monthly with cultural and restaurant listings.


Most large bookstores, including the local branches of Barnes & Noble and Borders, have extensive periodicals sections. Newsstands with good selections of international periodicals include Out of Town News, Zero Harvard Sq. (tel. 617/354-1441), and Crimson Corner, 1394 Massachusetts Ave. (tel. 617/864-0700), across the street from each other in the heart of Harvard Square.

Police -- Call tel. 911 for emergencies. This is a free call from pay phones. From a cellphone, 911 connects you to the state police. To call the Boston police emergency line directly from a cellphone, use tel. 617/343-4911. The non-emergency number is tel. 617/343-4200.

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. A growing number of hotel chains ban smoking in all guest rooms; in Boston, city law forbids smoking in hotels.


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. The 6.25% Massachusetts sales tax does not apply to groceries, prescription drugs, newspapers, or clothing that costs less than $175. The tax on meals and takeout food varies by community; in Boston and Cambridge, it's 7%. The lodging tax is 14.45% in Boston and Cambridge.

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.


For help with time translations and more, download our convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to and click on the Travel Tools icon.

Tipping -- Tips are a very important part of some 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 ($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.

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%.

For help with tip calculations, currency conversions, and more, download our convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to and click on the Travel Tools icon.

Toilets -- You won't find public toilets or "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. The visitor center at 15 State St. has a public restroom, as do the CambridgeSide Galleria, Copley Place, Prudential Center, and Quincy Market shopping areas. The central branch of the Boston Public Library, in Copley Square, has toilets in the basement. 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.


You'll find freestanding, self-cleaning pay toilets (25¢) at locations around downtown. These include City Hall Plaza, Congress Street behind City Hall; the plaza in front of the New England Aquarium; Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park; and Commercial Street at Snowhill Street, off the Freedom Trail just before it heads from the North End to Charlestown. Check these facilities carefully before using them or sending a child in alone; despite regular patrols, IV-drug users have been known to take advantage of the generous time limits.

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.