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Area Codes -- The area code for all of Delaware is 302. Some Brandywine Valley attractions are in Pennsylvania; their area code is 610. Maryland has four area codes: 301 and 240 in the western half of the state, 410 and 443 in the eastern half, including Baltimore and Annapolis. In Maryland, you must always dial the area code first.

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 -- Most businesses are open every day. Store operating hours are usually 10am to 5pm or later. Mall stores close at 9pm or later. Many tourist attractions, however, have had to cut back their hours and quite a few have eliminated opening hours on Monday, Tuesday, and sometimes Wednesday. Winter hours at the beach may be even more limited, Saturday and Sunday, if they open at all.

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.

Beer, wine and liquor are available only in licensed liquor stores. In Ocean City, beer and wine are sold more widely than hard liquor, which is available only from a county-run outlet. In most areas, alcohol sales are permitted on Sunday though in Bethany Beach, Del., Cambridge, Md., and Garrett County, Md., Sunday sales are restricted to those drinking alcohol with a meal. There are no package sales on Sunday in Cambridge and Garrett County. Bars may not sell alcohol in Maryland and Delaware after 2am.

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 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; 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.irelandemb.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. 202/588-7800; http://ukinusa.fco.gov.uk/en). Other British consulates are in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Emergencies -- Dial tel. 911 for any emergency requiring police, firefighters, or ambulance.

Gasoline (Petrol) -- Maryland and Delaware gas prices tend to be at or below the national average. Taxes are already included in the printed price. One U.S. gallon equals 3.8 liters or .85 imperial gallons.

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 cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling please visit www.frommers.com/planning.

Internet Access -- Internet access is available in most hotels, as well as at a number of coffee shops, including Panera Bread and Starbucks. Local libraries offer computer access and Wi-Fi free of charge. FedEx Office also offers computer and Internet access. Cybercafes are difficult to find; try www.cybercafe.com.

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 -- As of this writing, 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, 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 www.usps.com/zip4.

Newspapers & Magazines -- The Sun and the Washington Post are Maryland's major newspapers. In Annapolis, look for the Capital, and in the Mid-Shore, the Star Democrat. You'll find the Wilmington News-Journal and the Philadelphia Inquirer in Delaware. They are easy to find in drug stores, supermarkets, and convenience stores.

Passports -- Visit www.frommers.com/planning for information on how to obtain a passport. For other information, please contact the following agencies:

For Residents of Australia -- Contact the Australian Passport Office at tel. 131-232, or visit the government website at www.passports.gov.au.

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

For Residents of Ireland -- Contact the Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/671-1633; www.irlgov.ie/iveagh).

For Residents of New Zealand -- Contact the Passports Office at tel. 0800/225-050 in New Zealand or 04/474-8100, or log on to www.passports.govt.nz.

For Residents of the United Kingdom -- Visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency or contact the United Kingdom Identity & Passport Service at tel. 0870/521-0410 or search its website at www.ukpa.gov.uk.

For Residents of the United States -- To find your regional passport office, either check the U.S. Department of State website or call the National Passport Information Center toll-free number (tel. 877/487-2778) for automated information.

Police -- Dial tel. 911 in an emergency anywhere in either Maryland or Delaware.

Smoking -- Smoking in restaurants, bars, and other public places is illegal in Maryland and Delaware. A few Delaware hotels offer rooms for smokers -- but the majority of bed-and-breakfasts do not.

Taxes -- The United States has no value-added tax (VAT) or other indirect tax at the national level. Delaware has no sales tax but does have an 8% to 10% lodging tax. Maryland's sales tax is 6% on everything except groceries, and lodging taxes range from 4.5% to 7.5%. These taxes will not appear on price tags or quoted prices.

Telephones -- Public phones are getting harder to find in Maryland and Delaware, with very few available on the street.

Many convenience groceries and packaging services sell prepaid calling cards in denominations up to $50; for international visitors these can be the least expensive way to call home. Many public pay phones at airports now accept American Express, MasterCard, and Visa credit cards. Local calls made from pay phones in most locales cost either 25¢ or 35¢. Most long-distance and international calls can be dialed directly from any phone. For 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 very expensive -- usually a charge of 95¢ to $3 or more per minute, and they sometimes have minimum charges that can run as high as $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 local directory assistance ("information"), dial 411; for long-distance information, dial 1, then the appropriate area code and 555-1212.

Time -- Maryland and Delaware are situated in the Eastern Standard Time zone. 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 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 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 cabdrivers 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.

Visas -- For information about U.S. visas go to http://travel.state.gov and click on "Visas." Or go to one of the following websites:

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://usembassy-australia.state.gov/consular.

British subjects can obtain up-to-date visa information by calling the U.S. Embassy Visa Information Line (tel. 0891/200-290) or by visiting the "Visas to the U.S." section of the American Embassy London's website at www.usembassy.org.uk.

Irish citizens can obtain up-to-date visa information through the Embassy of the USA Dublin, 42 Elgin Rd., Dublin 4, Ireland (tel. 353/1-668-8777; or by checking the "Visas to the U.S." section of the website at http://dublin.usembassy.gov.

Citizens of New Zealand can obtain up-to-date visa information by contacting the U.S. Embassy New Zealand, 29 Fitzherbert Terrace, Thorndon, Wellington (tel. 644/472-2068), or get the information directly from the website at http://wellington.usembassy.gov.

Visitor Information -- In Maryland, contact the Maryland Office of Tourism Development (tel. 866/639-3526 or 410/767-3400; www.visitmaryland.org). Its website has links to county websites as well. For information on Baltimore and the vicinity, contact Visit Baltimore (tel. 877/BALTIMORE [225-8466] or 410/659-7300; www.baltimore.org). Annapolis visitors should contact the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau (tel. 888/302-2852 or 410/280-0445; www.annapolis.org).

For information on parks, forests, and wildlife refuges, contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (tel. 877/620-8DNR [8367] or 410/260-8DNR [8367]; www.dnr.maryland.gov).

In Delaware, contact Delaware Tourism Office (tel. 866/2VISITDE [284-7483] or 302/672-6834; www.visitdelaware.com). For beach and Dover information, contact Southern Delaware Tourism (tel. 800/357-1818 or 302/856-1818; www.visitsoutherndelaware.com). For information on Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley, contact the Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau (tel. 800/422-1181 or 302/652-4088; www.visitwilmingtonde.com).

Weather -- For Baltimore and Annapolis, check on the day's weather forecast by calling tel. 410/936-1212. In Wilmington, dial tel. 302/429-9000 for weather, time, and a few ads.


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.