Area Codes -- 239: For the Southwest coast, including all of Lee County, Collier County, mainland Monroe County, and excluding Florida Keys; includes Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples, and the Everglades.
305: All of Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys of Monroe County: Miami, Homestead, Coral Gables, Key West; 786: A newer area code covering those Miami-Dade numbers not covered by 305.
321: Orlando, Cocoa Beach, St. Cloud, and central eastern Florida. Is also the exclusive code for the Space Coast: Cape Canaveral, Melbourne, Titusville, Cocoa Beach.
352: Gainesville, Ocala, Inverness, Spring Hill, Dunnellon, and central Florida.
386: Daytona Beach, Lake City, Live Oak, Crescent City, and northern and eastern Florida.
407: Parts of Orlando, Cocoa Beach, Kissimmee, St. Cloud, and central-eastern Florida not covered by 321.
561: Palm Beach County: West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Belle Glade.
727: Majority of Pinellas County including Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Dunedin.
954: All of Broward County: Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Coral Springs.
754: All of Broward County that isn't covered by 954.
772: Vero Beach, Port Saint Lucie, Fort Pierce, Sebastian, Stuart, and central-eastern Florida.
813: All of Hillsborough County, including Tampa and Plant City; inland areas of Pasco County; and parts of Oldsmar in Pinellas County.
850: Pensacola, Tallahassee, Panama City, and the Florida Panhandle.
863: Lakeland, Avon Park, Clewiston, Bartow, Sebring, Winter Haven, and south-central Florida.
904: Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Starke, Green Cove Springs, and northeastern Florida.
941: Gulf Coast immediately south of Tampa Bay: all of Manatee County, Sarasota County, and Charlotte County; includes Bradenton, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, and Punta Gorda.
Business Hours -- "Normal" business hours are usually 9am to 5pm, but in certain parts of the state -- Miami, especially -- hours range from "whenever" to "whenever." Always call ahead to ask for hours, as, like the weather, they can change in an instant.
Drinking Laws -- The legal age for purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages is 21, though, strangely and somewhat hypocritically, a person serving or selling alcohol can be 18; 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. Florida state law prohibits the sale of alcohol between 3am and 7am, unless the county chooses to change the operating hours later. For instance, Miami-Dade County liquor stores may operate 24 hours. Alcohol sales on Sundays vary by county; some, such as Palm Beach and Miami-Dade County, can start serving booze as early as 7am while other counties such as Monroe don't start popping corks until noon. Check with your specific county to see what time spirits start being served. Supermarkets and other licensed business establishments can sell only beer, low-alcohol liquors, and wine. The hard stuff must be sold in dedicated liquor stores, which may be in a separate part of a grocery or a drugstore. Beer must be sold in quantities of 32 ounces or less or greater than 1 gallon. Forty- and 64-ounce alcoholic beverages are illegal.
As for open container laws: Having open alcoholic containers on public property, including streets, sidewalks, or inside a vehicle, is prohibited, though opened bottles of liquor are allowed inside a car trunk. Drivers suspected to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs must agree to breath, blood, or urine testing under "implied consent laws." Penalties for refusing testing can mean suspension of the driver's license for up to 1 year. In Florida, the first conviction carries a mandatory suspension of the driver's license for 6 months; for the second offense, 1 year; for the third offense, 2 years. Underage drivers (20 or younger) have a maximum legal blood-alcohol content percentage of .02%. Above this amount, they are subject to DUI penalties. At .20% above the legal limit of .08%, a driver faces much harsher repercussions. This also applies to drivers refusing chemical testing for intoxication.
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 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 -- To reach the police, ambulance, or fire department, dial tel. 911 from any phone. No coins are needed.
Internet & Wi-Fi -- When it comes to Internet and Wi-Fi, we're pretty connected. Most major cities offer free Wi-Fi hot spots. To find cybercafes in your destination, check www.cybercaptive.com and www.cybercafe.com. Also, most public libraries throughout the state offer free Internet access/Wi-Fi.
Language -- Although English is obviously the language of choice in the United States, when it comes to some cities in Florida, namely Miami, there are certain parts of the city and people who refuse to speak it. It can be trying on your patience, but it happens. Just a warning.
Legal Aid -- While driving, if you are pulled over for a minor infraction (such as speeding), never attempt to pay the fine 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. 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, passport, and so forth). 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 -- Thanks to technology, you can likely read your own hometown daily newspaper on your mobile. But for those who like to engage in what's going on in their vacation surroundings, the following is a list of some of Florida's more major newspapers: Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville), Gainesville Sun, Key West Citizen, Miami Herald, Naples Daily News Online, El Nuevo Herald (the Miami Herald's Spanish paper), Orlando Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Pensacola News-Journal, the St. Augustine Record, St. Petersburg Times, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale), Tampa Tribune, and Tallahassee Democrat.
For a comprehensive list of major Florida newspapers, daily and otherwise, go to http://dlis.dos.state.fl.us/fgils/flnews2.html.
Police -- To reach the police, dial tel. 911 from any phone. No coins are needed.
Smoking -- In November 2002, 71% of Florida's citizens voted for a constitutional amendment to prohibit smoking in all enclosed indoor workplaces. The smoke-free law became effective July 1, 2003. All establishments making more profit from food than from beverages are also smoke free, though some renegade bars and restaurants defy the law despite the hefty fees and allow smoking indoors.
Taxes -- The Florida state sales tax is 6%. Many municipalities add 1% or more to that, and most levy a special tax on hotel and restaurant bills. In general, expect at least 9% to be added to your final hotel bill. 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.
Time -- The Florida peninsula observes Eastern Standard Time, but most of the Panhandle, west of the Apalachicola River, is on Central Standard Time, 1 hour behind the rest of the state.
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.
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.
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 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 $2 per vehicle.
Keep an eye on your bill in tourist hot spots such as South Beach, where as much as an 18% auto gratuity could be already added to the total check.
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%.
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.
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.