Customs—For details regarding U.S. Customs and Border Protection, consult your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, or U.S. Customs (www.cbp.gov). You cannot take home fresh fruit, plants, or seeds (including some leis) unless they are inspected and sealed. You cannot seal and pack them yourself. For information on what you’re allowed to bring home, contact one of the following agencies:
U.S. Citizens: U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20229 (www.cbp.gov; 877/CBP-5511).
Canadian Citizens: Canada Border Services Agency (www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca; 800/461-9999 in Canada, or 204/983-3500).
U.K. Citizens: HM Customs & Excise (www.hmce.gov.uk; 0845/010-9000 in the U.K., or 020/8929-0152).
Australian Citizens: Australian Customs Service (www.customs.gov.au; 1300/363-263).
New Zealand Citizens: New Zealand Customs, The Customhouse, 17–21 Whitmore St., Box 2218, Wellington (www.customs.govt.nz; 64/9-927-8036 outside of NZ, or 0800/428-786).
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 hard to find in the U.S., so bring one with you if you’re traveling to Hawaii from abroad.
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, check www.embassy.org/embassies.
The embassy of Australia is at 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036 (www.usa.embassy.gov.au; 202/797-3000). Consulates are in New York, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, and San Francisco.
The embassy of Canada is at 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20001 (www.canadianembassy.org; 202/682-1740). Consulates are in Chicago, Detroit, San Diego, and other cities. See website for full listing.
The embassy of Ireland is at 2234 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (www.embassyofireland.org; 202/462-3939). Irish consulates are in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and other cities. See website for full listing.
The embassy of New Zealand is at 37 Observatory Circle NW, Washington, DC 20008 (www.nzembassy.com; 202/328-4800). Consulates are in Los Angeles and Honolulu.
The embassy of the United Kingdom is at 3100 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (www.gov.uk/government/world/usa; 202/588-6500). Other British consulates are in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Miami.
Mail—At press time, domestic postage rates were 34¢ for a postcard and 49¢ for a letter. For international mail, a first-class postcard or letter up to 1 ounce costs $1.15. For more information go to www.usps.com.
Always include zip codes when mailing items in the U.S. If you don’t know your zip code, visit www.usps.com/zip4.
Medical Requirements—Unless you’re arriving from an area known to be suffering from an epidemic (particularly cholera or yellow fever), inoculations or vaccinations are not required for entry into the United States.
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.
Hawaii state general excise tax is 4.166%, which applies to all items purchased (including hotel rooms). The county of Oahu levies an additional 0.546% tax. On top of that, the state's transient Accommodation Tax (TAT) is 10.25%. These taxes, combined with various resort fees, can add up to 17% to 18% of your room rate. Budget accordingly.
Telephones—All calls on-island are local calls; calls from one island to another via a landline are long distance and you must dial 1, then the Hawaii area code (808), and then the phone number. Convenience stores sell prepaid calling cards in denominations up to $50. You are unlikely to see a public pay phone, however. Those at airports now accept American Express, MasterCard, and Visa. Local calls made from most pay phones cost 50¢. Most long-distance and international calls can be dialed directly from any phone. To make 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 expensive—charges of 95¢ to $3 or more per minute. Some numbers have minimum charges that can run $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 directory assistance (“Information”), dial 411 for local numbers and national numbers in the U.S. and Canada. For dedicated long-distance information, dial 1, then the appropriate area code plus 555-1212.
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 7am in Honolulu (HST), it’s 9am in Los Angeles (PST), 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, in effect in most of the United States from 2am on the second Sunday in March to 2am on the first Sunday in November, is not observed in Hawaii, Arizona, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Daylight saving time moves the clock 1 hour ahead of standard time.
Tipping—Tips are a major part of certain 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 $2 per bag ($3–$5 if you have a lot of luggage) and tip the housekeepers $2 per person per day (more if you’ve left a disaster area for them 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 to $5 every time you get your car.
In general, tip service staff such as waiters, bartenders, and hairdressers 18% to 20% of the bill. Tip cab drivers 15% of the fare.
Toilets—You won’t find public toilets on the streets in Hawaii, but you can find them in hotel lobbies, restaurants, museums, department stores, service stations, and at most beaches (where you’ll find showers, too). Large hotels and fast-food restaurants are often the best bet for clean facilities. Restaurants and bars in heavily visited areas may reserve their restrooms for patrons.
Visas—The U.S. State Department has a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allowing citizens of numerous nations to enter the United States without a visa for stays of up to 90 days. Consult http://usvisas.state.gov for the most up-to-date list of countries in the VWP. Even though a visa isn’t necessary, in an effort to help U.S. officials check travelers against terror watch lists before they arrive at U.S. borders, visitors from VWP countries must register online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before boarding a plane or a boat to the U.S. Travelers must complete an electronic application providing basic personal and travel eligibility information. The Department of Homeland Security recommends filling out the form at least 3 days before traveling. Authorizations will be valid for up to 2 years or until the traveler’s passport expires, whichever comes first. Currently, there is a US$16 fee for the online application. Note: To enter the U.S. without a visa VWP travelers must present an e-Passport. E-Passports contain computer chips capable of storing biometric information, such as the required digital photograph of the holder. Citizens of these nations also need to present a round-trip air or cruise ticket upon arrival. For more information, go to http://usvisas.state.gov. Under most circumstances, citizens of Canada and Bermuda may enter the United States without a visa but will need to show a passport and proof of residence. See restrictions at: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/citizens-of-canada-and-bermuda.html.
Citizens of all other countries must have (1) a valid passport that expires at least 6 months later than the scheduled end of their visit to the U.S., and (2) a tourist visa. For information about U.S. visas, go to http://usvisas.state.gov. Or go to one of the following:
U.S. Embassy Canberra, (Moonah Place, Yarralumla, ACT 2600; https://au.usembassy.gov 02/6214-5600).
U.S. London Embassy (24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 2LQ; https://uk.usembassy.gov/ 20/7499-9000).
U.S. Embassy Dublin, (42 Elgin Rd., Ballsbridge, Dublin 4; https://ie.usembassy.gov; 353 1 668-8777).
U.S. Embassy New Zealand (29 Fitzherbert Terrace, Thorndon, Wellington; http://nz.usembassy.gov; 644/462-6000).
Water—Generally the water in your hotel or at public drinking fountains is safe to drink (depending on the island, it may have more chlorine than you like).