Area Code — The telephone area code in San Antonio is 210. The area code for most of the Hill Country towns, including Fredericksburg, Kerrville, and New Braunfels, is 830.
Automobile Organizations — Auto 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 an auto 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; to inquire, call AAA (tel. 800/222-4357). AAA is actually an organization of regional auto clubs, so look under "AAA Automobile Club" in the White Pages of the telephone directory.
Business Hours — Banks are usually open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, Saturday 9am to 1pm. Many banks have 24-hr. ATMs in lobbies or via drive-through windows. Drive-up windows are open 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to noon on Saturday. Office hours are generally weekdays from 9am to 5pm. Shops tend to be open from 9 or 10am until 5:30 or 6pm Monday to Saturday, with shorter hours on Sunday. Most malls are open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 9pm, Sunday from noon to 6pm.
Crime and Safety — The crime rate for both property and violent crime in San Antonio has risen in recent years, so there’s a strong police presence downtown; as a result, muggings, pickpockets, and purse snatchings in the area are rare. Use common sense as you would anywhere else: Walk only on well-lit, well-populated streets.
Dentist — To find a dentist, contact the San Antonio District Dental Society, 14603 Huebner Rd., Ste. 2403 (www.sadds.org; tel. 210/732-1264). Your hotel should be able to provide good referrals, too.
Disabled Travelers — In San Antonio, the Disability Access Office, Municipal Plaza Building, 114 W. Commerce St., 9th fl. (www.sanantonio.gov/DAO; tel. 210/207-7135), is a good resource for travelers with disabilities. Among the resources on its website are a map of places that offer wheelchair access to the River Walk, and details on where to find Audible Pedestrian Signals for the Visually Impaired. Public transportation in San Antonio is not accessible to all, but the VIAtrans Paratransit service (www.viainfo.net/viatrans-paratransit; tel. 210/362-2140) provides shared-ride door-to-door service for those requesting it at least a day in advance. As this service is primarily for residents, an application must be provided and approved in advance. Yellow Cab vehicles for wheelchair users can be booked through the company’s website (www.yellowcabsa.com/wheelchair-taxi-service) or app, or by phoning tel. 210/222-2222 and specifying that you require a wheelchair-accessible taxi.
Doctors — Check your medical insurance plan in advance to see if there are physicians in your network in the city you’re visiting. For a referral in San Antonio, contact the Bexar County Medical Society at 4334 N. Loop 1604 W. (www.bcms.org; tel. 210/301-4391), Monday through Friday 8am–5pm. Another option is Urgent Care facilities—found either through your insurance network, or an online search—if you need to see a physician quickly and don’t want to pay emergency room prices.
Drugstores — CVS (www.cvs.com; tel. 800/746-7287) and Walgreens (www.walgreens.com; tel. 800/925-4733) are the major chains. Most are open late every day; some Walgreens are open 24 hours. There's a CVS downtown at 211 Losoya/River Walk (tel. 210/224-9293). Call tel. 800/925-4733 to find the Walgreens nearest you; punch in the area code and the first three digits of the number you're phoning from and you'll be directed to the closest branch. Most H-E-B grocery stores also have pharmacies.
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. If your small appliances use 220-240 volts, you'll need a 110-volt transformer and a plug adapter with two flat parallel pins to operate them here. 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. Call for directory information in Washington, D.C. (tel. 202/555-1212), or log on to www.embassy.org/embassies.
Emergencies — Call tel. 911 for police, the fire department, or an ambulance.
Family Travel — With its three major theme parks and museums galore for kids to enjoy, San Antonio is one of the family friendliest places to visit in the country. A good online resource for up-to-date happenings is https://sanantonio.kidsoutandabout.com. Click here for more suggestions.
Gasoline (Petrol) — Petrol is known as gasoline (or simply "gas") in the United States, and petrol stations are known as both gas stations and service stations. Gasoline costs almost half as much here as it does in Europe (about $2.80 per gallon at press time), and 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 4th (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). Also, the Tuesday following the first Monday in November is Election Day and is a federal government holiday in presidential-election years (held every 4 years, and next in 2012).
Hospitals — The main downtown hospital in San Antonio is Baptist Medical Center, 111 Dallas St. (www.baptisthealthsystem.com; tel. 210/297-7000). The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, 333 N. Santa Rosa St. (www.chofsa.org; tel. 210/704-2011), is also downtown. Contact the San Antonio Medical Foundation (tel. 210/614-3724) for information about other medical facilities in the city.
Hot Lines — Contact the National Youth Crisis Hot Line at tel. 800/448-4663; Rape Crisis Hot Line at tel. 210/349-7273; Child Abuse Hot Line at tel. 800/252-5400; Bexar County Adult Abuse Hot Line at tel. 800/252-5400; and Poison Control Center at tel. 800/764-7661.
Internet & Wi-Fi — Most hotels, inns, and Airbnbs offer access to Wi-Fi; although there’s often an extra charge in the rooms, where it’s secure, many hotels have (nonsecure) signals in their lobbies. Most coffee shops also offer free Wi-Fi. Public libraries are a great place to plug in to free Wi-Fi networks or even work on a library computer. See the San Antonio Public Library site (www.mysapl.org/Services/Additional-Services/Public-Computers-Wifi).
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. Call your embassy or consulate.
Libraries — San Antonio's main library is located downtown at 600 Soledad Plaza (tel. 210/207-2500).
Liquor Laws — Texas liquor laws are complicated, with many arcane regulations on the books. What you need to know: In San Antonio, packaged liquor may be sold between 10am and 9pm Monday through Saturday, but not on Sunday, though you can buy beer and wine on Sunday after noon. On Sunday, alcoholic beverages may not be served in bars and restaurants until noon. Last call in Texas is at 2am (some restaurants and bars have licenses that permit them to sell alcohol until later.) The legal age to buy and consume alcohol in Texas is 21, but anyone over age 5 is permitted to drink under a parent’s supervision.
LGBT Travelers — San Antonio has a large, but not exceedingly visible, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender population. The top info resources are the San Antonio LGBT Chamber of Commerce (www.salgbtchamber.org; tel. 210/504-9429); and Out In SA (www.outinsa.com), a lifestyle site with comprehensive listings of LGBT-friendly events and activities, along with news, food and nightlife reviews, health and fitness tips, and more. The Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, 922 San Pedro (www.esperanzacenter.org; tel. 210/228-0201), often screens films or has lectures on topics of interest to LGBT travelers. Click here for nightlife suggestions.
Lost Property — Be sure to tell all of your credit card companies the minute you discover your wallet has been lost or stolen and file a report at the nearest police precinct. Your credit card company or insurer may require a police report number or record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call if your card is lost or stolen; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. Visa's U.S. emergency number is tel. 800/847-2911 or 410/581-9994. American Express cardholders and traveler's check holders should call tel. 800/333-2639. MasterCard holders should call tel. 800/627-8372 or 636/722-7111.
If you need emergency cash over the weekend when all banks and American Express offices are closed, you can have money wired to you via Western Union (tel. 800/325-6000; www.westernunion.com).
Mail — 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.
Generally found at intersections, mailboxes are blue with a red-and-white stripe and carry the inscription U.S. MAIL. If your mail is addressed to a U.S. destination, don't forget to add the five-digit postal code (or zip code), after the two-letter abbreviation of the state to which the mail is addressed. This is essential for prompt delivery.
Newspapers & Magazines — The San Antonio Express-News (www.mysanantonio.com) is the city’s daily newspaper; San Antonio also has a free alternative weekly, The Current (www.sacurrent.com), which has a skimpy print version but a good online presence.
Police — Call tel. 911 in an emergency, tel. 311 if the call is not urgent. The stranded/disabled motorists line for the Texas Highway Patrol is 800/525-5555.
Postal Services — To find the closest United States Postal Service office to you, go to www.usps.com. UPS (www.ups.com) and FedEx (www.fedex.com) have several offices if you need to send packages.
Senior Travel — Seniors can expect to get $1 or $2 off the price of admission to museums and attractions. Golf resorts in the San Antonio area attract a lot of retirees.
Smoking — Smoking is prohibited in all public buildings and common public areas (that includes hotel lobbies, museums, bars, restaurants, enclosed malls, and so on). It is also prohibited in the following outdoor places in San Antonio: the San Antonio Zoo, all sports arenas and amphitheaters; within 20 feet of public transportation stations and shelters; and in all pavilions and playgrounds in city-owned parks. You need to be 21 years old to purchase cigarettes in San Antonio.
Taxes — The sales tax is 8.25%. In San Antonio, a city surcharge on hotel rooms raises the tax to a whopping 16.75%.
Taxis — Click here for more information.
Time Zone — San Antonio and Austin (and all of the rest of Texas except for the El Paso area) are in the Central 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, noon in New York City (EST) is 11am in Chicago (CST), 10am in Denver (MST), 9am in Los Angeles (PST), 8am in Anchorage (AST), and 7am in Honolulu (HST).
Daylight saving time is in effect from 2am on the second Sunday in March through 2am 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 the U.S., most service personnel are paid lower wages with the expectation that they’ll make it up in tips. Don’t stiff the people whose job is to make your trip a success. In hotels, tip bellhops $5 and tip the chamber staff $5 per day. Tip the doorman or concierge only if he or she has provided you with some specific service. Tip valet-parking attendants $2–$5 every time you get your car. In restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, tip service staff and bartenders 15 to 20 percent of the check. (American restaurants usually don’t include a service fee in the bill.) Tip cabdrivers 15 to 20 percent of the fare, and tip skycaps at airports at least $2 per bag.
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 probably the best bet for good, clean facilities. If possible, avoid the toilets at parks and beaches, which tend to be dirty; some may be unsafe. Restaurants and bars in resorts or heavily visited areas may reserve their restrooms for patrons. Some establishments display a notice indicating this. You can ignore this sign or, better yet, avoid arguments by paying for a cup of coffee or a soft drink, which will qualify you as a patron.
Visitor Information — The main office of the Official San Antonio Visitor Information Center is across the street from the Alamo, 317 Alamo Plaza (www.visitsanantonio.com/location/visitor-information-center; tel. 210/244-2000). Hours are daily 9am–5pm; it’s closed New Year’s Day, April 24, September 30, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
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.