American Express -- American Express offers travel services, including check cashing and trip planning, through several affiliated agencies in the region. Offices include locations in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, at 24 Airport Rd. (tel. 603/298-5997), and in South Burlington, Vermont, at 1270 Williston Rd. (tel. 802/872-5600). There are about ten other locations in the two states, though at press time, there were no Amex offices in Maine.
Area Codes -- Vermont's is 802. New Hampshire's is 603. Maine's is 207.
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. AAA has a nationwide emergency road service telephone number (tel. 800/AAA-HELP).
Business Hours -- Banks are generally open Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm. Drive-in teller hours are longer. Shops are usually open Monday to Friday from 9am to 6pm, Saturdays from 10am to 6 or 7pm, and Sundays from noon until 5 or 6pm. In bigger cities or in shopping-mall or outlet-shop areas, these hours will be somewhat extended, as late as 9pm during peak summer shopping season.
Currency -- The most common bills are the $1 (a "buck"), $5, $10, and $20 denominations. There are also $2 bills (seldom encountered), $50 bills, and $100 bills (the last two are usually not welcome as payment for small purchases).
Coins come in seven denominations: 1¢ (1 cent, or a penny); 5¢ (5 cents, or a nickel); 10¢ (10 cents, or a dime); 25¢ (25 cents, or a quarter); 50¢ (50 cents, or a half dollar); the gold-colored Sacagawea coin, worth $1; and the rare silver dollar.
Customs -- What You Can Bring Into the United States Every visitor more than 21 years of age may bring in, free of duty, the following: (1) 1 liter of wine or hard liquor; (2) 200 cigarettes, 100 cigars (but not from Cuba), or 3 pounds of smoking tobacco; and (3) $100 worth of gifts. These exemptions are offered to travelers who spend at least 72 hours in the United States and who have not claimed them within the preceding 6 months. It is altogether forbidden to bring into the country foodstuffs (particularly fruit, cooked meats, and canned goods) and plants (vegetables, seeds, tropical plants, and the like). Foreign tourists may carry in or out up to $10,000 in U.S. or foreign currency with no formalities; larger sums must be declared to U.S. Customs on entering or leaving, which includes filing form CM 4790. For details regarding U.S. Customs and Border Protection, consult your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, or U.S. Customs (tel. 202/927-1770; www.customs.ustreas.gov).
What You Can Take Home from the United States:
Canadian Citizens: For a clear summary of Canadian rules, write for the booklet I Declare, issued by the Canada Border Services Agency (tel. 800/461-9999 in Canada, or 204/983-3500; www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca).
U.K. Citizens: For information, contact HM Customs & Excise at tel. 0845/010-9000 (from outside the U.K., 020/8929-0152), or consult their website at www.hmce.gov.uk.
Australian Citizens: A helpful brochure available from Australian consulates or Customs offices is Know Before You Go. For more information, call the Australian Customs Service at tel. 1300/363-263, or log on to www.customs.gov.au.
New Zealand Citizens: Most questions are answered in a free pamphlet available at New Zealand consulates and Customs offices: New Zealand Customs Guide for Travellers, Notice no. 4. For more information, contact New Zealand Customs, The Customhouse, 17-21 Whitmore St., Box 2218, Wellington (tel. 04/473-6099 or 0800/428-786; www.customs.govt.nz).
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.
In Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, liquor is sold at state-operated stores grocers, and convenience stores. Restaurants without liquor licenses sometimes allow patrons to bring in their own. Ask first. Bars sell liquor until 2am in Vermont and until 1am in New Hampshire and Maine.
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. And nothing will ruin your trip faster than getting a citation for DUI ("driving under the influence"), so don't even think about driving while intoxicated.
Electricity -- The United States uses 110 to 120 volts AC (60 cycles), the same as in Canada and Japan but different from the 220 to 240 volts AC (50 cycles) used 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 log on to www.embassy.org/embassies.
The embassy of Australia is at 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202/797-3000; www.austemb.org). There are consulates 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.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/usa. 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; www.britainusa.com). Other British consulates are in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Emergencies -- For fire, police, and ambulance, find any phone and dial tel. 911. If this fails, dial tel. 0 (zero) and report an emergency.
Gasoline (Petrol) -- At press time, in the U.S., the cost of gasoline (also known as gas, but never petrol), was abnormally high. Northern New England gas prices are not much worse than average around the country; figure on spending about $3.60 per gallon for your expensive fill-up, with taxes already included in that price. There are very few full-service gas stations in northern New England (for some reason, Bennington, Vermont, is an anomaly), and if you do find one, you'll sometimes pay up to 10¢ extra per gallon for the privilege. International travelers should note that 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 (though not a state) government holiday in presidential-election years, including in 2008.
Some states have their own special state holidays, too. Maine celebrates Patriots' Day on a Monday in mid-April, while Vermont observes Town Meeting Day on the first Tuesday in March and also Bennington Battle Day in mid-August. All state offices are closed on these days. Most state offices in the states also close on the day after Thanksgiving, which changes annually.
Hospitals -- All large and small cities in northern New England maintain good hospital facilities, and some smaller towns have them, too. The quality of service is very good here. If health is a serious issue for you, check ahead with your accommodations (or consult the phone book when you arrive) about the nearest emergency-room service or 24-hour clinic.
In Vermont, there are major hospitals or medical centers in Burlington, Barre, Brattleboro, Rutland, Springfield, St. Albans, and Newport (near the Canada border), and smaller clinics and health centers dispersed throughout the state in places like Bennington, Windsor, Waterbury, and Morrisville. The biggest and best-equipped, by far, is Burlington's Fletcher Allen Health Care facility (tel. 802/847-2345; www.fletcherallen.org), with more than 560 beds.
In New Hampshire, there are plenty of hospitals and medical centers in places like Concord, Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth, Keene (in the Monadnock region), Claremont, Exeter, New London, Laconia, and Plymouth, among other communities; you're rarely far from a good doctor. One of the best is the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (tel. 603/650-5000; www.hitchcock.org), in downtown Hanover, partly staffed by medical students and graduates from adjacent Dartmouth College. If you're going deep into the backcountry of the White Mountains, make sure you're fit enough -- it can take time to get rescued and transported to a clinic in bad weather.
The largest hospital in Maine is the Maine Medical Center (tel. 207/662-0111; www.mmc.org), a professional facility located on a hilltop in a residential neighborhood of Portland at 22 Bramhall St. There's also Mercy Hospital (tel. 207/879-3000; www.mercyhospital.org), a Catholic-owned hospital nearby at 144 State St. in Portland. Both are excellent. Smaller admitting hospitals are located in smaller communities such as York, Biddeford, Brunswick, Damariscotta, Ellsworth, and Bar Harbor. North of Camden, however, they thin out.
Internet Access -- Many public libraries have free terminals with Internet access, enabling travelers to check their e-mail through a Web-based e-mail service such as Yahoo! or Hotmail.
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.
Lost & Found -- 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. 800/221-7282. MasterCard holders should call tel. 800/307-7309 or 636/722-7111. For other credit cards, call the toll-free number directory at tel. 800/555-1212.
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 -- At press time, domestic postage rates were 26¢ for a postcard and 41¢ for a letter. For international mail, a first-class letter of up to 1 ounce costs 90¢ (69¢ to Canada and Mexico); a first-class postcard costs the same as a letter. For more information go to www.usps.com and click on "Calculate Postage."
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.
Measurements -- See the chart on the inside front cover of this book for details on converting metric measurements to U.S. equivalents.
Newspapers & Magazines -- Almost every small town seems to have a daily or weekly newspaper covering the events and happenings of the area. These are good sources of information for small-town events and specials at local restaurants -- the day-to-day things that slip through the cracks at the tourist bureaus. The largest daily papers in each state are the Portland Press Herald (Maine), the Manchester Union Leader (New Hampshire), and the Burlington Free Press (Vermont). Burlington and Portland also have free alternative weeklies that are very handy sources of information on concerts and shows at local clubs. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are now often available daily in many shops around the region, except in the smallest towns.
Passports -- For Residents of Australia: You can pick up an application from your local post office or any branch of Passports Australia, but you must schedule an interview at the passport office to present your application materials. Call the Australian Passport Information Service at tel. 131-232, or visit the government website at www.passports.gov.au.
For Residents of Canada: Passport applications are available at travel agencies throughout Canada or from the central Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G3 (tel. 800/567-6868; www.ppt.gc.ca). Note: Canadian children who travel must have their own passport. However, if you hold a valid Canadian passport issued before December 11, 2001, that bears the name of your child, the passport remains valid for you and your child until it expires.
For Residents of Ireland: You can apply for a 10-year passport at the Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/671-1633; www.irlgov.ie/iveagh). Those under age 18 and over 65 must apply for a 3-year passport. You can also apply at 1A South Mall, Cork (tel. 021/272-525) or at most main post offices.
For Residents of New Zealand: You can pick up a passport application at any New Zealand Passports Office or download it from their website. Contact the Passports Office at tel. 0800/225-050 in New Zealand, 04/474-8100, or log on to www.passports.govt.nz.
For Residents of the United Kingdom: To pick up an application for a standard 10-year passport (5-yr. passport for children under 16), visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency or contact the United Kingdom Passport Service at tel. 0870/521-0410 or search its website at www.ukpa.gov.uk.
Police -- For police, dial tel. 911. If this fails, dial 0 (zero) and report an emergency.
Smoking -- Smoking has been banned in all public places (restaurants, bars, offices, hotel lobbies) in all three states as of September 2007.
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 state sales taxes in this region are: Maine, 5% sales (7% on hotels, 10% on auto rentals); New Hampshire, no general sales tax but 8% tax on lodging and dining; and Vermont, 6% sales (but 9% on hotels and dining, and 10% on alcohol in restaurants).
Telegraph, Telex & Fax -- Telegraph and telex services are provided primarily by Western Union. You can telegraph money, or have it telegraphed to you, very quickly over the Western Union system, but this service can cost as much as 15% to 20% percent of the amount sent.
Many (but not all) hotels have fax machines available for guest use; be sure to ask about the charge to use it. Many hotel rooms are even wired for guests' fax machines. A less expensive way to send and receive faxes may be at stores such as The UPS Store (formerly Mail Boxes Etc.).
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.
All three states in northern New England sit in the Eastern time zone (the same as New York and Boston). 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 -- Tips are a very important 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 $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 15% to 20% of the check, tip bartenders 10% to 15%, tip checkroom attendants $1 per garment, and tip valet-parking attendants $1 per vehicle.
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%.
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. 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.
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 "Consular Services" 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.
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.