English is the main language spoken throughout the United States. However, Spanish is a second language taught in schools and widely accepted in local communities with large populations of Latin Americans. Travelers will notice that American English is also different from British English in spelling and slang.
The US dollar (US $) is the only accepted currency in the United States. It is divided into 100 cents, including 1c, 5c, 10c, 25c, 50c, and US $1 coins. Credit cards, including MasterCard and Visa, can be used to purchase just about anything and most hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and other major tourist spots don’t charge for payment with credit cards or debit cards. However, smaller businesses and independent shops may require a minimum purchase to compensate for the fees they incur. Foreign bankcards can be used to withdraw money, although high fees are often charged. ATMs are located in cities and towns, although these are more limited in rural areas.
Being such a large country, the US spans several time zones. However, it falls between five hours behind and 10 hours behind Universal Coordinated Time (-5 to -10 UTC).
The US mainly uses 120V and 60Hz, although some electrical appliances are 110V. The US uses a flat blade electrical plug, which consists of two vertical flat prongs.
The US dialing code is +1. When it comes to mobile phones, which are often referred to as cell phones in the US, the country uses a somewhat different satellite frequency to many other countries. GSM is becoming more popular, although 1900 and 850 MHz frequencies are still more prevalent. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular are among the more popular network providers for phones. The US Postal Service operates in all corners of the country for physical mail delivery except on Sundays and holidays. Internet access is easy, particularly if you bring your own computers. Hotel rooms, coffee shops and libraries are some of the easiest places to pick up wireless or landline connections and other Wi-Fi spots are spread throughout downtowns, mostly for a fee.
Duty-free items brought into the US are subject to restrictions. Alcoholic beverages should amount to no more than one liter, and up to US$100 worth of gifts is allowed for visitors older than 21 years of age. In addition, 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, and/or two kilograms of tobacco can be brought into the country. All items must be accessible for inspection so don’t bother gift wrapping the product.
The US does not have a central tourist office. Each of the 50 states and most major cities are responsible for their own promotion.
Embassies in the United States of America
German Embassy, Washington DC: +1-202-298-4000 Embassy of the Netherlands, Washington DC: +1-877-388-2443 Norwegian Embassy, Washington DC: +1-202-333-6000 Finnish Embassy, Washington DC: +1-202-298-5800 Australian Embassy, Washington DC: +1-202-797-3000 British Embassy, Washington DC: +1-202-588-6500
Emergency services: 911