Ruth, with our friend Andrei at the Orheiul Vechi Historical Complex at Trebujeni, Moldova. Photo taken December 2, 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Chisinau, Republic of Moldova.

Where are they going next? Transnistria. The country that doesn't exist!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Important Tips for Your USA Holiday!

When people travel to a destination like the USA, it’s rare that they worry about cultural differences, or even culture shock, as most of the world has been exposed to so much American culture through the media. However, despite all this exposure, there are plenty of quirks individual to the USA that you might not be aware of, so here’s a list of things to get you prepared for your holiday to the USA.

Don’t forget the tax

Unlike many places in the world, tagged pricelists in stores and in restaurants aren’t the *actual* price of them. In the U.S., tax is always added at the till, and the amount of tax can change from state to state. You can compensate easily for this by remembering that the cost of items can be in addition of up to 15% to the listed price.

It’s really big

This might seem obvious, but if you come from a smaller country, it can be easy to misjudge distances. If you’re planning to drive around the States, make sure you research how long the journey is going to be, otherwise you could find yourself struggling for time.

Carry ID with you

The legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21, and often restaurants and bars will ask you for I.D. if you look under 35, so carry a form of identification (best to use your passport) that shows you are old enough to be served.

You have to tip

Most people expect that they will have to tip at restaurants, but you are actually supposed to tip almost all services (taxis, doormen, hairdressers, masseurs etc.) so it’s handy to have lots of loose dollar bills with you. The amount you are expected to tip these other services can range, so rule of thumb is to tip in proportion to the service; for barmen, doormen and taxis a few dollars, in restaurants 15-20% is standard.

Buy travel insurance

This can be important, because medical care in the US is incredibly expensive and you could be looking at an astronomical bill (in the thousands) for a night in the hospital. Buy comprehensive travel insurance, this is essential.

Know your time zones

The U.S.A. is split into a staggering six time zones, so if you’re travelling across the country, remember to set your clocks to the right time.

Check your visa requirements

A lot of countries can now apply for the ETSA, (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), an online approval system that allows you entry into the U.S.A. prior to you travelling. If you’re one of the countries that is allowed to use this system, be sure to apply and pay for the ETSA in advance of your flying, otherwise you will not be able to board the flight.

By planning ahead you are sure to easily tick all the administrative and social boxes that are unique to travelling in the USA, but if you're nervous, then there are travel agencies like Saga Travel that can walk you through these details and take care of the incidentals so you will be able to concentrate on enjoying your adventure to the varied and exciting United States of America.

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.


19 comments:

  1. You have to tip because the minimum wage hasn't been raised since 2009. I'm not a big tipper.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The $7.25 *Federal* minimum hourly wage has not been raised since 2009---but many localities have raised it since then, eg in Washington state it's $9.47 and in Los Angeles it's $15. Tipping not necessary there ;)

      Delete
    2. It's maybe not necessary now Dugg but I bet they still expect it!

      Delete
  2. I tip for good service no matter where I go :) Good info though.
    One more small piece of advice, when you are getting travel insurance, please don't forget that travel insurance does not cover any pre-existing conditions. Typically this means that if you forget your heart medication and have a heart attack, chances are you are on your own for costs incurred. (worst case scenario of course). I have seen many people not understand what they aren't covered for when it comes to travel health insurance. Read the fine print and don't forget to ask questions. that's what your broker is there for!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's good additional information Karyn Lee on the pre-existing conditions.

      Delete
  3. We're American citizens who travel fairly often in other countries... lots of good tips for anyone traveling anywhere....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are very right on that! Everyone should do the research about any country they are visiting before heading there. Many customs are different and if you do something wrong you could really regret it later.

      Delete
  4. Good info. Love the hawk picture on the header.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The federal minimum wage for tipped employees in the USA is only $ 2.13 per hour and in many states that is all they get - in Ohio the minimum wage for tipped employees is $ 3.98 - My food order is usually complicated and I usually tip very well . If I can't afford the price of the food + tip then I don't eat out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sounds like us, and one of the reasons that we rarely eat out in either Canada or the U.S.

      Delete
    2. We live on SSI in the USA and have learned to find good sub shops, chicken places etc to eat at where there is no one waiting on you and therefore no tipping. Places like Panera Bread, Tim Hortons mean we can get a good meal that we can afford. We have tons of places to eat at and so we do not feel at all deprived. Like you guys, we have to get inventive and find that if we do we can enjoy a lot more eating out etc than we otherwise could.

      Delete
    3. Yes, Joyce that is one way that you can eat out without the worry of tipping. Mind you now many of these places have a tip jar sitting by the cash! We don't normally eat out for several reasons, 1 is the price, 2 because we are gluten free and many of these places don't have options for this and 3 because we really love our own cooking.

      Delete
  6. I worked in the service industry for years and always tip well, especially for a great server, I know it can be a frustrating job sometimes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think people should tip according to the service, if it is poor service than leave a note saying this and no tip, then maybe they will work harder on improving on their serving skills.

      Delete
  7. Believe it or not...some places in USA do not allow tipping. I was surprised too. I don't understand why employers do not pay their employees well so we don't have to share our wages with underpaid employees. I work hard as a single parent and it's a catch 22 to tip someone who might earn more than I do....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think I have ever seen a place that does not allow tipping but if you say there is then we will believe you.

      I think all servers should be paid a good wage and then they should just do away with tipping, like many other countries do.

      Delete
  8. Here's a great solution to the tipping issue. 20% pre-tax tip is simply included in the bill. Done. Everyone working hard and service staff split equally. If there is any dead weight it gets weeded out. Customers don't have to worry about it. Have seen this in Miami and Tokyo. Service charge added on or reflected in cost of menu items. Same either way. And either way no need to tip.
    http://www.selectboston.com/menu/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, can't say that we agree with that, what if the service is terrible! To be honest we have seen restaurants that have this automatic service charge/gratuity added on to the bill and we will purposely avoid those establishments. I think it would just be better to pay the servers more, if the restaurant wants to up the price of their menu items to cover their increase in wage that is fine but don't automatically add in the 20% tip.

      Delete

We love hearing from you! Please take the time to leave a comment...