United States of America
Currency: 1 United States dollar (US$) = 100 cents.
Dialing code: 1.
Time: Six time zones: Eastern Standard Time: GMT - 5 (GMT - 4 from first Sunday in April to last Sunday in October). Central Standard Time: GMT - 6 (GMT - 5 from first Sunday in April to last Sunday in October). Mountain Standard Time: GMT - 7 (GMT - 6 from first Sunday in April to last Sunday in October). Pacific Standard Time: GMT - 8 (GMT - 7 from first Sunday in April to last Sunday in October). Alaska: GMT - 9 (GMT - 8 from first Sunday in April to last Sunday in October). Hawaii: GMT - 10.
Local time now:
Region: North America.
Capital: Washington, DC.
Main cities : New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Houston; Philadelphia, Dallas, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego.
Land and Resources: Covering a large part of the North American continent, the USA shares borders with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south and has coasts on the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The State of Alaska, in the northwest corner of the continent, is separated from the rest of the country by Canada, and Hawaii lies in the central Pacific Ocean. The USA has an enormous diversity of geographical features.
Climate: The climate ranges from subtropical to Arctic, with a corresponding breadth of flora and fauna.
Government: Federal Republic. Head of State and Government: President.
Population: Whites constitute the majority of the population. African Americans, Asian, Native American.
Languages: English, with significant Spanish-speaking minorities. French, German, Italian, Chinese, and many others
Religion: Protestant majority with Roman Catholic, Jewish and many ethnic minorities.
1 January Ц New Year
mid-January - M.L. KingТs birthday
the third Monday in February - PresidentsТ Day
May 30 - Memorial Day
4 July - Independence Day
the second Monday of October - Columbus Day
October 31 - Halloween
11 November - Veterans Day
25 December Ц Christmas
Visa: Required by all except citizens of countries under the Visa Waiver Program for holiday, transit or business purposes only and for a stay not exceeding 90 days; nationals of Bermuda and Canada, provided holding valid passports; nationals of Mexico, provided holding a valid passport and a US Border Crossing Card. The following nationals, upon presentation of a valid passport, do not require a visa under the Visa Waiver Program: Andorra, Australia, Brunei, some EU countries, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Singapore and Switzerland. Application requirements: (a) Completed visa application form DS-156. (b) Valid passport (validity dependent upon nationality) and with at least one blank page. (c) One recent passport-size photo. (d) Embassy copy of the fee receipt endorsed by the bank. (e) Evidence of sufficient funds to cover all expenses while in the USA. (f) Documentation of intent to return to country of residence, and return on onward tickets. (g) Supporting documents (such as purpose of visit) and/or issuance fees, where relevant. (h) Stamped self-addressed, special delivery envelope, for return by post. All applicants aged 14 to 79 are required to schedule an appointment for an interview. Working days required: Varies with each embassy; interview appointment waiting time is usually 25 to 30 days, and visa processing time is usually five to seven working days (three days for London Embassy).
Customs regulations: The following goods may be imported by visitors over 21 years of age without incurring customs duty: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 2kg of smoking tobacco or proportionate amounts of each; 0.95l (1qt) of alcoholic beverage; gifts or articles up to a value of US$100. Items should not be gift-wrapped. The alcoholic beverage allowance is the national maximum; certain States allow less and if arriving in those States, the excess will be taxed or withheld. The following are either banned or may only be imported under licence: (a) Narcotics and dangerous drugs, unless for medical purposes (doctorТs certificate required). (b) Absinthe, biological materials, some seeds, fruits and plants (including endangered species of plants and vegetables and their products). (c) Firearms and ammunition (with some exceptions Ц consult CustomsТ website). (d) Hazardous articles (fireworks, toxic materials), including matches and match books (unless packed tightly in a closed container). (e) Meat and poultry products Ц fresh, dried or canned. (f) Any fish (unless certified as disease-free) or their eggs, unless canned, pickled or smoked. (g) Dairy products and eggs. (h) Cuban cigars, brought from any country. (i) Wildlife and endangered species, including crustaceans, molluscs, eggs, game and hunting trophies and crafted articles of any part thereof. (j) Dog and cat fur. (k) Some art and artefacts (such as Pre-Columbian monumental and architectural sculpture and murals from South America). (l) Imports from Iran and leather souvenirs from Haiti (eg drums). (m) Some automobiles. (n) More than one article (limited to once every 30 days) displaying a counterfeit or confusingly similar logo to trademarked and copyrighted articles. (o) Merchandise from embargoed countries. There are no limits on the import or export of either foreign or local currency. However, amounts in excess of US$10,000 or the equivalent (including foreign currency, travellers cheques, money orders and Сbearer bondsТ) must be registered with US Customs on Form 4790. Failure to do so may result in civil and criminal prosecution, including seizure of the money. There is an embargo on transactions of US currency with Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea (Democratic Republic of Korea).
Transportation: The principal US airlines operating international services are: American Airlines (AA), Continental Airlines, Delta Air, Northwest Airlines and United Airlines. Many other airlines operate services from all over the world to the USA. International airports: Atlanta (ATL), Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), Dallas/Forth Worth (DFW), San Francisco (SFO), Denver (DEN), Las Vegas (LAS), Minneapolis-St Paul (MSP), Phoenix (PHX) and Detroit (DTW). Numerous cruise lines sail from ports worldwide to both the east and west coasts. The US and Mexican rail networks connect at Yuma, El Paso and Del Rio, with limited scheduled passenger services. There are several connections with the Canadian network, including New YorkЦMontreal, ChicagoЦToronto and SeattleЦVancouver services. There are many crossing points from Canada to the USA. There are extensive water communications both along the coastline and along the great rivers and lakes. Nearly all the long-distance trains are operated by Amtrak, which serves more than 500 communities in 45 States. Driving is a marvellous way to see the USA, although the distances between cities can be enormous. Driving conditions are excellent and the road system reaches every town. Petrol (gas) is cheaper than in Europe. Greyhound is the main national coach carrier and covers the whole of the USA. Major international car hire companies have offices at all gateway airports and in most cities. The hire of self-drive campers or motorhomes, which are called Сrecreational vehiclesТ or RVs in the USA, is easy and provides a good means of getting around. Traffic drives on the right. Some US cities now have good public transport services; there are numerous underground train systems in operation in major cities including New York (subway), Washington, DC (metro), Boston (СTТ), Chicago (train) and San Francisco (BART Ц Bay Area Rapid Transit). There are also several tramway and trolleybus systems, including the much-loved antique trams found in San Francisco.
Sightseeing: The Yale University Art Gallery, the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
Washington features a large number of monuments to generals, war heroes, and leaders. Probably the greatest of all these is Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where there are thousands of graves of veterans of American wars, including the Tomb of the Unknowns and the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Smithsonian Institution.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Manhattan; New Orleans jazz; Las Vegas. Tourism centres mainly on the subtropical states of Florida, California and Hawaii, the winter ski resorts and the huge metropolises. Spectacular National Parks like Yosemite and the Everglades, rugged ice fields, the Great Lakes and the desert plains; the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains.
Money: Hotels do not, as a rule, exchange currency and only a few major banks will exchange foreign currency, so it is advisable to arrive with US Dollars. Most major credit cards are accepted throughout the USA, including American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa. Travellers cheques are widely accepted in hotels, stores and restaurants, provided they are US Dollar cheques; Sterling travellers cheques are not acceptable and few banks will change these. Change is issued in US Dollars. It should be noted that many banks do not have the facility to cash travellers cheques (the US banking system differs greatly from that of the UK) and those that do are likely to charge a high commission. One or (in some cases) two items of identification (passport, credit card, driving licence) may also be required. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take travellers cheques in US Dollars. Banking hours: Variable, but generally Mon-Fri 0900-1500.
Communications: Full IDD is available. Outgoing international code: 011. The following area codes denote toll-free (freephone) numbers: 800, 855, 866, 877 and 888. Telephone numbers with the prefix 900 are usually expensive. GSM 1900 network, with a mixture of cellular and digital (especially in major centres) coverage. Most foreign mobile telephones, unless tri-band, do not work in the USA and charges are high. Most visitors choose to hire a mobile telephone. There are Internet cafes in most urban areas. There are numerous post offices throughout the States. Airmail to Europe takes up to one week.
Shops and cafes: Variety, late opening hours, competitive prices and an abundance of modern goods typify US shopping. Many small stores, specialist food shops and hypermarkets are open 24 hours a day. Clothes and electronic goods can be bought direct from factories. Retail outlets range from flea markets and bargain stores to large chain department stores. Malls are a popular way of shopping; sales tax can be anywhere from 3 to 15 per cent, depending on the State; some States have no sales tax at all. Shopping hours: Mon-Sat 0900/0930-1730/1800. There may be late-night shopping one or two evenings a week. Some States permit Sunday trading.
Tipping: Widely practised, as service charges are not usually included in the bill and waiters depend heavily on tips for their income. Waiters generally expect 15 to 20 per cent, as do taxi drivers and hairdressers. It should be noted that a cover charge is for admission to an establishment, not a tip for service. Porters generally expect US$1 per bag.
Health and safety: Rabies may be present in wildlife. If you are bitten, seek medical advice without delay. Medical insurance providing cover up to at least US$500,000 is strongly advised. Only emergency cases are treated without prior payment and treatment will often be refused without evidence of insurance or a deposit. All receipts must be kept in order to make a claim. Medical facilities are generally of an extremely high standard. Many medications available over the counter in other countries require a prescription in the US. Those visiting the USA for long periods with school-age children should be aware that school entry requirements include proof of immunisation against diphtheria, measles, poliomyelitis and rubella throughout the USA, and schools in many States also require immunisation against tetanus, pertussis and mumps. HIV-positive visitors must apply at the Embassy for a waiver of inadmissibility before entry.
Electricity: 110 volts AC, 60Hz. Plugs are of the flat two-pin type. European electrical appliances not fitted with dual-voltage capabilities will require a plug adaptor, which is best purchased before arrival in the USA. The television system is NTSC I/II and is not compatible with the PAL and SECAM systems used in Asia and Europe, although cassettes can be converted.
Important phone numbers: Emergency police, fire or medical services in major cities - 911
Moonah Place Yarralumla
ACT 2600 Canberra
Tel: + 61 6 270-5000
Fax: + 61 6 270-5970; + 61 6 270-5940
A- 1090 Vienna
Tel: + 43 1 31339-0
Fax: + 43 1 310 06 82
Regentlaan 27 Boulevard du Regent
Tel: + 32 2 5122210
Fax: + 32 2 511-9652
SES - Av. das Nações Quadra 801 Lote 03
70403-900 Brasília, DF
Tel: + 55 61 321 7272
Fax: + 55 61 225-9136
United States Embassy
100 Wellington Street
K1P 5T1 Ottawa, Ontario
Tel: + 1 613 238-4470
3 Xiushui Beijie
Tel: +86 (10) 6532 3831
Fax: +86 (10) 6532 6057
United States Mission to the E.U.
40, Boulevard du Regent
B 1000 Brussels
Tel: + 32 2 508 2774
2, avenue Gabriel
Tel: + (33) 1 43 12 22 22
Fax: + (33) 1 42 66 97 83
Deichmanns Aue 29
Tel: +49 0228 339-1
Fax: +49 0228 339 2663
110021 New Delhi
Tel: + 91 11 688 9033; + 91 11 611 3033
Fax: + 91 11 687 2028; + 91 11 419 0017
1 Ben Yehuda Street POB 26180
Tel: + 972 2 6255755
Fax: + 972 2 5103828
Via V.Veneto 119/a
Tel: + 39 6 46741
Fax: + 39 6 488 2672; + 39 6 46742356
Paseo de la Reforma 305 , Colonia Cuauhtemoc
06500 Mexico City
Tel: +52 5209-9100
Fax: +52 5511-9980
29 Fitzherbert Terrace, Thorndon
Tel: + 64 4 472 2068
0255 Oslo 2
Tel: + 47 22448550
Fax: + 47 22440436
19/23 Novinsky Blvd
Tel: +  (095) 252-2451/59
Fax: +  (095) 956-4261
877 Pretorius St
Tel: +27 12 342 1048
Fax: +27 12 342 2244
Tel: + 34 1 587-2200
Fax: + 34 1 587-2303
24 Grosvenor Square
W1A 1AE London
Tel: +44 (0)20 7499 9000
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7894 0699
United States of America (Mission: Geneva)
11 route de Pregny
Tel: + 41 22 749 4358
Fax: + 41 22 749 4314
Calle F con Calle Suapure Urb. Colinas de Valle Arriba
Tel: + 58 2 977 2011; + 58 2 975 6411
Encarta World Atlas