Practical A to Z
Practical A to Z
- Eating out
- Embassies and consulates
- Public holidays
- Weights and measures
Most restaurants are open as early as 7am. They stay open all day long, serving 3 different menus: breakfast (until 11-11.30am), lunch (12noon-4pm) and dinner (5-9/10pm). Americans traditionally dine quite early and in small towns it can be impossible to find a restaurant open after 8-8.30pm. Early bird and smarter pre-theater establishments serve dinner between 5pm and 6.30-7pm.
Taxes and tipping
Prices are always indicated without tax. Taxes and tips can increase the bill by 25-30%. Hotel taxes range from 5.7% to 13.25% depending on the State. In restaurants and other products or services, taxes vary from 5% to 9%.
Tipping is unavoidable as the employees rely on tips to bump up their very low wages. In restaurants, it is customary to leave a 15% tip. In hotels, tip porters €1/suitcase and leave chambermaids an envelope with the amount of your choice. In bars, it is usual to leave €1/drink. Taxicab drivers generally receive a 15% tip.
Breakfast, served from 7am to 11-11.30am, is very generous and excellent value-for-money ($5-10). Breakfast generally includes eggs, toast, bacon and sausages and potatoes. This is followed by pancakes or muffins, all of which washed down by quite weak tea or coffee.
Lunch is the lightest meal of the day, served until 3pm. A sandwich costs between $4-9, often served with chips and a salad or soup. Most restaurants have a lunch menu with single dishes, similar to the evening menu, but less filling and above all, less expensive (between €6-12).
Dinner is eaten early (5-7pm), except in large towns and cities. Dinner is the most filling meal of the day. The first course (hors d’œuvre) costs between $7-15, and is often very generously served by European standards, and a second course (entrees) costs between €15-30. Deserts can be enormous ($6-10).
Where to eat
A “restaurant” can refer to anything ranging from snack bar, cafeteria or large chains of family restaurants to more sophisticated establishments. Some only serve breakfast or lunch, others just serve dinner, while some serve all three. Bars and coffee shops generally serve simple, but generous and value-for-money dishes. Classic, Chinese and Mexican fast food establishments are widely available. As a general rule, pizzerias and Italian restaurants are no cheaper than their counterparts. Whatever the case, it is commonplace to take your left over food or drink home in a doggy bag.
Many family and cheap restaurants do not serve alcohol because they are not licensed. As soon as you arrive, a large jug of iced water will be placed on your table and regularly refilled. Mineral water is quite rare and often expensive because it is imported. Most Americans order soft drinks with their meal, served in enormous glasses. You will be offered a refill during your meal: the second glass is included in the price.
The voltage in the United States is 110V. European appliances will require a flat-blade adaptor (available from airports and electronics stores).
Embassies and consulates
British Embassy –3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20008 – t 1 202 588 6500 – http://ukinusa.fco.gov.uk/
Irish Embassy – 2234 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20008 – t 1 202 462 3939 – http://www.embassyofireland.org/
Also see Know before you go.
Emergencies: t 911.
With the exception of an emergency, go to medical clinics, which are less expensive than hospitals.
Most grocery stores and supermarkets sell pharmaceuticals.
The currency of the United States is the US dollar ($).
Banks / exchange
Banks are open Monday-Friday from 9am to 4-5pm and on Saturdays from 9am-12noon. Most branches of the national banks offer exchange facilities, charging a moderate percentage commission.
Credit cards and traveller’s cheques
In the case of credit cards, the exchange rate charged is that of the day of the transaction, to which a commission is added on each usage. In the case of traveller’s cheques, it is preferable to take €20 minimum cheques; same rates and exchange rate as for cards.
Budget / cost of living
The United States is traditionally an expensive destination. Prices however vary greatly from one place to another and will depend on your means of transport.
If you stay in an economy motel, eat in modest establishments and rent a car, plan on spending $100-140/person per day. For a more upmarket motel or B&B establishment, sophisticated restaurants and a car rental, budget on a minimum of €200/person. These budgets are inclusive of local taxes, the occasional drink and visits.
In large towns, many museums are only from 11am and close around 5pm, except for one late closing night (generally Thursdays). Check the last admission time, which will depend on the time required to visit the museum.
Post offices are open Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm and on Saturday from 9am-12noon.
Postage stamps are only sold from post offices. Postage rates: postcard $0.94, letter (up to 28gr) $1.10.
3rd Monday of January – Martin Luther King Jr. Day
3rd Monday of February – President’s Day
Last Monday of May – Memorial Day
4 July – Independence Day
1st Monday of September – Labour Day
2nd Monday of October – Columbus Day
11 November – Veterans’ Day
4th Thursday of November – Thanksgiving Day
Shops are open from 9am to 6pm, except for the large shopping malls (until 8-9pm) and small grocery stores (11pm or later).
All prices are indicated before VAT. In hotels, sales tax varies between 5.7-13.25% depending on the State. In restaurants and for other products or services, sales tax can range from 5-9%.
UK EUR US
3 35.5 51/2
31/2 36 6
4 37 61/2
41/2 37.5 7
5 38 71/2
51/2 38.5 8
6 39 81/2
61/2 40 9
UK EUR US
5 38 6
51/2 38.5 61/2
6 39 7
61/2 39.5 71/2
7 40 8
71/2 41 81/2
8 42 9
81/2 42.5 91/2
9 43 10
10 44.5 11
Callinf the United States from abroad
00 + 1 (country code for the U.S.) + area code + number of the person.
Calling home frome the United States
00 + country code. For the United Kingdom: 44; for Ireland: 353.
Numbers are made up of a 3-digit area code, followed by a 7-digit telephone number. In the case of local calls (same area code), only dial the 7-digit number. To call another region (different area code), dial 1 + area code + number of the person.
Weights and measures
1 pound = 0.45kg
1 mile = 1.61km
1 yard = 0.91m
1 pint = 0.47l
1 gallon = 3.78l
To convert Fahrenheit into Celsius, subtract 32 from the temperature, then multiply by 5 and divide by 9. Alternatively, to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply the temperature by 9, then divide by 5 and add by 32. 30°C for example is the equivalent to 86°F.