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Going to the States. The basics

(73 Posts)
NotJanine Sat 25-Feb-17 11:24:58

I'm going on a work trip and I'm clueless

I've got my esta sorted. Will get some dollars in cash. Most expenditure will be on company Amex card, but if I have personal spending is cash or card better? Will they accept my debit/credit card (visa/Mastercard)

Any tips on what to pack in hand luggage vs hold luggage? Anything to avoid hold ups at immigration?Can I use euro plug adapter or is it different?

Sorry lots of questions!!

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 25-Feb-17 15:16:13

How long are you going to the US for?.

You will also need to complete the API (Advance Passenger Information) details for your trip to the US if you have not already done this. Look at the airline's website.

Would take some cash (enough for the first day or two) and your credit cards. Those will be accepted there (some places however, do ask for photo id when paying by credit card so if you have a photocard driving licence take that with you as well). Your room key will likely be a keycard; keep this with you during the day.

You will need a US adaptor and these are widely available to purchase (Argos for instance sell them. This should go into your hold luggage).

Any other questions just ask.

TeachingPostQuery Sat 25-Feb-17 15:35:23

One small thing - when I use my visa debit card in the US I need to select "credit" not "debit" on the little machine (or tell the shop assistant to do so depending on the set up), it doesn't work over there as a debit card.

Have fun!

lovelyupnorth Sat 25-Feb-17 20:57:03

Remember it's 110v electric

I spent all our money on a creation credit card which had no charges for overseas purchases.

Avoid the post office for currencies as shit exchange rate.

NotJanine Sat 25-Feb-17 21:04:06

Thanks for advice

I'm only going for a week and most of the time will be working. Will get myself an adaptor.

MojitoMollie Sat 25-Feb-17 21:06:36

Take a print out of your estate, we didn't on one of our trips and it took ages to get through as they couldn't find ds (although he'd been through the year before...hmm )

MojitoMollie Sat 25-Feb-17 21:07:08

Esta not estate

NaturalBlondeYeahRight Sat 25-Feb-17 21:09:49

My mobile company charged £5 a day extra to use my phone 'as normal' (Vodafone)
Was worth it to keep me in touch and for Google/Uber extra.

Unicorn81 Sat 25-Feb-17 21:20:19

I just use credit card or a caxton card which you can top up. The immigration guy laughed when i said i only had 200 dollars on me for 2 weeks. Then explained i used cards. I feel its safer and just pull dollars out at cashlines for coffee etc.

The flights are long so a good book or ipod, always take some fruit too as not keen on plane food. Some rehydration sachets helps me when i get there and lots of water.

Iamastonished Sat 25-Feb-17 21:34:02

Our bank (Nationwide) advised me not to use my debit card as I would be charged for each transaction. I used cash and my visa credit card. I didn't use data as it is so expensive, but used free Wi-Fi wherever we could.

I was surprised that chip and pin wasn't used. I had to sign for every credit card transaction.

Be prepared for tax to be added at the till for every purchase, and the "suggestions" for tips of up to 23% of the bill when eating out.

Also, don't try and bring any fruit or meat products into the US.

lovelyupnorth Sat 25-Feb-17 21:55:44

3 do free roaming in the states.

Managed to use. Chip and pin in most places had to sign for some.

Iamastonished Sat 25-Feb-17 21:58:46

No chip and pin anywhere I used my credit card in Orlando. I'm with Virgin mobile and it would have cost too much to roam. Although free Wi-Fi was widely available so I didn't need data anyway.

It be worth getting a new SIM card for travelling.

bojorojo Sun 26-Feb-17 21:39:40

Just pack anything expensive in hand luggage! They can and do inspect hold luggage and if you use a suitcase lock it must meet their Homeland Security standard so they can open it. My DD "lost" her trainers through this. The locks are widely available if your suitcase does not have them fitted. Standard rules apply for liquids etc.

If you are going for a week they are not fussy at immigration. You just have to go with the flow re electronic finger prints and eye photos etc. Wherever we have been you get called forward to the immigration officer in a very organised way!

We tend to take lots of cash as each card transaction costs. Nowhere has a good exchange rate! Shopping is utterly crap value now! Visa is widely accepted. There are cards that are cheaper with no transaction fee (I did look them up on the Martin Lewis website). Check your phone contract but if it is a work one then costs are covered by work I assume.

Eating out is expensive due to tips and tax. Minimum tip is double the tax. Americans tip for any service. Goods in shops do not have the tax included. In NY it is about 9%.

Have a good trip!

refusetobeasheep Sun 26-Feb-17 21:48:02

Get yourself some low denomination bills. Otherwise the busboy will just stand looking at you after he has carried your bags up to your room until you are forced to confess you have no money and his look makes you feel like a criminal. Don't think taking your own bags up is an option - unless you're very on the ball they're gathered up whilst you're still dealing with the taxi driver!

refusetobeasheep Sun 26-Feb-17 21:49:39

Oh and carry your passport with you. Lots of buildings in New York require ID so if you have a meeting in one ......

IckleWicklePumperNickle Sun 26-Feb-17 22:17:28

Remember to let the bank know you're there and which dates. They'll block your cards if you didn't. You can do it via online banking.

Iamastonished Sun 26-Feb-17 22:30:33

Good point Ickle. It's really important to do this.

errorofjudgement Sun 26-Feb-17 22:38:03

Can I join in and ask about tipping? We are going to the states in the summer for the first time, visiting New York & Washington. I appreciate there is a big culture around tipping, but what is expected/reasonable?
E.g. A percentage of the bill? What about in cabs? Or porters? What if the service is rubbish?? Help!

ChippyMinton Sun 26-Feb-17 22:40:04

Take a photocopy of your passport to carry around as ID.

At immigration only answer questions and don't be tempted to make flippant remarks.

Definitely get TSA compliant case locks, otherwise they will cut the locks off and your case will be vulnerable for the rest of the journey.

Maybe get flight socks for the plane.

stuckinny Sun 26-Feb-17 22:47:30

Tipping in bars and restaurants is generally 15-23%. I usually tip around 20%.
In a bar, if I'm sitting at the bar just having a few drinks and paying as I go its common to tip $1 a drink then a few extra bucks when you leave.
(If you go to a decent cocktail bar I recommend sitting at the bar. The bartenders will be happy to talk to you and personally it's a much better experience).

Porters etc is usually a few dollars, cabs...I'm not sure. I'm not usually in one.

If the service has been particularly bad, it's worth speaking to management. They will be eager to fix the problems. That said, I have left $1 before as the whole experience was so bad. Leaving $1 was far more insulting than leaving nothing.

Unfortunately, restaurant staff earn far less than minimum wage so rely on tips. Also wait staff generally tip out the bar tenders and bus boys at the end of their shift so although you think you're giving someone a big tip they rarely keep all of it.

stuckinny Sun 26-Feb-17 22:48:35

Carry photo ID everywhere. You can expect to be carded when ordering alcohol if you look under 40 despite the drinking age being 21.

tribpot Sun 26-Feb-17 23:05:22

I use a Halifax Clarity card which has a good rate for overseas transactions (although I'd always try to avoid getting cash out with a credit card). I get my cash from Marks and Sparks (better rates for credit card holders).

I was surprised by the number of charging points/USB ports in the airport and on the plane so make sure to take a USB cable or two so you can charge up on the go.

I took a spare set of clothes for us in hand luggage in case our bags didn't make it, but we did have three flights to take including a rather short transfer in Seattle, where I had to pick up the bags and check them back in again - this seems to be normal, so if you also have an internal transfer watch out for this. I didn't have to go all the way back around to Arrivals, you chuck the bags on a transit belt for some reason.

I found the in-flight entertainment to be pretty shit (British Airways) so I would take your own entertainment if you can - Kindle, tablet with movies/TV to watch, etc.

I also invested in noise cancelling headphones for the flight - along with a white noise app they can do a good job in shutting everything out.

Iamastonished Sun 26-Feb-17 23:35:24

In Orlando the bill always had "suggestions" on how much to tip, ranging between 18 and 23%.

We found it much cheaper to eat at self service places. I also found the waiter service way too over attentive to the point of being intrusive because the waiting staff rely on tips.

NotaSnowflake Sun 26-Feb-17 23:51:54

NotJanine An adapter won't be sufficient. You'll need anything that's electrical to be 'dual voltage' or else the power won't be sufficient for it to work.

Also, they add tax onto the cost displayed for products you buy. Worth remembering

Iamastonished Mon 27-Feb-17 00:12:32

I just took an American plug with USB ports, but it did take longer for our phones to charge.

There was a hairdryer in the room and I don't bother with straighteners on holiday.

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