Under the Visa Waiver Programme a large number of countries are exempt from Visa requirements for non-working stays of less than 90 days. It is advisable however to consult your nearest US embassy. All other stays in the country require a visa, details of these can also be acquired from your nearest US embassy
The currency used in New York/USA is the US Dollar (US$) which is divided into 100 cents (¢). Notes come in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. There are larger denominations but they are rarely used. Coins used are 1¢ (penny), 5¢ (nickel), 10¢ (dime), ¢25 (quarter), ¢50 and $1, although the final two aren’t seen regularly.
English is the first language spoken in New York. Other languages, such as Spanish, Chinese and Italian are also spoken throughout the city.
The climate can be very severe ranging from high humidity, with average temperatures of 25˚C in the summer (fortunately, virtually every building is air conditioned) to temperatures of –15˚C with snow in the winter. The best time to holiday in New York is late spring or early autumn when conditions are fairly average.
Most visitors to New York won’t be covered medically so will have to pay for any medical treatment received.
If you are looking for any sort of remedies to help with a cold, flu etc go to the local drugstore. In case of an emergency, dial 911.
The time zone used in New York is Eastern Standard Time (EST) which is five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Opening hours for shops in New York are generally between 10.00am and 9.00pm from Monday to Saturday and on Sundays from midday until 5.00pm. Offices open between 9.00am to 5.00pm from Monday to Friday. Banks are normally open from 9.00am to 3.00pm on weekdays and some open until lunch-time on Saturdays.
The two main tourist offices in New York are:
New York City’s Official Visitor Information Center
810 17th Ave at 53rd St
Times Square Visitors Center
Between 46th and 47th Sts
Leaflets on tours along with advice on accommodation can be got at both centers. Most hostels and hotels will have all the information you need for travelling around the city.
There is no VAT in the US but every state, county and city reserves the right to levy its own local tax on all purchases, including hotel and restaurant bills, airline tickets etc. This tax in New York is 8.5%. To avoid embarrassment when it comes to paying the bill, you should always check that a stated price includes tax.
Bringing foreign currency to New York is not recommended as foreign exchange bureaus are extremely rare and even changing it in banks is inconvenient. If you do need to change foreign cash the best place to do so is in any exchange branch of Thomas Cook.
The three types of cheque which are most widely recognized are Visa, American Express and Thomas Cook. These are also the easiest to change.
Most businesses will accept traveller’s cheques denominated in US amounts, but you are better changing them in a bank. You will also need identification to do so.
The US uses 110 to 120 volts AC, 60 cycles. If you are using a European or an Australian appliance, you will need a 110-volt transformer and a plug adapter with two flat parallel pins. These adapters are difficult to find in the States so you are recommended to bring one with you.
When you are calling New York from overseas you need to dial 1, followed by a three digit area code, followed by the local seven digit number. New York has numerous three-digit codes so check before dial. If you are in the same area code you just dial the local number.
If you are calling the abroad from within the US you dial 011, followed by the country’s code, area code (remembering to drop the 0) and local number.
New York’s post offices are open from 9am-5pm. Queues can be big but if it stamps you are looking for vending machines sell them, saving you the time. The city’s main post office is at:
421 8th Ave at 33rd St
This office is open 24 hours.
There is a custom of tipping in New York for services received. It is customary to tip most of the following: taxi drivers, waiters and waitresses, barmen, chamber maids, hotel bellboys and airport luggage porters.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to New York as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In the US they take place on January 1st and 15th, February 19th, May 28th, July 4th, September 3rd, October 8th, November 11th and 29th and December 25th.