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General Info about San Francisco, USA

Visa Requirements
Under the Visa Waiver Programme a large number of countries are exempt from Visa requirements for non-working stays of less than 90 days. All other stays in the country require different visas. It is advised that you contact your nearest US Embassy to find out the exact requirements for entering the country.

Currency
The currency used in San Francisco/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.

Language
English is the first language spoken in San Francisco. Other languages, such as Spanish, Chinese and Italian are also spoken throughout the city.

Climate
San Francisco has a very moderate climate but is nowhere near as warm as Los Angeles. During the summer months fog is commonly found all over the city and doesn’t clear until round midday. Even though temperatures can sore quite high during the summer months, the city has spring like weather all year round.

Medical Care
Most visitors to San Francisco aren’t covered medically so you will have to pay for any medical treatment received. Make sure to get travel insurance including health insurance before you go.

The Downtown Medical centre can be found on 450 Sutter/Powell in case you really need to see a doctor and you can make same-day appointments there.

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.

Time Zone
San Francisco is 7 hours behind GMT and three behind EST standard time.

Opening Hours
Opening hours for shops in San Francisco 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.

Tourist Offices
The main tourist office in San Francisco is:

Visitor Information Center
900 Market Street
San Francisco
+1 415 391 2000

The office is open from 9am-5pm Monday-Friday and from 9am-3pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Leaflets giving information on visitor attractions and accommodation can be picked up here. Most hostels around the city normally have sufficient information (leaflets etc) for tourists.

Tax
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 San Francisco is 7-8%. Take note that rates vary and can get as high as 18% in hotels.

Currency Exchange
US Dollar travellers cheques are widely accepted in hotels and hostels. Sterling travellers cheques aren’t changed as widely so if you are bringing travellers cheques make sure they are US$. One of the best places to change travellers cheques are in Thomas Cook branches.

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.

Electricity
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.

Telephones
When you are calling San Francisco from overseas you need to dial the international access code then 1, followed by the area code (415 or 650), followed by the local seven digit number. If you are in the same area code you just dial the local number.

If you are calling abroad from within the US you dial 011 (America’s international access code), followed by the country’s code, area code (remembering to drop the 0) and local number.

Post Office
San Francisco main central offices are located in the following locations:

1 Embarcadero/Clay,
Gateway

121 Stockton/O'Farrell
Union Square

2055 Lombard/Fillmore
Marina

Opening times are from 9am-5pm. Queues can get quiet big but if it is stamps you are looking for vending machines sell them, saving you the time.

Tipping
Tipping is customary all over America, usually around 15-20% of the bill. Most people in the service industry expect to receive tips. These include taxi drivers, waiters and waitresses, barmen, chamber maids, hotel bellboys and airport luggage porters.

Public Holidays
In the US they take place on New Years Day (January 1st) Martin Luther King’s Birthday (Third Mon in January), President’s Day (third Monday in February), Memorial Day (last Monday in May), Independence Day (July 4th), Labour Day (first Monday in September), Columbus Day (second Monday in October), Veterans Day (11th November), Thanksgiving Day (fourth Thursday in November and Christmas Day (December 25th).

It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to San Francisco/America as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day.

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