When traveling to the United States you will discover a very wide range of customs that differ along with the diversity of its geography depending on which state you are in. From the beaches to the mountains to the deserts, you will find that most people are very friendly and welcoming no matter where you are.
With an easygoing spirit, Americans love to see travelers in their country, but as is true anywhere else in the world, it is important to remember your manners and common courtesies and you will have a joyful and rewarding experience. Generally, Americans are casual in their dress especially if they are on holiday so that is generally acceptable in most places, however in a high end restaurant or club, you are better off if your dress is more business casual. When in doubt, it is better to err on the side of being overdressed, rather than too relaxed and underdressed.
If you visit someone’s home, it is customary to bring a small gift or bottle of wine depending on what the occasion is, but generally for a dinner or barbeque that will be acceptable and your hosts will be appreciative as well. Shaking hands is the generally accepted form of greeting when meeting someone new, although once you have met someone the next time you see them they might greet you with a kiss on the cheek instead of a handshake.
Tipping is customary for service professionals such as waiters, taxi drivers, parking valets or hotel porters or chambermaids and tips are considered a large part of their income. In a restaurant or bar, the customary tip is 15 to 20 percent – with 20 percent for service that is considered exceptional. Chambermaids generally should be tipped $3-5 per day and parking valets $1-$2 and skycaps should be tipped at $1 per bag.
Smoking is becoming less acceptable and many restaurants and public establishments do not allow smoking inside their premises, but might allow smoking outside on a patio area. Some towns and cities though are becoming stricter about this and cities like Seattle are considered smoke free meaning you can only smoke in the privacy of your own home. Some hotels are smoke free as well or only have designated rooms that are for smokers. It is prudent to always ask if you are unsure before lighting up especially if you are with other people who might not smoke. Always look for no smoking signs and you will be safe.
All countries have their cultural differences in the customary ways to do things. Americans dislike anyone cutting in when in a queue. Also, talking on a mobile phone in a restaurant or other establishment is considered rude so you should find a quiet corner or go outside to take your call. Americans are also very fastidious about showers and hygiene in general. In any country it is important to be courteous and always ask if you are unsure about anything. You will find that America is a fascinating place to visit and you will have a lovely visit with lasting memories of a good time.
The communications network in the United States is excellent with the ability to contact even remote areas within minutes via telephone or internet. Thus it is easy to make contact with friends and family with relative ease while traveling in Florida or anywhere in the U.S.
The internet is fast becoming the ultimate mode of communication especially with telephones that now provide network connections so you can text or keep in touch via email without dragging your laptop along on your trip. Internet service is fast and efficient and can be found just about anywhere. Many vacation rental homes have internet access so you can connect with home, friends and even work whilst on vacation and the service is usually free.
For a fee you are also able to check your email or send messages at cybercafés or other places such as hotels or copy centers and most airports, train and bus stations offer that ability too. Coffee houses are great gathering places and many people can be spotted using their laptops and taking advantage of the free wireless if you have your own Wi-Fi enabled computer. You can enjoy a cup of coffee while chatting with friends near and far.
Most people now have cell phones but when you travel internationally it can sometimes be a bit pricey to operate it in Florida or other states in the U.S. However, prices continue to drop for these services so it certainly is a great option if you are able to do so. If you cannot afford to upgrade to an international service or to rent a mobile phone that is operational in the U.S., there are still many public pay telephones available in airports, bus or train stations and other public areas and require coins for local calls that are usually between $.25 and $.50 each.
Prepaid telephone cards or phone credit cards have become more and more popular and come in a number of different denominations from as little as $10 to $100. These phone cards offer a good rate for international calls and can be found in airports, bus stations or convenience stores, grocery or drug stores. These cards make great gifts as well for those who are traveling and are convenient to use as well.
Sending post cards remains an age old custom that many travelers still like as it gives the recipient a taste of all the wonderful sights you are seeing on your trip. Postage for domestic mail within the United States is $.28 for a post card and $.44 for a first class letter. International rates for post cards are $.75 to Canada, $.79 to Mexico and $.98 to all other countries. International first class letters vary by the country to which they are going but you can find out more at www.usps.com. Stamps can also be purchased at banks, grocery stores and pharmacies although they will only have $.44 stamps available and will not be able to determine costs for international deliveries.
The 511 Travel Hotline offers road travelers vital information related to traffic, weather, road conditions and other pertinent data that will help you. Florida and other states participate in this service and make it easy to get regional information. This service is offered in Florida in both English and Spanish – all you do is dial 511 on your phone and you will get all the information needed.