TRAVELING IN THE USA
Below are a few tips for travelers visiting the USA from abroad. We hope these are helpful, but please feel free to email with other questions.
Most wall outlets in the USA have three slots, and are compatible with two types of cords
- Electric power is standardized in all states across the USA. It is set at 110 Volts and 60 cycles. 220 Volt power is used in homes only for large appliances like stoves, water heaters and clothes dryers. It is not normally available for personal appliances.
- Standard electric plugs, as illustrated at the top of this page, have two flat blades. The plugs on some newer appliances have a third round grounding pin. Almost all homes and commercial buildings are equipped with electrical receptacles that can accommodate either type of plug.
- You may need an adaptor and power converter.
- If you bring any electrical appliance to the USA, you may need an adaptor to fit the US electrical receptacles. You may also need a converter to change the voltage from 110 volts to 220 volts.
- Most common appliances will function with either 50 or 60 cycle current. Electrical frequency can affect electric clocks, audio equipment and some other electronic gear. You should check your electrical equipment for compatibility with 60-cycle current before you bring it to the USA.
Adaptors can be purchased at hardware stores and at some pharmacies. They are usually inexpensive, because they simply attach to your cords to make them fit the outlet. Adaptors do not affect the voltage – for that, you will need a power converter.
Most hotels provide hair dryers in the room. If your room does not have one, ask at the front desk.
It is a good idea to purchase health insurance before your trip. Healthcare is very expensive in the USA.
Credit cards are accepted at all restaurants and stores, and if for some reason a store is “cash only,” there will usually be a sign. It is helpful to carry a small amount of cash (especially for tipping), but large amounts of cash are not required nor recommended. Using credit cards overseas can incur charges, so be sure to check with your bank before traveling.
If you need to convert cash, we recommend using a bank. There are stand-alone “Currency Exchanges,” but they charge exorbitant fees. We recommend changing money at a bank, bringing cash with you, or using an ATM.
ATMS: There are many ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) conveniently placed throughout the city. However, if you use your overseas bank card or debit card to receive money, you will probably be charged a fee, both by the bank that owns the ATM, and possibly by your bank as well. Check with your bank ahead of time for fees, limits, etc. It is a good idea to bring some cash with you, and to plan to use your credit card.
If you have an overseas cell phone (or an out-of-state phone without a national plan), you may get charged high roaming fees unless you turn off your phone’s data. New/prepaid SIM cards can be purchased online, and at cell phone stores, but it may be easiest to rely on Wi-Fi and internet phone and text services, such as WhatsApp and Viber, while you are here.
Sales tax is charged for both food and items, and is not included in price tags. In the City of Chicago, sales tax is 9.25%.
Chicago is located in the Central Time Zone (GMT-6:00).
Tipping is expected in restaurants and taxicabs. (While not legally required, waiters in the USA earn far below minimum wage, because tips are expected to make up the difference). Below is a quick list of some of the situations you may encounter in which tipping is expected (and how much to tip):
- Servers in restaurants
Tipping 15-20% of your bill is appropriate. If your service was bad, a 10% is a way to indicate your displeasure. You can leave cash, or add your tip to your credit card. Note: if your tip says “gratuity included” that means the tip has already been added in, and you do not need to add any further tip. This is usually done for large groups, though sometimes gratuity is routinely added in high-traffic tourist areas.
$1 per drink is appropriate.
- Cab drivers
10-15% of your fare is appropriate. Also, note that you can use cash or credit cards in taxicabs.
$1 per bag carried is appropriate.
- Delivery personnel
If you get outside food delivered to your hotel (such as pizza), 10-15% tip is appropriate.
Smoking is not allowed indoors in Chicago (with very few exceptions). You are allowed to smoke outside on Navy Pier as long as you are more than 15 feet from the entrance to a building.
Water from the tap is safe to drink, and free, safe water fountains are plentiful. You can buy bottled water, or carry a bottle to refill. Chicago is hot in the summer, so stay hydrated!
We will have free, secure Wi-Fi available in all conference areas for the entirety of the conference. Your hotel will likely also provide free Wi-Fi in the lobby, though you may have to pay a fee for Wi-Fi in your room.
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