Information and Services
Visas and Officialdom
Most foreign visitors entering the United States are required to carry a current passport, a visitor’s visa, and proof they intend to leave (a return airplane ticket is usually enough). It’s also wise to carry proof of citizenship, such as a driver’s license or birth certificate.
Since 9/11, obtaining a U.S. visa has become more difficult and the process more lengthy. Apply early to avoid disappointment. Tourist visas are valid for up to six months; special visas are required to work or study in the United States.
To extend your visa for a maximum of six months, contact the nearest Immigration and Naturalization Service office. To replace a passport lost while in the United States, contact your country’s nearest embassy; many consulates are located in New York City.
Visitors to the United States do not need inoculations unless they are coming from an area known to be suffering from an epidemic such as cholera or yellow fever. Visitors with medical conditions requiring treatment with narcotics or the use of drug paraphernalia such as syringes must carry a valid, signed physician’s prescription.
Business Hours And Money
Standard business hours in New York are Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Banks are usually open Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–3 p.m., with some branches open Saturday 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Many banks offer 24-hour automated teller service.
Most shops are open Monday–Saturday from 9 or 10 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. In New York City, Sunday afternoon and evening hours are also common, and many grocery stores and delis remain open 24/7. The state sales tax is 8.25 percent.
With the exception of some inexpensive motels, restaurants, and shops, credit cards are accepted almost everywhere in the state, and are mandatory for renting cars and most sports equipment. The safest way to bring cash is to carry traveler’s checks. American Express traveler’s checks are the most widely accepted.
Measurements, Mail, and Area Codes
Like the rest of the United States, New York still eschews the metric system. New York lies within the eastern standard time zone. Daylight saving time, which sets the clocks one hour ahead, goes into effect from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October.
Normal post office hours are Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m., and Saturday 8:30 a.m.–noon. Some post offices are also open late one night a week.
New York State uses an ever-proliferating number of area codes. To obtain a number from directory services, dial 411.
Maps and Tourist Information
The best source for general information on New York State is the New York State Division of Tourism (P.O. Box 2603, Albany 12220, 518/474-4116 or 800/225-5697, www.iloveny.com). It publishes a free, 200-page I Love New York guide that’s updated annually, as well as a wide variety of brochures on specific regions. For an updated calendar of events staged throughout the state, including New York City, call 800/CALL-NYS. Most regions, cities, and towns also staff their own tourism offices and/or visitors centers.
For a free basic guide to New York’s 160-odd state parks, including hiking and camping information, contact New York State Parks (Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12238, 518/474-0456, www.nysparks.com).
Excellent maps of New York State are published by the Automobile Association of America. The AAA maps are available free to members at any local AAA office. For more information about AAA membership and services in New York, contact the American Automobile Association (1415 Kellum Pl., Garden City, NY 11530, 516/746-7730 or 212/586-1166, www.aaany.com).
Rand-McNally and Hagstrom publish excellent street maps of Manhattan and the other New York City boroughs; these are available at most bookstores and many newsstands. The DeLorme Mapping Company publishes two excellent oversized map books: New York State Atlas & Gazetteer and Upstate New York City Street Maps.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition