Dozens of local and regional banks are found throughout Tennessee. Most banks will cash travelers checks, exchange currency, and send wire transfers. Banks are generally open weekdays 9 a.m.–4 p.m., although some are open later and on Saturdays. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are ubiquitous, and many are compatible with bank cards bearing the Plus or Cirrus icons. Between fees charged by your own bank and the bank that owns the ATM you are using, expect to pay $2–5 extra to get cash from an ATM that does not belong to your own bank.
Sales tax is charged on all goods, including food and groceries.
The sales tax you pay is split between the state and local governments. Tennessee’s sales tax is 5.5 percent on food and groceries, and 7 percent on all other goods. Cities and towns add an additional “local use tax,” usually between 1.5 percent and 2.75 percent.
There is no statewide tax on hotel rooms, but 45 different cities have established their own hotel tax, ranging from 5 to 7 percent.
Tennessee routinely ranks favorably on cost-of-living indexes. Visitors can comfortably eat their fill in casual restaurants and coffee shops for $30 a day, although it is possible to spend much more if you prefer to eat in upscale restaurants.
The cost of accommodations varies widely, depending on the area you are visiting, the type of accommodations you are seeking, and when you are traveling. The most expensive hotel rooms are in urban centers. Rates go up during major events, on weekends, and during peak travel months in the summer. Cheaper accommodations will be found on the outskirts of town and along rural interstate routes. Budget travelers should consider camping.
If you are not coming in your own car, one of your most substantial expenses will be a rental car. Most rentals bottom out at $30 a day, and rates can be much higher if you don’t reserve in advance or if you are renting only for a day or two.
Most historic sites, museums, and attractions offer special discounts for senior citizens and children under 12. Some attractions also have discounts for students and servicemen and -women. Even if you don’t see any discount posted, it is worth asking if one exists.
Many chain hotels offer discounts for AAA members.
Consumer Reports magazine reported that you can often get a better hotel rate simply by asking for one. If the rate you are quoted sounds a little high, simply say that it is more than you were planning to spend and ask if they can offer a better rate. Many times, especially if it is out of season, the answer will be yes. Your negotiations will be more successful if you are willing to walk away if the answer is no.
You should tip waiters and waitresses between 15 and 20 percent in a “sit-down” restaurant. You can tip 5 to 10 percent in a cafeteria or restaurant where you collect your own food from the counter.
Tip a bell hop or bag handler $1 per bag, or more if they went out of their way to help you.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition