USA branch FAQ
Replies: 279 - Last Post: Apr 16, 2013 10:54 PM Last Post By: nutraxfornerves
Dec 19, 2005 12:39 AM
128The Grand Canyon
By someone who’s been to the South Rim and the North Rim
There are two main vantage points, the North Rim and the South Rim. There is also the West Rim, which I have not visited but which I understand to be considerably less spectacular than the main vantage points and appealing mainly because of its relative proximity to Las Vegas. I have been to the South Rim twice and the North Rim twice, and visited both places in the summer of 2005. On the second visit, we stayed overnight at the South Rim before continuing on to Las Vegas.
As you might expect, tourism at the Grand Canyon (as with almost all national parks) peaks in mid-summer. Just so you know, it's still worthwhile to go to the Grand Canyon even on the most crowded weekend in July. The roads and parking lots can be crowded, but the Canyon itself is simply too vast to be overwhelmed. Tourism drops off considerably after Labor Day, i.e., the first Monday in September. The North Rim, being higher in altitude, gets a lot of snow in late autumn and winter. The National Park facilities close in mid-October.
When both rims are open, many LPers will suggest the North Rim because it is less accessible, and therefore less visited, than the South Rim. This is because the South Rim is about 75 miles from a major Interstate highway (I-40), while the North Rim is reachable only on two-lane roads. The North Rim sits about 1,500 feet higher than the South Rim. It is heavily forested and there are fewer tourist facilities. Combined with its relative inaccessibility, the North Rim has a more intimate feel. Millions of people have been there but to some LPers the North Rim has the feel of a personal discovery, which quite frankly it is not.
Both vantage points are spectacular and anyone would be happy at either place, but I think the South Rim views are considerably more panoramic. Also, the sun’s angle makes for better viewing and for better photography, at least at the amateur snapshot level. This is the viewpoint that will leave you speechless for hours. In my opinion, it would really be a shame to miss it. On the other hand, the views from the North Rim have, for lack of a better adjective, a "smokier" feel. Not in the sense of pollution but because of the interplay of the sun and rock formations; this adds to the relative "intimacy" of that vantage point.
Of course, you could always visit both rims and compare them for yourself. The drive between them is outstanding, especially along the "Vermillion Cliffs," which you’ll see marked on any map of the area. Even at the height of the tourist season there isn’t much traffic on this route. If you have the time, I definitely recommend it. Another argument for going to the North Rim is that it’s a convenient jumping off point for a side trip to Zion and/or Bryce National Parks. I haven’t been to Bryce, but I have been to Zion, and it’s absolutely worth it if you’ve got the time.
Travel times from Vegas to either rim are roughly equal. The one-way trip is about 275 miles, which makes it pretty daunting if you’re thinking you’ll do the Grand Canyon as a daytrip from Vegas. Between the rims is about 160 miles and takes about four hours, three if you drive with a lead foot like me. There are also charter airplanes that fly over the Canyon. I've never taken one, but I'd say this: Regardless of which rim you visit how you get there, I think you're going to want to stay overnight. Make sure you have the ability to do this if at all possible.
The lodgings at the Grand Canyon are operated by Xanterra, which also operates other national park accommodations. Lodging is in heavy demand during mid-summer, so book early. But even then, there’ll often be accommodations available at the last minute – but you cannot count on it. Before July 4 and after Labor Day you should have no trouble finding a room inside the Park on short notice. There are also plenty of hotels outside the park. Try Expedia for bookings.
El Tovar Hotel is the premier Xanterra-operated accommodation within the Park boundaries. It’s located at the South Rim. Even if you can’t get (or can’t afford, or both) a room at El Tovar, it’s a great place for lunch or dinner. At the North Rim, there’s a good dining room with stunning Canyon views.
But Does It Live Up To The Hype?
The Grand Canyon one of a very few phenomena of any sort that exceeds any superlative anyone has ever thrown at it. No detour is too long, no obstacle insurmountable. You don’t want to come to the U.S. and miss out on the Grand Canyon if you can possibly help it. If you’re a North American: Everyone who lives here should see this place once. Really. If you’re not familiar with my postings on Thorn Tree, let me mention that I’m something of the resident cranky cynic here. But never about the Grand Canyon. It is truly magnificent.
From a website: First-time visitors are struck by the scale and immensity of the chasm, and some have even been known to fall to their knees and weep, overwhelmed by the spectacle. You know what? It’s true. No matter how many pictures you’ve seen, nothing comes close to being there in person. Prepare to gasp for air at the stunning sight. For many people, a visit to the Grand Canyon is a life-changing experience.
If you want to buy Native American crafts, you essentially have three ways of doing it. One is at a shop near the El Tovar Hotel at the South Rim, where you can be absolutely assured that the stuff is authentic. It’s also pretty expensive, but the "real thing" always is. You can also take your chances at various roadside stands you’ll see on the way to the South Rim from Flagstaff, AZ and at various stands between the two rims. And, finally, there is no end to cheap, cheesy knockoffs available all over the place.
Dec 19, 2005 2:34 PM
129Guide to Washington, D.C.
Written with foreign visitors in mind
Washington, D.C.’s "sights" are pretty much within or near a well-defined area known as the Capital Mall, plus it is the national capital which is of inherent interest. The conglomeration of museums and monuments in Washington is, in my opinion, unmatched anywhere and that includes Paris and London. When I first moved there in the 1980s (spent a total of five years in the area), I had a great boss who gave me a week off on company time and said, "Go see the town." At the end of a week, I still hadn't seen all the museums, monuments and public buildings on the Capital Mall, which runs from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.
I haven't been to the Capitol for quite a while. I used to spend a lot of time there, and got to know it very well. It's an entire, self-contained city. Tunnels connect it to three office buildings on each side, one group attached to the U.S. Senate and the other group attached to the U.S. House of Representatives. There are cafeterias down there full of people (food's not very good, by the way) and there are even little trains. I don't know if tourists can get to that part of the complex these days or not. I used to love to show people the whole thing.
From what I've read, though, you can get into the Capitol, I'm just not certain how much of it. I suspect that once they clear you in, you can pretty much wander around as you please but I might be wrong. The building is magnificent and I would highly recommend the guided tour anyway. As for the White House, even when it was more open to the public in the 1980s, the tour was quite cursory and wasn't worth the time. I don't know what the arrangements are now, but even back then the line would take a couple hours and the tour took 15 minutes. 9/11 or no 9/11, I'd be advising you to skip the tour.
The same goes for the Washington Monument, which is the obelisk at the center of the Capital Mall. Way before 9/11, the lines were really long and it's just not worth it. What's really worthwhile is to tour the monuments (Lincoln and Jefferson memorials are open-air and beautiful) and the museums on either side of the expanse between the Washington Monument and the Capitol. (A note: "Capital" refers to the capital city, and "Capitol" refers to the building where Congress meets.)
All of the museums are free, and they are all operated by the Smithsonian Institution except for the Holocaust Museum, which was opened about 10 years ago. My personal favorites are the National Gallery of Art's west wing (be sure to see the magnificent Hudson School American landscapes, which are reminiscent of the English artist Turner); the Smithsonian "Castle" (red brick building, looks like a castle, contains the contents of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in which the states of the time sent examples of what they made and grew); the Air & Space museum (NASA artifacts -- the most popular museum in Washington so best seen during the week); the Hirschhorn modern art museum.
That's not a complete list by any stretch, those are just my favorites. A couple of others worth checking out include the Library of Congress, across the street from the Capitol on the side not facing the Mall. The thing to see is the reading room, an octagonal Italian Renaissance masterpiece in colored marble, along with whatever exhibit they have in the basement. Also there is Union Station, where'll you'll most likely arrive from New York if, as you should, you take the train from New York. It was restored about 20 years ago and it's magnificent.
And there is the Renwick Gallery, also known as the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I'm having a cabinet built by someone who has a piece in their permanent collection. Lots of beautful things there, and it might be a side of the U.S. that you're not aware of. It's located at 17th & Pennsylvania, near the White House.
As for cultural events, like theater and music, I think it's a close contest between Washington and New York. Pick up a copy of The Washington Post's Calendar section. I think it comes out on Thursdays.
Washington's never been known for the food, but they try. The problem is that the political people (lobbyists, government officials) are generally dull and unadventurous, so you have a lot of boring places there. But you'll find some good restaurants in the Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan areas. Georgetown, another neighborhood known for its expensive townhouses, also has some decent restaurants.
A word about crime. The Capital Mall is the safest place in America. It always has been, but after 9/11 you can be sure that that a cockroach can't cross the street without a camera seeing it. Your issue with crime is when you start moving away from the Capital Mall. If you keep west of about 14th Street or 16th Street, you should have no trouble at all. If you keep west of Connecticut Avenue, you'll miss Adams Morgan and parts of Dupont Circle, which is a shame, but you can be as certain as can be that nothing bad will befall you. In particular, I would avoid the areas past the Library of Congress. The farther east and north you go from there the more dangerous it gets, especially at night.
Generally speaking, though, crime in D.C., like elsewhere in the U.S., is much lower now than it was even 15 years ago. A lot of visitors are very worried about it when they come here because of what they are told in the media. It's true that the U.S. is a big country and anything can happen, but this place is much safer than most foreign visitors think it is. Also, you are likely to be impressed by people's friendliness and willingness to help. So, a piece of advice: Shed a little bit of the characteristic European reserve, approach folks with a smile and a greeting, and you'll be astonished at what a good time you have here. If you need help, ask and you'll receive it.
Have a great visit. We're glad you're coming.
p.s.: People are going to quibble about my advice about D.C. neighborhoods. People will post that the whole concept of avoiding some places is unforgivably racist, given that crime rates are far higher in parts of D.C. where the population is poor and predominantly black. Others will say that the area in back of the Library of Congress is a lot safer than I portray it to be and that you don't have to start worrying until you get to 6th St. or 8th St. NE or SE. Others will say that my advice about "west of 14th or 16th" is ridiculous, and now it's 10th St. Others will be pointing out exceptions to all these statements.
I'm trying to make it simple for you out of a recognition that you're not going to be there long.
One point to make is that D.C. is divided into quadrants, with the Capitol being the meeting point. From there, streets are labeled NE, SE, SW and NW. With the exceptions of the Library of Congress and Union Station, tourist Washington is entirely within NW. So, when I mentioned west of 14th or 16th, that's NW. It's a lot less confusing once you get there and/or look at a map.
One last thing: Some ideas if you want to take a break from the relentless sightseeing.
If your legs get tired – and they will -- one great rest break is to head over to the Tidal Basin between the Washington Monument (the big obelisk, can't miss it) and the Jefferson Memorial. They rent paddle boats over there. I always enjoyed that. I also think there's place over there where you can buy hot dogs, soda and ice cream bars, if my memory serves me right.
You could also visit some parks in or near the city. There's Theodore Roosevelt Island, which you could easily hire a cab to visit yet is remarkably serene given that it's so close to the city. There's also Meridien Hill Park, at 16th St. NW and W St., also known as Malcolm X Park. It has a beautiful Italian Renaissance design. The neighborhood used to be dangerous but it has improved over the years. And there is Rock Creek Park, which winds its way through the city and is very beautiful and peaceful.
A related idea would be to go to National Zoo (there's a subway stop), and afterward wander around in the section of Rock Creek Park that's adjacent. And, of course, the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial is surrounded by a park. It’s a wonderful place for a picnic lunch.
Jan 6, 2006 4:41 AM
130Grizzly Bears in Alaksa
This being the Thorn Tree, I feel a need caution those few wanderers and searchers who might be thinking about communing with the grizzly bears of Alaska by venturing out into the bush. Grizzlies look real cute on film, but they are wild dangerous animals that can, and that will, kill you if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here's an outstanding article from The Independent, a U.K. newspaper that reported on a film about Timothy Treadwell, a dead-ender who took himself, his phony biography and his deluded girlfriend into the wilds of Alaska. Two died, and the grizzly got away.
Consider it fair warning.
Jan 15, 2006 8:58 PM
Jan 18, 2006 9:19 PM
132Shower in downtown Los Angeles
For those taking the train into Union Station wanting to take a shower during their layover time, here's the ticket:
There's a VERY NICE YMCA in downtown Los Angeles. It's not far from the Westin Bonaventure and the LA Public Library. . You can purchase a day use pass for the YMCA. They have showers, day lockers (bring your lock) and a pool. The day pass is $25.00.
Here are their hours
Monday through Thursday: 5:30AM - 11:00PM
Friday: 5:30AM - 9:00PM
Saturday: 8:00AM - 6:00PM
Sunday: 11:00AM - 6:00PM
It's not far from the library or the Bonaventure. You can take a cab with all your bags, or take the Metro RedLine and get off at Pershing Square. Walk out the 5th & Hill exit, walk on 5th, then go north Grand, then go left on Hope Place (there's a staircase).
Ketchum Downtown YMCA ---Look for the Large Green Glass Building.
Jan 23, 2006 8:41 PM
How to get there from Los Angeles Airport without a car? Supershuttle, or Airport Bus. Each has dis- and ad-vantages.
Should I stay in Anaheim? yes, at least one night so you can stay light and see the fireworks/fantasmic.
What hotels are close enough to walk? The closest are on Harbor Blvd North of Disney Way. There's a map on the official Disney website of the "Good Neighbor Hotels."
Best onsite hotel, no children, budget no limit? Disneys Grand Californian
Best hotel, with children on site? Disneyland Hotel (best pool). You get to take the monorail to Disneyland and back, too.
How long? Two days minimum if you want to see both parks. You can do either in one day, but for Disneyland, it's exhausting.
Best "thrill rides" Disneyland: Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Indiana Jones. The Matterhorn is tame, as is Splash Mountain.
Best thrill rides California Adventure: Tower of Terror, Calif. Screamin/ (Coaster), Grizzly River Run, Soaring of California (ImAx-type, everyone loves this).
Best live entertainment: Disneyland: Billy Hill and the Hillbillies (Golden Horseshoe); Cal Adventure: Aladdin .
Best music: Disneyland, New Orleans Square.
Best places to eat in Disneyland, fast service: Rancho del Zocalo, Cafe Orleans, smoked turkey leg stand, Tiki Juice Bar, Bengal BBQ,
Best table service, Blue Bayou (for the atmosphere) (lunch is a better value than dinner).
Best places to eat in Califoria Adventure, fast service: Pacific Wharf Cafe, Taste Pilot's Grill.
Places to avoid: Cucina Cucamonga.
Free tortillas: Mission Tortilla factory exhibit.
Best table service: Vineyard Room (weekends only).
Best full Bar: Avalon Cove Bar (limited hours)
Best food value at Downtown Disney: Uva Bar and Retaurant (no reservations)
Reservations: Catal (but more expensive).
Best coffee/breakfast before Disneyland: La Brea Bakery.
Best hidden place to eat: Whitewater Snacks, Grand Californian.
Make a reservation for Blue Bayou, Vineyard Room, Ariels, or other table service restaurants (including Carnation Cafe), call Disney Dining at (714) 781-dine
Feb 24, 2006 3:46 PM
135I read a lot of Thorntree advice about renting or buying a car to drive the USA and was almost dissuaded to go through with the planned road-trip because it sounded like it was going to be near impossible, as a foreigner, to get a car and then get it legal. However, my friend and I managed to buy a car in California, and, after a bit of a search, we found a company willing to provide insurance. We were both really surprised at how easy it was, after we were told how hard it was going to be. We're now 1 month into our 3 month adventure and are having a ball. I'd say "do it", for anyone contemplating buying a car.
Basic required insurance was $260.00 for three months through a small company called 'California Special Services' (ph: 619-238-0793). We are even able to claim back a small amount of insurance for the two weeks short of 3 months that we don't require (minimum insurance period is 3 months). We actually used the address of the hostel we were staying in, in San Diego and the insurance company was perfectly fine with that. I'm 28, but if I was younger than 25 I know that the insurance cost would be increased (can't remember by how much though).
We purchased the car privately for $1100, through an advertisement we found in San Diego's local newspaper. We also looked around at a couple of car dealerships but the cars were more than we wanted to pay.
The car was already smog-checked (but a lot of cars we looked at weren't) and had valid registration so all we had to do was transfer the title certificate into my name. This process cost us $88 and, after a couple of minutes at the DMV, the car was ours. Again, we used the hostel's address, and again, they were perfectly fine with it.
If you have any questions, just ask.
(Incidentally, we're wanting to sell our car in or around New York at the start of April, let me know if anyone is interested.)
Feb 24, 2006 7:00 PM
136A Generic Answer to the Generic Open-Ended Question
"I Have a Month in the USA. Where Should I go?"
It is vital for you to plan a budget for your trip. See, you can pay anything from $30 to more than $1,000 a night for a room. Have you checked into rental car rates? A one-way, month-long rental from L.A. to N.Y. will probably cost you between $1,500 and $2,000 for the rental alone. Be sure to read the posting in the FAQ for this board about rental car insurance, because if you don't have insurance you could be in for some very rude and expensive shocks if something bad happens. L.A. to N.Y., with divergences for tourism, will be about 4,500 miles, which will mean another $400-$450 for gas.
As for routes and places to stay, I'd really suggest that you read the FAQ here, and that you buy a guidebook. A great one is something called Road Trip USA (or maybe Road Trips USA). It gives trips on two-lane roads, as opposed to the Interstates, which famous American writer John Steinbeck said made it possible to drive 3,000 miles without seeing a thing. You also will need a Rand McNally road atlas. It'll be the cheapest item of all, at $10-$15, available in thousands of petrol stations nationwide.
Route 66 has largely been replaced by the combination of Interstates 44, 40, 15 and 10. There are a few sections of "Historic Rte. 66" left in Arizona and California. I have driven the longest of those sections and was not particularly impressed. There is probably noplace in the continental United States where you'll sit for three or four hours without seeing another car. I have driven tens of thousands of miles in every state in the country except for Alaska, where I didn't rent a car. Other than Alaska, which you won't be visiting anyway, I think the most deserted stretches of road are in the Western Great Plains, such as U.S. Hwy. 12 between Pierre, S.D. and Forsyth, MT. But I have not driven extensively in the interior or in southwest Texas, so maybe those places are lonelier.
In any case, rental cars are almost always in good condition. If you're traveling through desert, i.e., Nevada, Arizona, parts of Southern California, it's best to carry a big jug of water, a white sheet, sunglasses and sunscreen, just in case of trouble.
You really can't expect the posters of TT to plan your itinerary for you. I know you didn't make that request, but by asking for a list of the best places to stay between L.A. and N.Y. you in effect asked that very thing. I really suggest that you do some more research and narrow it down. People will be very helpful here, but you do need to be more specific.
Feb 26, 2006 4:46 PM
137U.S. 395 Through Eastern CA and the Sierras
Note: This is someone else's posting that I thought should be preserved for the FAQ. I made some changes for clarity's sake
- Mt. Whitney Restaurant in Lone Pine while you're there (they serve ostrich patties for breakfast among other things!)
- Bishop is a good rest stop, like for lunch, and they built this huge riverside community park
- Mammoth Lakes area is always fun if you are the sporty/outdoorsy type
- If you visit Mono Lake, the South Tufa is an interesting detour
Towards San Francisco
- Grover Hot Springs looked fun when I was coming back from Tahoe but they charge a fee (maybe $5) for hot springs use
- If Ebbetts Pass is open (can be anywhere from April to June) CA Hwy 4 is very scenic and my favorite drive, period. Just watch your lunch when you make the winding climb up towards Lake Alpine, if you know what I mean.
- To reach CA Hwy 4 from U.S. 395, you turn west onto CA Hwy 89 between Colesville and Topaz Lake
On Hwy 4
- Utica Reservoir just beyond Bear Valley/Lake Alpine is a pleasant and remote lake perfect for kayaking/canoeing (if you really want off the beaten path)
- Calaveras Big Trees SP marks the end of the pine forested part. There are some great day hikes if you stay overnight or just visit as a side trip. South Grove is the longer, lesser-visited trail but has some of the largest, most spectacular redwoods in the park.
- The region between Arnold and Angels Camp is mostly wine growing. Murphys is one of the most charming towns in the gold country and it has a historic main street lined with wine tasting shops. If in town, do not miss the park. It is picture-perfect and they hold all sorts of community events on the weekends. Pizza Plus! is a tasty dining option and very cheap.
- Nearby Murphys is Ironstone Vineyards, which is not only a great winery but also houses the world's largest gold nugget.
- The gold country has many cave systems and a group called Underground Adventures operates tours of four caves and one gold mine. All are worth a visit.
- A little-known hike on Parrott's Ferry Road between Angels Camp and New Melones is Natural Bridges (the trailhead is well-posted, though). The hike is just one mile out and one mile back and it visit a spectacular natural arch suspended over the river. Bring a raft if you can to go into the cave and see the stalactites and stalagmites from inside. It is an unforgettable sight.
- Columbia is the gem of the gold country and a unique throwback to the glory days. I return at least once a year. The main-street is car-free and has everything you could imagine from a gold rush town from the saloon and blacksmith's shop to the post office and old school house. Don't miss Nelson's Candy Kitchen; everything is handmade. Also, it wouldn't be a gold rush town without the opportunity for gold panning. There are a couple hotels on the main strip but if you have a tent the Marble Quarry RV Park (named after the nearby marble quarry) is actually nicer than it sounds. All of the RVs occupy the upper area while tent campers get the nicer bottom section. There are rocks to climb and a relaxing trail through oak groves into town. Columbia also has the distinction of having the only airport in the area.
- The road leads through Sonora, where there are plenty of options for refueling before hitting the road again. Pretty much every major chain store is located in town.
- Jamestown has a National Historial Railroad just south of Sonora
From the Sierra Foothills/Gold Country you can easily make it to San Francisco via Modesto. If you can make it through Ebbetts Pass, stay in the Gold Country for a few days. If you can’t make it and you have to go up through Tahoe, hit DL Bliss SP near Emerald Cove or maybe even the Desolation Wilderness en route.
Mar 26, 2006 7:34 PM
139For Travellers in South Florida
Of course, this comes after the winter season, but it is a question asked often...
Tri-rail has finally completed their new tracks; the traisn now run on time 90% of the time, and will run far more often (40 trains on a weekday, trains every 2 hours on the weekends).
Why is this important? Because it serves the three main south florida airports (Miami, Ft Lauderdale and West palm), with conecting bus service from the stations.
the new schedule is: Here.
Apr 12, 2006 10:37 AM
140Dialing instructions for international and local travellers can be found here: dialing instructions & advice
May 30, 2006 6:56 AM
141Caution in Washington, D.C.
For many years, the Capitol Mall has been known and indeed renowned as an oasis of safety in a city that can otherwise be dicey in spots. As of late May 2006 that is in question. Read this article and this article. I lived in Washington for five years in the late 1980s, when the general crime rate was far higher than it is today. I'd have never expected to post a warning about the Capitol Hall, but apparently the city authorities have lost their grip. Maybe they'll get it back. Let's hope so. Meantime, be careful.
Jun 4, 2006 4:32 PM
142To Foreigners: In the U.S., The Minimum Acceptable Tip Is 15%
Foreigners (and the occasional American psycho cheapskate) complain about the custom of tipping at least 15% on the pre-tax total. Between that and the state (and sometimes local) sales taxes not included in the menu prices, you have to mentally add about 20%-30% to restaurant prices. Here in Seattle, for example, the meal tax is 9.1%. For the tip, I typically double the tax and round up to the the next dollar.
This means, for example, if a menu in Seattle lists an item for $15 I will actually wind up paying somewhere between $19 and $20 for that item. If you don’t want to leave a tip, then eat at a McDonald’s (no tipping at fast food joints) or buy your food at the grocery store. But if someone brings food to your table, you must tip.
Why tipping? Because wait staff – which includes bartenders, by the way -- make very little formal wage. Not only do they live on their tips, but the Internal Revenue Service assumes for tax purposes that they were tipped at least 8%. In other words, if you don’t tip at least 8%, your server will literally pay to wait on you.
No one will force you to tip, but it's burned into everyone's brain in this country that you will burn in hell if you leave anything less than 15%, and it's not at all uncommon to leave 20% or more if you had a great dining experience. Sure, there are American jerks who stiff the servers -- after all, we've got 300 million people and a certain percentage are psychos -- but that 15% minimum is written in stone. I can recall exactly ONE time in my life when I have left less. They just about have to spit on your plate to justify leaving less. Example: The restaurant is busy as hell and you have to wait a long time. Or the server mixes up your order. The tip is 15%.
One of the things you're going to notice, by the way, is that table service in the U.S. is, on average, noticeably better than anywhere else in the world. The tipping system here has its flaws, and it’s sharply at odds with how things are done elsewhere so it takes getting used to. So get used to it, and enjoy its benefits.
_What about tip jars_? Some establishments will have a tip jar on the counter. A lot of people get pissed off about that custom. There’s no need to put anything in those jars. I usually throw the change in there, as much because coins are a bother to carry around as any desire to tip anyone.
_How about taxis and bellhops and others_? Taxis are 15%-20% of the meter. Bellhops $1 a bag but not less than $3 total. If you’re in a really swanky joint that has a doorman and a bellhop it’s your funeral because both those guys get tipped at the bellman’s rate. If you’re in luck, the same guy will do both, in which case the minimum ought to be $5. Barbers get an extra $2 for a man’s haircut; not sure about women’s hairdressers.
Hotel room service is a sticky issue. Most hotels add about 25% to the bill in the form of an 18% service charge plus a flat delivery fee of $2-$4. So, in theory, you just sign the bill and that’s that. I usually give whoever brings it another couple bucks in cash on the theory that the hotel not the server is taking those surcharges for itself and another couple bucks never hurt anyone. But if there’s a service charge on the room service bill you won’t offend the karma gods by not adding anything to that.
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