Money and Costs
Budget: Less than $150
- Dorm bed: $25–40
- Double room in a budget motel: $45–80
- Lunch from a cafe or food truck: $6–12
- Local bus, subway or train tickets: $2–4
- Double room in midrange hotel: $100–250
- Popular restaurant dinner for two: $30–60
- Car hire per day: from $30
Top End: More than $250
- Double room in a resort or top-end hotel: from $200
- Dinner in a top restaurant: $60–100
- Concert or theater tickets: $60–200
Gentle haggling is common in flea markets; in all other instances you’re expected to pay the stated price.
US dollar ($)
ATMs widely available. Credit cards accepted at most hotels, restaurants and shops.
ATMs are available 24/7 at most banks, and in shopping centers, airports, grocery stores and convenience shops. Most ATMs charge a service fee of $2.50 or more per transaction and your home bank may impose additional charges. Withdrawing cash from an ATM using a credit card usually incurs a hefty fee.
For foreign visitors, ask your bank or credit-card company for exact information about using its cards in stateside ATMs. If you will be relying on ATMs (not a bad strategy), bring more than one card and carry them separately. The exchange rate on ATM transactions is usually as good as you'll get anywhere. Before leaving home, notify your bank and credit-card providers of your travel plans, to avoid triggering fraud alerts.
Major credit cards are almost universally accepted. In fact, it's almost impossible to rent a car or make hotel reservations without one. It's highly recommended that you carry at least one credit card, if only for emergencies. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted.
Foreign visitors may have to go inside to pre-pay at gas stations, since most pay-at-the-pump options require a card with a US zip code. Some airlines also require a US billing address – a hassle if you're booking domestic flights once in the country. Note, too, that you may be asked to 'sign' for credit card purchases, or face a confused clerk or waiter when your card does not require a signature, as US credit card companies have yet to embrace the chip + PIN method available elsewhere in the world. It's normal for restaurant servers to take your card to a pay station to process instead of allowing you to pay at the table. Mobile pay options (Apple Pay, Google Pay) are becoming increasingly common and are a good way to bridge the technology gap.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com
Banks are usually the best places to exchange foreign currencies. Most large city banks offer currency exchange, but banks in rural areas may not. Currency-exchange counters at the airport and in tourist centers typically have the worst rates; ask about fees and surcharges first. Travelex (www.travelex.com) is a major currency-exchange company, but American Express (www.americanexpress.com) travel offices may offer better rates.
Tipping is not optional; only withhold tips in cases of outrageously bad service.
- Airport & hotel porters $2 per bag, minimum per cart $5
- Bartenders 15% to 20% per round, minimum per drink $1
- Hotel housekeepers $2 to $5 per night, left under the card provided
- Restaurant servers 15% to 20%, unless a gratuity is already charged on the bill
- Taxi drivers 10% to 15%, rounded up to the next dollar
- Valet parking attendants At least $2 when handed back the keys