US dollar ($)
Budget: Less than $100
- Dorm bed: $20–40
- Campsite: $15–30
- Room in a budget motel: $60–80
- Lunch from a cafe or food truck: $6–10
- Travel on public transit: $2–4
- Room in a midrange hotel: $80–200
- Dinner in a popular restaurant: $20–40
- Car hire per day: from $30
Top End: More than $250
- Room in a top hotel/resort: from $250
- Dinner in a top restaurant: $60–100
- Big night out (plays, concerts, clubs): $60–200
Gentle haggling is common in flea markets; in all other instances you’re expected to pay the stated price.
ATMs are widely available. Credits cards are accepted at most hotels, restaurants and shops.
Most locals do not carry large amounts of cash for everyday use, relying instead on credit cards, debit cards and ATMs. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are accepted at most locations. Smaller businesses may refuse to accept bills over $20.
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 $3 or more per transaction and your home bank may impose additional charges.
Foreign visitors should check with their bank for exact information about using its cards in stateside ATMs. The exchange rate is usually as good as you’ll get anywhere.
EFTPOS is becoming more widely used but is still not common in the Eastern USA.
Major credit cards are almost universally accepted. In fact, it’s next to impossible to rent a car or make hotel reservations without one. 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.
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.
Banks are usually the best places to exchange foreign currencies. Most large city banks offer the service, 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.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
Tipping is not optional; only withhold tips in cases of outrageously bad service.
- Airport and hotel porters $2 per bag, minimum $5 per cart
- Bartenders 15% to 20% per round, minimum $1 per drink
- Hotel housekeepers $2 to $5 daily, 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 on return of keys