Accessible Travel

Travel within Maine is becoming less difficult for people with disabilities, but it's still not easy. Public buildings are required by law to be wheelchair accessible and also to have appropriate restroom facilities. Public transportation services must be made accessible to all, and telephone companies are required to provide relay operators for the hearing impaired. Many banks provide ATM instructions in Braille, curb ramps are common, many busy intersections have audible crossing signals, and most chain hotels have suites for guests with disabilities.

Mobility International USA (www.miusa.org) advises travelers with disabilities on mobility issues and runs educational international exchange programs.

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Those interested in adventure activities should get in touch with Maine Adaptive (www.maineadaptive.org). This organization offers lessons and leads cycling and kayaking excursions using adapted gear. Other ways to get active include golf, climbing, tennis and a full range of winter sports (both alpine and Nordic skiing plus snowshoeing and snowboarding).

About 8 miles northwest of Kennebunk, the Carlisle Academy is an equestrian center geared towards adults and children with disabilities. It offers a range of educational programs as well as recreational rides.

For a taste of Maine's wondrous outdoor landscapes, head to Acadia National Park. Here you'll find some 45 miles of smooth carriage roads, which are accessible to wheelchair users, plus good transportation (wheelchair-accessible buses that provide a free service around the park) and some scenic overlooks (notably the accessible Cadillac Mountain viewing platform).

Bargaining

There isn't much bargaining happening in Maine. Generally, the listed price is what you'll pay. Outside of high season, you can always ask for discounts when booking lodging (particularly if you happen to spot a cheaper rate online than the posted rack rates). At antique stores and markets, there is a little room for haggling, but not much.

Dangers & Annoyances

  • You're unlikely to come across any major problems while traveling in Maine. Most of the region enjoys high standards of living and tourists are usually well looked after.

Driving Hazards

Where deer, moose and other wild animals frequently appear roadside, you'll see signs with the silhouettes of the animals. Take these signs seriously, particularly at dusk and dawn.

Weather

It snows a lot in Maine. If you're visiting between December and March, there's a fair chance you'll experience a major snowstorm, possibly impeding your progress until roads are plowed.

Outdoor Hazards

Outdoor activities, from beach-going to mountain-hiking, can be dangerous anywhere in the world. Pay attention to weather and water conditions before setting out on any sort of adventure.

  • Conditions can be dangerous on any of Maine's mountain trails. Inquire about the latest weather with rangers before setting out.
  • Always stay on marked trails and do not disturb wildlife while hiking.
  • Not all public beaches are staffed by lifeguards, so inquire about riptides and other dangers before swimming at area beaches.

Government Travel Advice

  • Australia (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
  • Canada (www.travel.gc.ca)
  • Germany (www.auswaertiges-amt.de/de/ReiseUndSicherheit)
  • Japan (www.anzen.mofa.go.jp)
  • The Netherlands (www.nederlandwereldwijd.nl/reizen/reisadviezen)
  • New Zealand (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
  • UK (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)

Emergency & Important Numbers

USA country code1
International directory assistance00
International access code from the USA011
Directory assistance411
Emergency (ambulance, fire, police)911

Entry & Exit Formalities

Customs Regulations

Each visitor is allowed to bring 1L of liquor and 200 cigarettes duty free into the US, but you must be at least 21 years old to possess the former and 18 years old to possess the latter. In addition, each traveler is permitted to bring gift merchandise up to the value of $100 into the US without incurring any duty.

Passports

No particular passport (or stamps in your passport) will automatically disqualify you from entry into the US, but many countries are 'red flags,' which may invite interrogation by immigration officials. Scrutiny is likely to be more severe for travelers who have visited one or more Muslim countries. Note that immigration officials reserve the right to grant or deny admission into the USA, so there is no guarantee until you have actually crossed the border.

Visas

Citizens of many countries are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, which requires prior approval via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Visa Waiver Program

The US has a Visa Waiver Program whereby citizens of certain countries may enter the US for stays of 90 days or less without first obtaining a US visa. This list is subject to continual re-examination and bureaucratic rejigging. For an up-to-date list of countries included in the program, see the US Department of State website (www.travel.state.gov). Under the program you must have a round-trip ticket (or onward ticket to any foreign destination) that is nonrefundable in the US and you will not be allowed to extend your stay beyond 90 days.

To participate in the Visa Waiver Program, travelers are required to have a passport that is machine readable. Also, your passport should be valid for at least six months longer than your intended stay.

Electronic System for Travel Authorization

Since January 2009 the US has had the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), a system that has been implemented to mitigate security risks concerning those who travel to the US by air or sea (this does not apply to those entering by land, such as via Canada). This pre-authorization system applies to citizens of all countries that fall under the Visa Waiver Program. This process requires that you register specific information online, prior to entering the US. Information required includes details such as your name, current address and passport information, including the number and expiration date, and details about any communicable diseases you may carry (including HIV). It is recommended that you fill out the online form as early as possible, and at least 72 hours prior to departure. You will receive one of three responses:

  • 'Authorization Approved' usually comes within minutes; most applicants can expect to receive this response.
  • 'Authorization Pending' means you should go back online to check the status within roughly 72 hours.
  • 'Travel not Authorized' indicates that your application is not approved and you will need to apply for a visa.

Once approved, registration is valid for two years, but note that if you renew your passport or change your name, you will need to re-register. The cost is $14. The entire process is stored electronically and linked to your passport, but it is recommended that you bring a printout of the ESTA approval just to be safe. If you don't have access to the internet, ask your travel agent, who can apply on your behalf.

Visa Applications

Documentation required for visa applications:

  • A recent photo (50.8mm by 50.8mm).
  • Documents of financial stability and/or guarantees from a US resident are sometimes required, particularly for those from developing countries.
  • Visa applicants may be required to 'demonstrate binding obligations' that will ensure their return home. Because of this requirement, those planning to travel through other countries before arriving in the US are generally better off applying for their US visa while they are still in their home country rather than while on the road.

The validity period for a US visitor visa depends on your home country. The actual length of time you'll be allowed to stay in the US is determined by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services at the port of entry.

As with the Visa Waiver Program, your passport should be valid for at least six months longer than your intended stay.

Etiquette

  • Interacting with strangers Mainers are fairly reserved compared to Americans from other regions. Do not expect strangers to greet you or strike up a conversation, especially in urban areas. That said, interactions are generally pleasant and polite, and visitors will have no problem finding a friendly face to answer questions or offer assistance.
  • Greetings Shake hands when meeting somebody for the first time. Goodbye is usually a friendly wave or – in more formal situations – another round of handshakes.
  • Bargaining Haggling over the price of goods is rare. It's not unusual for business owners to offer a discount for a purchase of anything in large quantities or for accommodations during a slow period, so it can't hurt to ask.

Internet Access

Most hotels, motels, guesthouses and hostels (and even a few campgrounds) have wi-fi. The service is usually free, though luxury hotels are more likely to charge for access. Most cafes across Maine offer free wi-fi. Some towns have wi-fi-connected parks and plazas.

If you're not packing a laptop or another web-accessible device, try public libraries – most have public terminals (though they have time limits) in addition to wi-fi.

If you're not from the US, remember that you will need an AC adapter for your laptop, plus a plug adapter for US sockets; both are available at larger electronics stores.

LGBT Travelers

Portland has a small but active LGBT+ community, while Ogunquit is a gay mecca, especially in the summer. Other places that have a reputation for being more LGBT-friendly include Bangor (which hosts a large Pride festival in late June), Augusta, Bar Harbor, Brunswick and Rockland.

Resources

Advocate (www.advocate.com) Gay-oriented news website reporting on business, politics, arts, entertainment and travel.

LGBT National Help Center (www.glnh.org) Counseling, information and referrals.

National LGBTQ Task Force (www.thetaskforce.org) National activist group's website covering news, politics and current issues.

Out Traveler (www.outtraveler.com) Gay-oriented travel articles.

Purple Roofs (www.purpleroofs.com) Lists gay-owned and gay-friendly B&Bs and hotels.

Money

ATMs are widely available, except in the smallest towns and most remote wilderness. Credit cards are accepted at most shops, hotels and restaurants.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$1$0.72
CanadaC$1$0.75
Euro zone€1$1.14
Japan¥100$0.88
New ZealandNZ$1$0.68
UKUK£1$1.28

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.

Tipping

Many service providers depend on tips for their livelihoods, so tip generously for good service.

  • Baggage carriers $1 per bag.
  • Housekeeping $2 to $5 per day, $5 to $10 per week.
  • Servers and bartenders 15% to 20%.
  • Taxi and ride-share drivers 15%.
  • Tour guides $5 to $10 for a one-hour tour.

ATMs

ATMs are ubiquitous in towns throughout Maine. Most banks charge at least $2 per withdrawal. The Cirrus and Plus systems both have extensive ATM networks that will give cash advances on major credit cards and allow cash withdrawals with affiliated ATM cards.

Changing Money

Many banks do not change currency, so stock up on dollars when there's an opportunity to do so.

Credit Cards

Major credit cards are widely accepted throughout Maine, including at car-rental agencies and at most hotels, restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores and tour operators. However, some restaurants and B&Bs do not accept credit cards.

Visa and Mastercard are the most common credit cards. American Express and Discover are sometimes not accepted.

Opening Hours

The following is a general guideline for operating hours. Shorter hours may apply during low seasons, when some venues close completely.

Banks and Offices 9am to 5pm or 10am to 6pm Monday to Friday; sometimes 9am–noon Saturday

Bars and Pubs 5pm–midnight; some until 2am

Restaurants Breakfast 6am–10am, lunch 11:30am–2:30pm, dinner 5pm–10pm daily

Shops 9am–7pm Monday to Saturday; some open noon–5pm Sunday, or until evening in tourist areas

Post

The US Postal Service (www.usps.com) is generally quite reliable. If you have the correct postage, drop your mail into any blue mailbox. However, to send a package weighing 16oz or more, you must bring it to a post office.

Post offices are generally open from 8am to 5pm weekdays and 9am to 3pm on Saturdays, but it all depends on the branch.

Public Holidays

New Year's Day January 1

Martin Luther King Jr Day Third Monday of January

Presidents' Day Third Monday of February

Easter In March or April

Memorial Day Last Monday of May

Independence Day July 4

Labor Day First Monday of September

Columbus Day Second Monday of October

Veterans Day November 11

Thanksgiving Fourth Thursday of November

Christmas Day December 25

Smoking

  • Smoking Banned in bars, restaurants and workplaces.

Telephone

Always dial '1' before toll-free (800, 888 etc) and domestic long-distance numbers. Remember that some toll-free numbers may only work within the region or from the US mainland.

All phone numbers in the US consist of a three-digit area code followed by a seven-digit local number. You now must dial '1' plus all 10 digits for local and long-distance calls in most areas.

Pay phones aren't as readily found at shopping centers, gas stations and other public places now that cell phones are prevalent, but keep your eyes peeled and you'll find them. Calls made within town are local and cost 50¢.

To make direct international calls, dial '011' and the country code, then the area code and finally the number. (An exception is calls made to Canada, where you dial '1', then the area code plus the number. International rates apply to Canada.) For international operator assistance, dial '00.'

If you're calling Maine from abroad, the international country code for the US is 1. All calls to Maine are then followed by the area code and the seven-digit local number.

Mobile Phones

The US uses a variety of cell-phone systems, and most are incompatible with the GSM 900/1800 standard used throughout Europe and Asia. Check with your cellular service provider before departure about using your phone in Maine.

Network Coverage

Verizon has the most extensive cellular network in Maine, but AT&T Mobility also has decent coverage (T-Mobile and Sprint have limited coverage). Once you get up into the mountains and off the main interstates in Maine, cell-phone reception is often downright nonexistent. Forget about using cell phones on hiking trails.

Toilets

Most parks, beaches and other public places offer public toilets, although they are not common in bigger towns. There is no public mandate stating that restaurants, hotels or public sites must open their doors to those in need, but you can usually find relief at information centers, libraries, museums and larger hotels.

Americans have many names for public toilet facilities, but the most common are 'restroom,' 'bathroom' or 'ladies'/men's room.' Of course, you can just ask for the 'toilet.'

Tourist Information

Maine Bureau of Parks & Lands Oversees 48 state parks and historic sites. Details of each park (including activities and camping) are on the website.

Maine Office of Tourism (www.visitmaine.com) Comprehensive website; can mail out maps and brochures.

Maine Tourism Association (www.mainetourism.com) Runs info centers along the principal routes into Maine: Calais, Fryeburg, Hampden, Houlton, Kittery, West Gardiner and Yarmouth. Each center is generally open 9am to 5:30pm; longer in summer (8am to 6pm).

Travel with Children

Maine can be a wondrous place for smaller travelers. There are adventures aplenty, including boat trips, kid-centric museums and hands-on activities, plus good old-fashioned beach fun. Along the way, there are plenty of things to motivate (ahem, bribe) the little ones, including sweet bakery treats, fresh berries at farmers markets and ice cream galore.

Best Regions for Kids

  • Southern Maine Coast

Beach-hopping, nibbling at snack shacks, short nature hikes that take in both forest and shore.

  • Portland

All-day fun at the Children's Museum & Theatre, running around on the lawns and checking out the old ruins in Fort Williams Park, indulging in kid-pleasing food (donuts, pizza, fish and chips).

  • Midcoast Maine

A great place for boat trips, whale-watching cruises, sailing ships and ferries out to Monhegan Island. Some good museums and hands-on activities, plus lots of fun shoreline walks, too.

  • Down East

Endless activities in Acadia National Park (carriage rides, biking, coastline frolics, mountain climbs, boat trips, even a lumberjack show). There's also an island you can walk to at low tide.

  • North Maine Woods

A great place to get kids outdoors, with boat trips out on Moosehead Lake, camping and hiking in Baxter State Park, plus white-water rafting for bigger kids.

Maine for Kids

Maine is a very family-friendly travel destination, and it's easy to design an itinerary that's pleasing for all ages.

Outdoors there's endless old-fashioned fun to be had. On the coast, kids can build sandcastles on the beach, walk the shoreline in search of colorful shells, and explore enchanting tidal pools. Maine's many forest and coastal parks offer memorable hikes (including short rambles), and there are loads of great places for camping in the state.

In towns and cities you'll find plenty of green space, where kids can run free, enjoy some playground time and take a break from sightseeing.

If your kids are averse to museums, don't necessarily cross these off your itinerary. Many art galleries and history museums have hands-on activities for kids and host special events for families. Check individual websites before your visit to see what's on. There's plenty of other kid-pleasing entertainment, including drive-in movie theaters, wildlife sanctuaries filled with rescued animals, and even lumberjack shows.

Dining is one of the great pleasures of a Maine visit. Seafood shacks and lobster pounds are great for families, as getting messy is very much encouraged (just don't forget to don your bibs!). The state also has many great picnic spots, so it's worth planning at least one meal around a local market and enjoying the culinary goodies on the seashore, beside a lake or with a mountain viewpoint. Kids are welcome in nearly every restaurant. At fancier places, you may want to dine earlier (around 5pm) to avoid the crowds – indeed this is the time when many locals dine out with their children.

Safety

  • Forest safety If you head off on a nature hike, be mindful of poison ivy. Remind kids of the old adage, 'leaves of three, let it be.' Ticks are also a worry, and can carry Lyme disease and other nastiness. Be sure to use insect repellent and undertake a thorough body inspection after tromping through the woods.
  • On the shore Be aware of strong currents when swimming off Maine beaches (for those game enough to brave those frigid waters, that is!). Tidal pools are fun to explore, but watch out for slippery surfaces when walking the rocky seashore.
  • Driving State law requires that children under 40lb ride in a car seat, while kids who weigh 40lb to 70lb and are under the age of 8 must ride in a booster-seat system. Most car-rental agencies rent rear-facing car seats (for infants under one year of age) and forward-facing seats and boosters for about $10 per day, but you must reserve them in advance.

Children's Highlights

Outdoor Activities

Rainy Day Activities

Wildlife Encounters

Family Fun

Planning

Weather and crowds are all-important considerations when planning a Maine family getaway. The peak travel season is from June through August, when schools are out and the weather is warmest. Expect high prices, abundant crowds and heavy traffic on the roads – you'll need to reserve well in advance for popular destinations. The same holds true for the more popular winter resorts (like Sugarloaf) during their high season from late December to March.

The leaf-viewing season from late September to mid-October also sees a fair number of visitors, but generally smaller crowds than in other New England states.

For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet's Travel with Children. To get the kids excited, check out Not for Parents: USA (also from Lonely Planet).