Note that, if you are stopped by the police, there is no system of paying traffic tickets or other fines on the spot. The officer will explain your options to you; there is usually a 30-day period to pay fines by mail.

If you are arrested, never walk away from an officer. You are allowed to remain silent, and you are entitled to have access to an attorney. The legal system presumes you’re innocent until proven guilty. All persons who are arrested have the right to make one phone call. If you don’t have a lawyer or family member to help you, call your embassy or consulate. The police will give you the number on request.

Drugs & Alcohol

In most places it’s illegal to walk with an open alcoholic drink on the street. New Orleans and Memphis’ Beale St are notable exceptions.

Being ‘carded’ (ie asked to show photo ID to prove you’re of legal drinking age, which is 21 years old) is standard practice everywhere.

Some states, especially in the South, have ‘dry’ counties where liquor sales are banned altogether.

In all states, the blood alcohol limit is 0.08%. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense, subject to stiff fines and even imprisonment.

Twenty-three states – including most from New York on through the Northeast – treat possession of small amounts of marijuana as a misdemeanor (generally punishable with a fine of around $100 or $200 for the first offense). However, as pot policy varies from state to state, it's prudent to know the local laws before lighting up.

Aside from marijuana, recreational drugs are prohibited by law. Possession of any illicit drug, including cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, heroin or hashish, is a felony potentially punishable by lengthy jail sentences.