Money and Costs
US dollar ($)
Budget: Less than $150
- Campgrounds and hostel dorms: $10–50
- Free activities (beach, park concerts): $0
- Food at farmers markets, taquerias: $6–15
- Bus, subway: $0–5
- Mom-and-pop motels, low-priced chains: $50–150
- Museums, national and state parks: $5–25
- Diners, local restaurants: $10–35
- Economy car rental per day: from $20
Top End: More than $250
- B&Bs, boutique hotels, resorts: from $175
- Meal in top restaurant, excluding drinks: $30–100
- Hiring guides; going to a show: from $100
- SUV or convertible rental per day: from $70
It's fairly unusual to bargain for something in the US. The only place you're likely to get anywhere by questioning the stated price is in flea markets.
ATMs are widely available. Credit cards are normally required for hotel reservations and car rentals.
- ATMS are located at most banks, shopping malls, airports, and grocery and convenience stores.
- Expect a minimum surcharge of $2.50 per transaction, in addition to any fees charged by your home bank. Some ATMs in Las Vegas charge more.
- Most ATMs are connected to international networks and offer decent foreign-exchange rates.
- Withdrawing cash from an ATM using a credit card usually incurs a hefty fee and high interest rates; check with your credit-card company for a PIN.
Most people do not carry large amounts of cash for everyday use, relying instead on credit cards, debit cards and smartphones. It is good to have some cash on hand on road trips, as you may need it for campsites or the occasional cafe or restaurant.
Major credit cards are almost universally accepted. In fact, it's almost impossible to rent a car, book a room or buy tickets over the phone without one. A credit card may also be vital in emergencies. Visa, MasterCard and American Express are the most widely accepted.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
- Exchange money at major airports, some banks and all currency-exchange offices such as American Express or Travelex. Always inquire about rates and fees.
- Outside big cities, exchanging money may be a problem, so make sure you have a credit card and sufficient cash on hand.
- Sales tax varies by state and county, with state sales taxes ranging from zero in Montana to 7.25% in California.
- Hotel taxes vary by city.
Tipping is not optional. Only withhold tips in cases of outrageously bad service.
Airport skycaps and hotel bellhops $2 per bag, minimum $5 per cart
Bartenders 10% to 15% per round, minimum $1 per drink
Concierges Nothing for simple information, up to $20 for securing last-minute restaurant reservations, sold-out show tickets etc
Housekeeping staff $2 to $4 daily, left under the card provided; more if you're messy
Parking valets At least $2 when handed back your car keys
Restaurant staff and room service 10% to 20%, unless a gratuity is already charged
Taxi drivers 10% to 15% of metered fare, rounded up to the next dollar
- Traveler's checks have pretty much fallen out of use.
- Larger restaurants, hotels and department stores will occasionally accept traveler's checks (in US dollars only), but small businesses, markets and fast-food chains may refuse them.
- Visa and American Express are the most widely accepted issuers of traveler's checks.