Travel within New England is gradually becoming less difficult for people with disabilities. Public buildings are now 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.
Except in informal settings like flea markets, bargaining is not done in New England – though you might inquire about reduced hotel rates at a near empty establishment in the low season.
Dangers & Annoyances
You're unlikely to come across any major problems while traveling in New England. Most of the region enjoys high standards of living, and tourists are usually well taken care of.
New England driving can be tricky, particularly in big cities, where narrow streets, clogged traffic and illogical street layouts can make unfamiliar drivers miserable. New England's urban drivers are notoriously impatient. Beware the 'Boston left,' where the first left-turning vehicle jumps out in front of oncoming traffic.
Ice and snow pose hazards during New England's long winter, when snow tires or all-season tires are a must – especially in rural areas where roads are plowed less frequently.
In the northern wilds of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, watch for moose; as the signs warn, collisions with these massive animals can be fatal.
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.
- The White Mountains are notorious for strong winds and wild weather, but conditions can be dangerous on any of the New England mountain trails. Hypothermia is a key concern in chilly, windy or damp weather; carry adequate clothing for changing conditions.
- Always stay on marked trails and do not disturb wildlife while hiking.
- In recent years, shark sightings have not been uncommon off Cape Cod, and beaches may close for that reason. In 2018, the region saw its first fatal shark attack in nearly a century. Not all public beaches are guarded, so inquire about riptides and other dangers before swimming at area beaches.
It snows a lot in New England. If you're visiting between December and March, there's a good chance you'll experience a major snowstorm, possibly impeding your progress until roads are plowed.
Many museums and other attractions offer discounts to college students with a valid university ID. Travelers aged 50 years and older can also receive rate cuts and benefits, especially members of the American Association of Retired Persons (www.aarp.org). AAA members (www.aaa.com) are also eligible for many discounts at sights and hotels.
There are several programs that offer discounts to Boston-area attractions:
City Pass (www.citypass.com)
Smart Destinations (www.smartdestinations.com)
Emergency & Important Numbers
|USA country code||1|
|International access code from the USA||011 + country code|
Entry & Exit Formalities
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, nonresidents are permitted to bring gift merchandise up to the value of $100 into the US without incurring any duty.
No particular passport (or stamps in your passport) will automatically disqualify you from entry into the US, but many countries – including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, Venezuela, Chad, Iraq and Sudan – are 'red flags' which may invite greater scrutiny and interrogation by immigration officials. 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.
Citizens of many countries are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, which requires prior approval via Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
Electronic System for Travel Authorization
Since January 2009 the US has had the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), a system that was implemented to mitigate security risks concerning those who travel to the US by air or sea (travelers entering by land, such as via Canada, do not need to file an ESTA application). This pre-authorization system applies to citizens of approximately three dozen 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, a travel agent can apply on your behalf.
Citizens of non-Visa Waiver Program countries must generally apply for a nonimmigrant visa using Form DS-160 (ceac.state.gov/genniv), pay a nonrefundable application fee (currently $160) and schedule an interview at a US embassy or consulate.
Documentation required for visa applications:
- Information about your family, your US point of contact, your education, employment and travel history, and your proposed itinerary, along with answers to Security and Background questions.
- A recent photo (240KB or less if uploading digitally, or 50.8mm by 50.8mm in print form).
- 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.
Visa Waiver Program
The US has a Visa Waiver Program in which 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.
- Interacting with strangers New Englanders are notoriously 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.
- Smoking Don't assume you can smoke, even if you're outside. Many New Englanders have little tolerance for smokers, and smoking has even been banned from many parks and beaches.
Travelers should protect themselves in case of theft, illness or car accidents. Your regular home owners' insurance, auto insurance and health insurance may offer certain coverage while traveling but be sure to check your policies. Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you're already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Many hotels, restaurants and cafes offer wireless access for free or for a small fee. Most public libraries also offer free online computer access, and some cities and towns have free public wi-fi hotspots. If you bring a laptop with you from outside the US, it's worth investing in a universal AC and plug adapter.
The minimum age for drinking alcoholic beverages is 21. You'll need a government-issued photo ID (such as a passport or a US driver's license). Stiff fines, jail time and penalties can be incurred if you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol or providing alcohol to minors.
Out and active gay communities are visible across New England, especially in cities such as Boston, Portland and New Haven, which have substantial LGBT+ populations. Provincetown, MA, and Ogunquit, ME, are gay meccas, especially in summer. Northampton, MA and Burlington, VT also have lively queer communities.
ATMs are widely available, except in the smallest towns and most remote wilderness. Credit cards are accepted at most hotels and restaurants.
ATMs & Cash
ATMs are ubiquitous in towns throughout New England. Most banks in New England charge at least $2 per withdrawal. The Cirrus and Plus systems both have extensive ATM networks that will give cash advances on major credit cards and allow cash withdrawals with affiliated ATM cards.
If you're carrying foreign currency, it can be exchanged for US dollars at Logan International Airport in Boston. Many banks do not change currency, so stock up on dollars when there's an opportunity to do so.
Major credit cards are widely accepted throughout New England, including at car-rental agencies and at most hotels, restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores and tour operators. However, some restaurants and B&Bs do not accept credit cards. We have noted in our reviews when this is the case.
Visa and MasterCard are the most common credit cards. American Express and Discover are less widely accepted.
The dollar ($; commonly called a buck) is divided into 100 cents (¢). Coins come in denominations of one cent (penny), five cents (nickel), 10 cents (dime), 25 cents (quarter) and the rare 50-cent piece (half dollar). Notes come in denominations of one, five, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollars.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
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 drivers 15%
- Tour guides $5 to $10 for a one-hour tour
The following is a general guideline for opening hours. Shorter hours may apply during low seasons, when some venues close completely. Seasonal variations are noted in the listings.
Banks and offices 9am–5pm or 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
No matter how much people like to complain, the US postal service (www.usps.com) is extremely reliable for the price. If you have the correct postage, drop your mail into any blue mailbox. To send a package weighing 16oz or more, you must bring it to a post office or a shipping company such as UPS or FedEx.
Post offices are generally open from 8am to 5pm weekdays, with shorter hours on a Saturday; exact hours vary by branch.
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
Patriots' Day Third Monday of April (Maine and Massachusetts only)
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 All six New England states have banned smoking in restaurants and bars. Hotel rooms in Vermont and dozens of Massachusetts municipalities – including Boston – must also be 100% smoke-free. Smoking bans apply to most other public, enclosed workplaces throughout New England – though New Hampshire's slightly more lenient laws allow employers to designate smoking and nonsmoking areas.
Taxes & Refunds
With the exception of New Hampshire, the New England states charge a sales tax ranging from 5.5% to 7%. Clothing is tax-exempt in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont, and groceries are tax-exempt region-wide. Restaurant and lodging taxes range from 5.7% to 15%. Tax is not included in the listed price, but it is automatically added on to the bill.
Practical Tip: Tax-Free Shopping
Note that New Hampshire does not charge any sales tax, which makes for happy shopping! In Rhode Island and Vermont, clothing is considered a necessity, and therefore exempt from the sales tax; in Massachusetts, clothing purchases up to $175 are also tax-free.
All phone numbers in the US consist of a three-digit area code followed by a seven-digit local number. You must dial 1 plus all 10 digits for local and long-distance calls in most areas, particularly in Eastern Massachusetts.
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.
To make direct international calls, dial 011 plus the country code plus the area code plus the number. (An exception is calls made to Canada, where you dial 1 plus the area code, plus the number. International rates apply to Canada.) For international operator assistance, dial 0.
If you're calling New England from abroad, the international country code for the US is 1. All calls to New England are then followed by the area code and the seven-digit local number.
The US uses a variety of cell-phone frequencies, most of which are incompatible with the GSM 900/1800 standard traditionally used throughout Europe and Asia. However, most modern quad-band smartphones work on multiple frequencies, making them suitable for international use. Check with your cellular service provider before departure about using your phone in New England, and inquire about international roaming charges, which can be quite high. If your phone is unlocked, you'll often save money by purchasing a pre-paid SIM card in the United States.
Verizon has the most extensive cellular network in New England; AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint also offer coverage in the region, though service can be spotty depending on where you're traveling. Once you get up into the mountains and off the main interstates in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, cell-phone reception is often downright nonexistent. Forget about using it on hiking trails.
These private prepaid cards are available from convenience stores, supermarkets and pharmacies. Cards sold by major telecommunications companies like AT&T may offer better deals than upstart companies.
New England is on US Eastern Standard Time (GMT+5). New England observes daylight saving time, which involves setting clocks ahead one hour on the second Sunday in March and back one hour on the first Sunday in November.
Most parks, beaches and other public places offer public toilets, although they are not common in big cities. 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.'
Connecticut Office of Tourism (www.ctvisit.com)
Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.bostonusa.com)
Maine Office of Tourism (www.visitmaine.com)
Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism (www.massvacation.com)
New Hampshire Division of Travel & Tourism (www.visitnh.gov)
Rhode Island Tourism Division (www.visitrhodeisland.com)
Vermont Division of Tourism (www.vermontvacation.com)
Chambers of Commerce
Often associated with convention and visitors' bureaus (CVBs), these are membership organizations for local businesses including hotels, restaurants and shops. Although they often provide maps, lodging recommendations and other useful information, they focus on establishments that are members of the chamber.
A local chamber of commerce often maintains an information booth at the entrance to town or in the town center, frequently open only during tourist seasons.
Travel with Children
Traveling within New England with children presents no destination-specific problems. Parents will find that New England offers a great variety of educational and entertaining ways to keep their kiddies busy. Most facilities – including hotels and restaurants – welcome families with children. Look for the family-friendly icon in the listings for particularly welcoming spots. Lonely Planet's Travel with Children (available at https://shop.lonelyplanet.com) is a helpful resource.
Many restaurants have children's menus with significantly lower prices. High chairs are usually available, but it pays to inquire ahead of time. Roadside stands pepper rural New England, offering kid-friendly fare like fish sticks, burgers, fries, chicken fingers and soft-serve ice cream.
Children are not welcome at many smaller B&Bs and inns (even if they do not say so outright); make sure you inquire before booking. In motels and hotels, children under 17 or 18 years are usually free when sharing a room with their parents. Cots and roll-away beds are often available (sometimes for an additional fee) in hotels and resorts. Campgrounds are fantastic choices for families with kids – many are situated on waterways or lakes and offer family activities (tube rental, swimming, kayaking etc). For those who don’t want to rough it, many campgrounds also offer simple cabins to rent.
Most car-rental companies lease child safety seats, but they don't always have them on hand; reserve in advance if you can. Rest stops generally have changing stations for parents' convenience. Most public transportation (bus, train etc) offers half-price tickets or reduced fares for children.