Visas and Passports
Most international visitors need a passport and a visa to enter the United States. A nonimmigrant visa allows you to travel to a U.S. port of entry for the purpose stated on the visa and request permission to enter the country from the immigration inspector on duty. If the officer grants permission, a passport is required to enter the United States. Visas are waived for 27 countries, including France, Italy, Germany, and Japan. If you enter the States without a visa, an individual machine-readable passport is required. Check with your home country’s foreign ministry about obtaining a passport or vise, or to learn more about visa and passport requirements, visit the U.S. Department od State’s website (http://travel.state.gov).
If you will be traveling within the U.S. on a commercial airline, be aware that carry-on regulations are subject to change. Generally, you can carry on personal toiletries in containers of three ounces or less, grouped together in a clear, quart-size, ziplock plastic bag. Some items, such as mace or pepper spray, are prohibited. Bottled water, beverages, snacks, and other items can be carried on if they are purchased in the airport’s secure boarding area. For more information about current travel regulations on domestic airlines, visit the Transportation Security Administration website (www.tsa.gov). Security checkpoint wait times vary by location, time of day, and day of the week. Contact your airline and airport for recommended arrival times.
Money and Currency Exchange
U.S. currency recently underwent a design change, and both new and old bills are in circulation. The newly designed bills include additional security features to prevent counterfeiting, including colors and microprint. Be aware that if you return home with U.S. currency, your bank may be unwilling to exchange the older-style bills.
Many U.S. coins have also been redesigned. For example, the quarter (25-cent coin) has changed five times each year during the last 10 years, and at least 50 different quarter designs are in circulation. If that sounds confusing to you, you’re not alone; it can be confusing for U.S. residents also. If you need to ask the local behind you in line whether you’re holding a quarter or a nickel, you’ll probably get a sympathetic smile. If you’d like a primer on coins, visit the U.S. Mint’s website (www.usmint.gov).
Major credit cards and traveler’s checks are accepted almost everywhere. Before you leave on your trip, be sure your credit card and bank card have PINs (personal identification numbers) that will work overseas. Also check with your bank and credit-card companies about transaction fees or foreign exchange fees. (Some credit-card companies offer lower fees than others, and you may be able to avoid ATM fees by using your debit card to obtain cash at banks and grocery stores.)
At the South Rim, you’ll find ATMs at Maswik Lodge and Chase Bank (928/638-2437, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Fri.). The bank’s lobby, where the ATM is located, is open 24 hours a day. There’s also an ATM in Tusayan at the IMAX Theater. At the North Rim, you’ll find ATM machines in the general store near the campground and at the Roughrider Saloon next to Grand Canyon Lodge
At restaurants, it’s standard to tip 15–20 percent, before taxes, depending on the quality of service. If you are dining in a group of six or more, a gratuity may be automatically added to the bill. (If so, this must be clearly stated on the menu or on the bill.) A minimum tip should be $1, even if you’ve ordered something less than $5. If you are ordering counter service (such as at a coffee bar or deli), you may see a tip jar near the cash register. In this case, tips are appreciated (especially if you’ve made a special request or substitution) but not required. Tipping at a bar is customarily $1–2 per drink or 5–20 percent of the total bill. (People often tip ahead on the first drink to encourage attentive service.) For baggage handling, tip $1–2 per bag. Leave $2–3 per day in your hotel room for housekeeping service. A room-service bill may or may not include a gratuity. Check to see if the gratuity has been included; if not, tip the waiter. If you sign up for a commercial tour, tip your guide 15–20 percent.
© Kathleen Bryant from Moon Grand Canyon, 5th Edition