Local rules and habits

What  to look for in this region of the world

Other countries, other rules

In Europe we are used to move around without visa, passport and border control, without any import or export restrictions. We tend to forget that this is an exceptional achievement and is not the case for most other countries around the world.

 

On this page you will find the most important legal requirements for entering the countries we will visit along our trip, together with practical information about local habits, dos and don’ts.  This page will be regularly be updated as the journey progresses.

 

It is highly recommended to visit the official travel information pages of your countrys foreign ministry web-site. Usually there you will find all you need to know re. visa, import regulations and health requirements. For political and touristic information Wikipedia is probably the best source. For more information use the internet search, most countries have a more or less official tourist information web-site.

 

USA and Canada

Travel documents

Anybody visiting the US needs a valid passport and a visa. Citizens of some countries, such as the EU member states, are exempt from the visa regulations, However, they have to apply for a temporary visitor permission under the ESTA program instead, latest 72 hours before arrival. Without this permit airlines will not even allow you to enter the plane.

This permit can be applied for very easily via the ESTA internet site and costs 14 USD, to be paid via credit card. This electronic permit is valid for 2 years and allows multiple entries for a maximum of 90 days at each visit.

 

Recently Canada has introduced a similar system for visitors arriving by plane. For entries on land or on water the permit is not required.

 

In both countries you will need an international driving licence for driving a car. Rental companies usually accept the EU drivers licence, but the police may not accept it, especially in case of an accident, as it is not a truly legitimate document under local law.

Method of payments:

Anywhere in the US you can pay with credit cards and, of course, with cash. Cash is much more in use than we think over here. I recommend to withdraw cash immediately after arrival from an ATM at the airport. There the daily limit is usually 500 or 600 USD at a fee of 3 dollars. Local regional banks put the limit at 300 USD/day. The exchange rate is usually better than for a direct credit card payment. The EC or Maestro card can also be used to draw cash and for payment, but not everywhere. At gas stations there is a credit card terminal next to the pump, non-US credit cards are not accepted there. You have to go inside and pay in advance, then the clerk releases your pump for this amount.

Telephone and Internet

The bad news first: In the area of mobile calling and surfing the USA are years behind Europe. There only 2 real large companies AT&T and Verizon, who have nicely shared up the market. In some places there is only one or the other, sometimes you get both. This results in very high prices. Prepaid SIM cards without long term contract are almost unknown. Instead of a SIM to be put into your own Smart-phone, you can buy a primitive cell phone, which acts as SIM card at 30 dollars per month, for talking and SMS only. So it does not make much sense to buy a local contract.

 

The first good news is that our European cell phones with European contracts will work more or less everywhere, roaming can be quite expensive, though. The second good news is that you will find many free WLAN (WIFI) hot spots, e.g in super markets, restaurants, shopping malls, and coffe shops. Marinas usually offer free WIFI, too. During my stays in the US I have made almost all my phone calls via Skype, hooked into a free WIFI. I am using a paid Skype account allowing me to call any fixed or cell phone in the world at extremely low cost. Guests on board can use this account at ca. 0,2 ct/minute. As I am staying in the USA for at least half a year, it will be worth buying a SIM card with a one year contract to be put into a small wireless router. This will povide JABULO with a WLAN on board in cases we do not have a free WIFI in reach as may be the case when anchoring in a remote bay.

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