Practical Information in Washington D.C.

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Formal Name: District of Columbia

Country: United States of America

Language: English

Currency: US Dollar

Population: City: 591,833 (2008)  Metropolitan Area: 5.3 million

Electric Outlets: Flat Blade (A) and Flat Blade with Round Grounding Pin (B)

Voltage: 120 V; 60 Hz

Time zone: EST (does follow daylight savings)

Visas: Most visitors will require a B-2 tourist visa. If you are from one of the 35 countries with which the USA has a visa waiver agreement then you may be eligible to stay for up to 90 days without a visa.

Safety: Washington, D.C. has long been infamous for its high crime rate. However in the last ten years that rate has dropped by 47 percent for violent crime, and 48 percent for property crime. Neighborhoods that were previously dangerous have become safe to walk even at night. Transportation systems are all safe to use. The only areas that it are advisable to avoid are neighborhoods in the far east of the city, where it is best to travel only by taxi at night.

Hospitals: There are 16 medical centers and hospitals in the metropolitan area. Washington Hospital Center is the largest. Children's National Medical Center is nationally ranked as one of the best pediatric hospitals. There are also several university hospitals including George Washington, Georgetown, and Howard University.

Banking: Most banks have 24 hour ATMs available that accept Exchange, Accel, Plus and Cirrus. You will be charged $2 for using a bank card at another bank's ATM. Using a credit card will accumulate interest as per your credit agreement. Banks also change Traveler's Checks in US dollars. It is possible to change Traveler's Checks in another currency, however this usually takes up to 6 weeks. It is advisable to change your currency over to dollars in a bank rather than at the airport, as you will get a better rate.

Transportation: The city is known for terrible traffic, so most visitors avoid driving. The Metrorail is clean and fast. The local train station is Union Station. Streetcars will open in late 2009. Metrorail, Metrobus and City buses accept SmarTrip refillable transportation cards.

Airports: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (domestic only); Washington Dulles International Airport; Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport

Tipping: Tipping is not optional in the USA as those who work in the service industry make less than minimum wage. 15% is the accepted minimum while 20% is typical for good service. 10% for taxis and $1 per day per person for hotel services are acceptable tips.

July 30, 2009 change by tiffanymparker

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