Things to Know Before You Go ...

Electricity

The standard in the United States of America is 120V and 60Hz AC electricity with Type A and Type B plugs generally accepted. Type A electrical outlet plugs have 2 pins and Type B plugs have 3 pins. An adapter may be needed.

Emergency

Dial 911 for police, fire, and medical services to request services from the Metropolitan Police Department, and DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department (FEMS). 911 calls are toll-free and are accessible through residential, wireless and pay telephones throughout the District. There are call takers at the center who speak Spanish, Vietnamese, Amharic, Japanese, Russian, Korean and Yoruba and they have immediate access to a language translation service.  There are 24-hour pharmacies available throughout the city. As with many large cities, pick-pocketers can be found in major tourist areas. Exercise typical caution with your valuables and person.

Internet Connection

The ISTM is providing free wireless internet connection within the meeting areas at the hotel during the conference. Travellers to Washington can check e-mail and access the Internet from their laptop or PDA. Most coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and even museums will have areas where you can access free WiFi. Additionally, throughout the city DC WiFi is a free public service with over 600 hotspots, including all public libraries, many city parks and the National Mall. All three local airports have Wi-Fi access as well. 

Gratuities

While tipping is not mandatory, it is customary in many circumstances for service especially for those who depend on tips as an essential part of their wage. Service charges are usually not included in the final tabulation of restaurant bills, unless you have a large group being served (6 - 8 or more.) Some coffee shops, bakeries and other establishments have (optional) tip jars on their counters. Tip percentages are highly subjective and should be calculated as a percentage of your total bill; gratuity of 15-20% is standard.

Bellman/Porters are generally tipped 1-2 USD per bag, more if the bags are heavy. Concierge tipping is never expected, but always appreciated. The more difficult the request, the higher the tip. Hotel cleaning staff will appreciate a tip of 2-3 USD per night.

Identification

It is recommended that you carry your government issued identification with you at all times.

Language

The official language of the city is English. One in four residents in the metro area uses a language other than English as a primary language at home and many speak Spanish and French as well.

Liquor Laws

The legal drinking age in the United States of America is 21. It is illegal for persons under the age of 21 to purchase and publicly possess alcoholic beverages, and customers must provide government issued identification if asked by the establishment before being served alcohol. Wine and beer is widely offered and considered a typical drink with your meal. It is illegal to possess an open container of an alcoholic beferage in public space that is not a part of a licensed establishment. All alcohol intended for off-premise consumption must be sold in sealed containers.

Lodging Tax

The total rate of tax on gross receipts for the charges of any hotel rooms, lodging or accommodations is 14.95% and should be clearly marked on your hotel bill.

Metric Conversion

The United States uses the imperial system, where things are measured in feet, inches, and pounds. Visitors find weather temperature reports given in Fahrenheit, gasoline sold by the gallon, grocery items in ounces and pounds, and road speeds are posted in miles per hour.

Money

Legal tender is the Dollar (USD), which divides into 100 cents. Bills come in the following denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100. The coins in use are of the following denominations:1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, as well as 1 dollar coins. 

Banks

Banks are usually open Monday through Friday, but banking hours fluctuate depending on how large the bank. Most banks open to the public at 9.00 and close at 16.00. Larger banks might have extended weekday hours and offer Saturday hours. Traveler's cheques are not widely accepted anymore, so it is best to bring cash and an ATM or debit card. ATM cash machines are readily available all around the city. If you can't find an ATM nearby, most national grocery and pharmaceutical stores offer cash back when you make a purchase with your debit card for no additional fee.

Credit Cards

Major credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard and Visa are accepted almost everywhere. With ATMs visitors can do banking through network systems and enjoy excellent rates of exchange. 

No Smoking Regulations

The United States has smoking bans enacted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The ban prohibits smoking in all public places, workplaces, bars and restaurants. Smoking is not allowed in the Washington Hilton Hotel. 

Shopping Hours

Most businesses, including shopping centres, are open from 10.00 until 18.00 or 20.00 Monday - Saturday, and 10.00 to 17.00 on Sundays.

Taxes

The general sales tax rate is 6% in Washington, DC. Restaurant meals, liquor for consumption on the premises, and rental vehicle tax is 10%.

Time Zone

Washington, DC is in the Eastern Standard Time Zone (UTC-5).

Weather

The temperature in June ranges from 62-88°F (17-31 °C), average rainfall is 3.8 inches (96.5 mm), and there are 15 daylight hours.  June is the first month of summer in Washington, DC and it is hot, humid weather. However, it is far more comfortable than peak summer months of July and August.