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International Travellers Guide to PAX East 2011

kropotkinkropotkin Registered User regular
edited March 2011 in PAX Archive
International Travellers Guide to PAX East 2011

This thread is guide to those that are travelling to PAX East 2011 that live outside the borders of the United States of America.

It must be understood that I'm writing this guide with a heavy UK bias, so forgive me for this for that is where I'm from. I will try to encompass as many other nations as is possible and would appreciate any corrections and additions.

So without further ado, here is the tips for those travelling to PAX East 2011 from beyond the shores of the USA:

1) Check your Passport and visa requirement.

We are strangers in a strange land and as such must have a valid pass port that has at least 6 months left before needing a renewl in order to gain entry into the US. This however only applies to residents of nations other than the UK. If you are from the UK, a 6 month extension is added to your passport, even if it's close to expiry date. For more information on this, please follow this link.

Also note that the name on your flight ticket/boarding pass must match exactly the name on your passport. So for example if you go by the name of 'Tom' and have your ticket assigned to that name yet your passport has the name 'Thomas' in it then you will be charged extra by the airline to change the name on the ticket so that it matches your passport and thus ensures you gain entry into the USA.

Note that there is a Visa Waiver system for people from the certain countries. Read on to find out more:

VISA WAIVER PROGRAMME

It is a requirement that an application for a waiver to a visa entry to the US is carried out online. This is compulsory prior to travelling to the US. It is preferred that this is done at least 72 hours before travelling. The information you need to complete the form is as follows:

1) Passport No.
2) Passport issue date and expirary date.
3) Flight carrier.
4) Flight No.
5) City from which you are flying from.
6) Name and full address of hotel you are staying at whilst in the US.

For access the online form click on this link.

Note that as of September 8th 2009 there is now a charge of $14 (£9) administation fee for those having to apply for the first time or renew the application after the 2 year expiry of your previous application

For more information on this please follow this link.

Those who live countries that do not recognise the visa-waiver scheme must obtain a U.S. tourist visa from an American Embassy or Consulate. This also applies to those who do not qualify for a Visa waiver. This also applies to members of the media if they are covering PAX East 2011.

2) Travel Insurance

Now granted your stay in the US will be relatively short, but you can never be too cautious. The US does not have a National Health system so any medical treatment you receive will be charged to you if you have no insurance, so do please take some out before leaving. Also make sure you read the fine print of your insurance docs and a copy of them so that you can access them easily!

3) Money

There are some things to note when handling US currency. First, get a Cash Passport Card which can be charged up with money prior to leaving. It can be used like a credit card and will allow you to withdraw funds from cash machines. You can also use your credit card to withdraw cash from holes-in-the-wall. I can personally vouch for this, as I had one throughout PAX '08, E3'09, PAX'09, PAX East 2010, E3'10 and PAX 2010 and it worked on every cash machine I encountered.

For more information on Cash Passport Cards follow this link.

Remember to buy your currency as late as possible to take advantage of exchange rates. If you have never been to the US before, you will notice that the bills are all the same size regardless of value. Annoying I know, but true. So be mindful of this. Click on this link to see what each bill looks like just to help you: US Bills

Also, if you do plan on using a credit/debit card while at PAX East 2011 you must inform your issuing bank/company that you will be doing so. Banks have an automated fraud detection device that will block your card from working fully if you don't inform them that you plan to use your credit/debit card abroad. The best course of action is to call the number that is located on the back of the card.

Finally, on types of cards note the following: The above mentioned Cash Passport Card make has a Master Card symbol so you'll be fine using it for withdrawing any money from a hole-in-the-wall that supports Master Card. With regard to Maestro cards, while common in Europe they are hit or miss in the US. Some places can run them, others don't.

4) Mobile AKA 'Cell' Phones

Provided your phone is a Tri-Band one it will work fine. Your carrier (02, Orange, Vodaphone, 3 & T-Mobile) will have global services but they generally cost a huge amount of money. You get charged for receiving calls and people calling you on it get charged international rates, as the phone is not a local one. To get over this, buy an AT&T SIM card in the US that has a pay-as-you go deal attached to it. That way your phone becomes a local one and everyone is happy. I know I did this and it worked a treat on my own UK phone. This method will only work if your mobile is unlocked! Alternatively you can buy a $15 (£7) pay as you go phone to tide you over however this may not be an option to those that cannot bear to be seperated from their own phone.

Once you leave the US the number associated to this SIM card will revert back to AT&T after a period of time, depending on how much money you have slapped onto it. If you place $25 you get 60 days of ownership whilst if you stick $100 on it, that number is yours for 12 months. That's even if it is not used whilst you are outside the US.

One final point, if you are using an iPhone or other smart phone all 3G online functionality will be shut down from it. No access to the internet will be allowed across a 3G network without paying a massive premium. Sending basic SMS messages is fine but is charged at 20 cents a shot, both sending and receiving. Please bear this in mind whilst you are at PAX East 2011. If you must gain access to Twitter and/or Facebook, find a WiFi network and use that. Do not try to use 3G!

Information for Canadian Rogers iPhone users.

You can buy US Data/Text/Voice Travel Packs for your phone before crossing the border. They are probably cheaper than paying whatever ad-hoc fees you would otherwise incur.

More details here:
http://www.rogers.com/web/content/wi...enfr-_-roaming

5) iPads and Kindles

If you have a 3G iPad you probably have a contract with Orange or T-Mobile. Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to use the 3G functionality of your iPad while at PAX East 2011 as you will be charged the earth for roaming. It's a sad state of affairs, but when you leave your home nation any attempt at gaining access to 3G based data services will become far too expensive to bother with. This will boggle the minds of your fellow PAXians but you just have to grin through it.

As for Kindles, such limitations are not present as the 3G on those devices are accessible world wide with no subscription fee required. The above sentence was brought to you by Amazon :winky:


6) Travel

Most International PAXians are flying to Boston. Taking 6 hours this is a long haul flight, which means we have a lot of sitting around to do. The DS/DSi will last longer than your PSP but bring both (assuming you have both) as you'll need to break the trip up. Also charge them before you head off to the airport. You may want to bring on the reading material described below as well as the in-flight magazine doesn't have much in the way of video game related stuff in it, sadly. If you have a PSP get a spare battery for the flight, you'll need it!

7) Reading material

Whilst a variant of English is spoken in the US and indeed their magazines are written in it (despite the odd spelling issues), you'd be advised to take along the latest copies of The Edge, Retro Gamer and Games TM. None of these fine publications are readily available in the US outside Barnes and Noble and reading them whilst on the plane and in queues at PAX will make things a little more bearable. They can also be used as trading items/bribes as they are much sought after in the US.

8) Power

If you want to be able to continue to charge your DS and/or PSP you need to bring an adaptor. The giant UK plugs don't fit too well in US sockets so do buy a power plug adaptor before you head off. Also note that whilst your PSP and Laptop will work fine off of the 110v US power supply it won't work at all for any consoles, should you be even considering bringing one. Don't, it just won't work without some kind of step up transformer to bring it up to 240v. Then there's the PAL output which makes things even more complicated...

Note: UK DS & DSi Chargers will need a step up transformer to function. Follow this link to order yourself one: Stepup Transformer and Maplin sell on for £25 here.
Spoiler:

Alternatively, you can just buy a cheap 3rd party charger in Boston. By doing so you do carry the risk of voiding your warranty with Nintendo, as it's a third party charger! You have been warned!

9) Drinking and ID

The drinking age is 21 in the US, not 18 as in the rest of the world. This can confuse many and result in some crest fallen British folk when they try to buy some alchohol. Those of you that are 21 and over will be asked for their ID prior to buying any alchohol.

I personally have had problems when presenting my UK drivers license when ordering drinks, even though I'm in my very late 30's. Therefore carrying around your passport is the only option but it does risk you losing it. It's either that or a soft drink all night.

Also note that no matter how old you actually look, you will get checked. Yes I know it's ridiculous, but there is a policy of 'don't think, just do', so you have to prove you are over 21, even though you clearly look it! Remember this if you try to appeal to the bar staff if you forget to bring your passport with you!

In summary: if you intend to drink when you go out, TAKE YOUR PASSPORT.

10) Tickets/Badges

Tickets purchased from outside of the US will be posted to you provided you click on the premium delivery radio button on the ordering form. You have to pick up your lanyard from the 'Will Call' or Ticket Collection area. Otherwise you have to pick up both your ticket and lanyard from Will Call. The location of this has yet to be announced, but it likely to be very close to the venue itself.

11) Telephone numbers

To dial for emergency services use 911, not 999. For directory enquiries use 411 or, if that doesn't work use 555-1212 or 1-555-1212.

12) Weather

PAX East 2011 takes place in mid March 2011. It will be bitingly cold and windy. Wrap up warm when ever you go outside for it will be painfully cold. Trust me on this, do not think for one moment that you can get away with a t-shirt and some bravdo. The cold in Boston just plain hurts, so wrap up!

13) Tipping

Not something British people are used to, but it is somewhat endemic in the US. The list below will give you an idea of what tips you are expected to give:

*Food server: 15-20%, make sure to see if gratuity is included for larger groups. If you pay with a credit card, try and leave the tip in cash

*Bartender: $1 per drink is standard, but a few dollars more shows you appreciate a finely crafted cocktail or some bartenderly advice.

*Taxi: 10% of total fare, maybe a little extra if driver helps with baggage etc.

*Doorman: $1 for hailing a cab or helping with your baggage

*Bell staff: $1-2 per bag, esp if they are heavy

*Housekeeper: $2/night. think about it, these people make your bed

*If your party is more than 8, the restaurant is will usually include a tip. Some will include it for 6 or more automatically.

Additional note on tipping: For tipping in restaurants, don't worry about putting tips on the credit card. However, if you are going to be splitting cheques (especially with multiple credit cards), make sure to let your server know right from the beginning and then tip them a little extra for the hassle =)

14 Subway advice

The subway is not always a place that sells over priced sandwiches, nor is it a pedestrian tunnel under a road. It is in fact America's answer to a mass transit rail system. If you see signs that are emblazoned with a giant black "T" while in Boston, this is the aforementioned 'subway'.

A crude map:

http://www.mbta.com/schedules_and_maps/subway/

(SOUTH STATION is located roughly in the center of the map, your most likely destination)

From the airport (if you're flying directly into Boston, it's Logan International):
Take The Silver Line Bus (signs will lead the way)
Get off the World Trade Center stop, take the elevator to Level 2
Take a left onto WTC Avenue, the convention hall should be right there

If you are elsewhere in the city, and need to get to the convention center via the 'subway':
Take the RED LINE
Exit at SOUTH STATION stop, and then follow the above instructions.

Remember not to refer to the 'subway' as 'the underground' or 'tube'. Both are Britishisms that don't travel that well. At least I don't think they do :P

15 Shopping

If you've never been to the US before, you will encounter the different way Americans treat tax. Unlike in the UK, where VAT is part of the price that goods are labelled with in stores, this is not the case so much in the US. If you see something that is labelled with $29.99, be prepared to pay a 'sales tax' on top of that. This is the US answer to VAT and can catch you out if you're not careful. Sales tax is not the 20% variety we have in the UK at present, it normally hovers around 5-10%.

kropotkin on

Posts

  • territoiresterritoires Upstate NYRegistered User regular
    edited November 2010
    kropotkin wrote: »


    7) Reading material

    You'd be advised to take along the latest copies of The Edge, Retro Gamer and Games TM.....They can also be used as trading items/bribes as they are much sought after in the US.

    So, uh, what kind of street value are we talking here?

    I write about games on a few websites.
    Gaming blog
    @lamournumerique
  • WormdundeeWormdundee Registered User regular
    edited November 2010
    I can only speak for EDGE since that's the one I subscribe to. It costs a little over 100 CAD to subscribe for 13 issues. I don't know how much their trading value would be since a lot of people aren't really down with the magazines these days. I'm sure you could read all the same stuff online for free, I get it just because of the really high quality paper and printing.

  • cakefalsehoodcakefalsehood Registered User
    edited December 2010
    As an American, I can attest to the fact that the subway system (and public transit in general) in certain US cities can be a confusing affair. I apologize in advance. If you see signs that are emblazoned with a giant black "T" this is the subway.

    A crude map:
    http://www.mbta.com/schedules_and_maps/subway/

    (SOUTH STATION is located roughly in the center of the map, your most likely destination)


    From the airport (if you're flying directly into Boston, it's Logan International):
    Take The Silver Line Bus (signs will lead the way)
    Get off the World Trade Center stop, take the elevator to Level 2
    Take a left onto WTC Avenue, the convention hall should be right there
    If you are elsewhere in the city, and need to get to the convention center via subway:
    Take the RED LINE
    Exit at SOUTH STATION stop, and then follow the above instructions.



    If fellow Americans, particularly Bostonians, feel I need to correct the above information, please let me know.

  • kropotkinkropotkin Registered User regular
    edited December 2010
    @cakefalsehood Thanks for the subway advice. I've added it to the OP with some minor modifications concerning what on earth a subway is :)

  • cakefalsehoodcakefalsehood Registered User
    edited December 2010
    I personally don't care what the subway is called, it seems like a petty thing about which to get upset.

  • kropotkinkropotkin Registered User regular
    edited December 2010
    I personally don't care what the subway is called, it seems like a petty thing about which to get upset.

    Oh it's said in irony! I don't care if its called a 'pumpkin', it's just that the word subway does have a different meaning outside the US, hence the mention of it.

  • cakefalsehoodcakefalsehood Registered User
    edited December 2010
    I understand, I think when you said those terms "were Britishisms that don't travel well", I misunderstood. I thought people were getting upset with you when you called the subway "the tube". That's what I thought was petty.

    I should have clarified my post.

  • territoiresterritoires Upstate NYRegistered User regular
    edited January 2011
    Hey Guys,

    I have booked my badges and flights for PAX East 2011, but with a twist. I'm flying to Montreal from the UK to visit a friend, and then we are taking a Greyhound to Boston. I'll then be flying out of Boston back to the UK.

    Does anyone know if I still need to complete that TSA form, if I'm not flying into the US?

    Thanks for any and all advice.

    I write about games on a few websites.
    Gaming blog
    @lamournumerique
  • Reverend SnideReverend Snide Registered User regular
    edited January 2011
    Hey Guys,

    I have booked my badges and flights for PAX East 2011, but with a twist. I'm flying to Montreal from the UK to visit a friend, and then we are taking a Greyhound to Boston. I'll then be flying out of Boston back to the UK.

    Does anyone know if I still need to complete that TSA form, if I'm not flying into the US?

    Thanks for any and all advice.

    If you mean an ESTA, yes. It's your authorisation to travel to the USA and apply for entry under the Visa Waiver Program.

    Have miles, will travel | Twitter | XBL: Reverend Snide | Wii U/PSN: ReverendSnide
  • territoiresterritoires Upstate NYRegistered User regular
    edited January 2011
    Thanks!

    Grumble grumble $14 grumble TSA grumble touching grumble.

    I write about games on a few websites.
    Gaming blog
    @lamournumerique
  • Reverend SnideReverend Snide Registered User regular
    edited January 2011
    That might be something to add to the OP- there's now a fee for ESTA applications:
    CBP wrote:
    beginning September 8, 2010, there is a fee required by the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 (Section 9 of the United States Capitol Police Administrative Technical Corrections Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-145). The fee is comprised of two parts:

    * Processing Charge -- All applicants requesting an electronic travel authorization are charged for the processing of the application. The fee is $4.00.
    * Authorization charge -- If your application is approved and you receive authorization to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, an additional $10.00 will be charged to your credit card. If your electronic travel authorization is denied, you are only charged for the processing of your application.

    CBP is not responsible for any additional fees that may be charged by your credit card company for the transaction.

    Source


    This fee wasn't in place until after PAX Prime 2010 so didn't affect us last year.

    ESTA approvals are valid for two years, so if you had one for East/Prime 2010 you might not need to renew. You'll still need to update your flight/hotel details for your arrival, though.

    Have miles, will travel | Twitter | XBL: Reverend Snide | Wii U/PSN: ReverendSnide
  • kropotkinkropotkin Registered User regular
    edited January 2011
    Thanks for the ESTA applications advice. I was not aware of the £9 fee they had slapped onto it. Really sneaky of them to insist that such a system is in place and then 2 years later put an admin fee onto it. I know government agencies are having to tighten up the purse strings, but this could impact on tourist trade into the US. Quite short sighted if you ask me.

    Be that as it may, I've updated the OP to include this advice. Thanks for alerting me to it.

  • VisionOfClarityVisionOfClarity Registered User
    edited January 2011
    I'm very happy to see the emphasis on the necessity of a passport for nights at the bar. It is really hit or miss what places will accept international DL and nothing is worse than getting to the bar just for one of your group to not be able to get in.

  • HowMuchHowMuch Registered User
    edited January 2011
    Thanks for the info.

  • gigabraingigabrain Some guy...yknow Registered User regular
    edited January 2011
    Speaking as a local, if you're going to be parking at/near the BCEC, you should remember that the streets are metered parking. Also the weird looking blocky building next door ( Google maps street view ) is a government building. Don't park in the lots behind it just to get out of paying for BCEC parking. Your car WILL be towed/impounded.

    3 Day Pass [X] Hotel Room [X] Pre-PAX Events [ ] Coin [ ] Plans for awesome funtimes [XXXXX]
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  • kropotkinkropotkin Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    To those travelling from shores beyond the USA, please remember to register your visa waiver 72 hours before setting off. It's either that or a very short trip to the airport and then back home you go.

  • dragons claw69dragons claw69 Registered User
    edited March 2011
    kropotkin wrote: »
    To those travelling from shores beyond the USA, please remember to register your visa waiver 72 hours before setting off. It's either that or a very short trip to the airport and then back home you go.
    Just a quick question for the more experienced travellers (please forgive the semi-OCD question). I have my visa waiver completed and I have approved authorisation to travel to the US. Where do I need to register my visa waiver?

  • kropotkinkropotkin Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    kropotkin wrote: »
    To those travelling from shores beyond the USA, please remember to register your visa waiver 72 hours before setting off. It's either that or a very short trip to the airport and then back home you go.
    Just a quick question for the more experienced travellers (please forgive the semi-OCD question). I have my visa waiver completed and I have approved authorisation to travel to the US. Where do I need to register my visa waiver?

    That's it, you're good to go :) If you have filled out the online form then you're clear to travel to the US.

  • dragons claw69dragons claw69 Registered User
    edited March 2011
    Thank you for dealing with the stupid question :-P With the flight getting closer I'm over thinking things making sure I haven't omitted any details

    Online form filled out, payment taken & authorisation granted. Shame Aer Lingus isn't in the drop down menu for carriers so that had to be left blank (the ESTA stated it was an optional field) but I added it in the box below.

  • kropotkinkropotkin Registered User regular
    edited March 2011
    OP updated on shopping advice in the US. Also remember to fill out your ESTA form now, as any later and you're going to have trouble getting into the US due to lateness of applying.

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