International Travellers Guide to PAX Prime 2011
This thread is guide to those that are travelling to PAX Prime 2011 who happen to 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 here is the tips for those travelling to PAX Prime 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 people who do not qualify for a Visa waiver and to members of the media if they are covering PAX Prime 2011 for a foreign or US outlet.
2) Travel Insurance
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 have a copy of them with you so that you can access them easily!
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, PAX Prime 2010 a& PAX East 2011 and it worked on every cash machine I encountered.
For more information on Cash Passport Cards follow this link
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 Prime 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.
4) Mobile AKA 'Cell' Phones
Provided your phone is at least 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.
Note that there is an AT&T store in a shopping precinct called 'Pacific Place'. It's located in the lower level and sits next to a GameStop store.
Once you leave the US the number associated to the SIM card you bought 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 Prime 2011. If you must gain access to Twitter and/or Facebook, find a WiFi network and use that. Do not try to use 3G on your phone!
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:
5) iPads and Kindles
If you have a 3G iPad you probably have a contract with Orange, O2 or T-Mobile. Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to use the 3G functionality of your iPad while at PAX Prime 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
Most International PAXians are flying to Seattle International Airport. Taking 9 hours direct, 14 with a layover, 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!
As an aside, the only direct flights from Europe to Seattle are in the region of £1000. Indirect flights that include a short 2-3 hour layover in Canada (typically) cost £650.
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.
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.
Alternatively you can grab one of these things
. It's a universal charger that can plug into any socket on the planet. It also has a built in solar panel!
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 40! 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.
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.
PAX Prime 2011 takes place at the end of August AKA Late Summer Bank Holiday Weekend. It will be pleasantly warm with little to no rain...probably. Note that while back home this is a holiday weekend, that's not the case in the US, so any mention of it may baffle any US residents if you mutter something about it while you're there
Not something British people are used to, but it is somewhat endemic and indeed required in the US. This is because service staff aren't paid very well in the US and most of their income comes from tips. So to refuse to pay anything is just not the done thing, at all!
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 =)
If you've never been to the US before, you will encounter the unique 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 is 9.5% in Seattle. Note that groceries and medication are not taxed.