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[EAST] International Travellers Guide to PAX East 2012

kropotkinkropotkin MrLondon UKRegistered User regular
edited October 2011 in PAX Archive
International Travellers Guide to PAX East 2012

This thread is guide to those that are travelling to PAX East 2012 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 2012 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 there is 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 2012.

Special note on the License Plus and NEXUS Programs

For those that live in Canada may be aware of the License Plus Program that is offered. This allows Canadians to cross the border into the US without a passport by 'upgrading' their drivers license. Note however that this only applies to travel by sea or land and not by air. For more details go here..

Another cross border offer by both Canadian and US customs is the NEXUS program. This provides faster custom checks for a small fee. To find out more click here..

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, PAX 2010, PAX East 2011, E3'11 and PAX 2011 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. They can be found in different colours now though, so at least that helps a little. No picture of a Queen on the back though :(

Also, if you do plan on using a credit/debit card while at PAX East 2012 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 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 2012. 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/Android tablet/PS Vita you probably have a contract with your local carrier. Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to use the 3G functionality of your device while at PAX East 2012 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/PS Vita/3DS but by all means bring them all 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/PS Vita 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 portable electronic devices, 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, PS Vita, 3DS 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! Note that this does not apply to the 3DS.

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 early 40'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 can collect your lanyard from the queue room, information booth and the 'Will Call', the name for the ticket collection area. Otherwise you have to pick up both your ticket and lanyard from Will Call.

11) Telephone numbers

To dial for emergency services use 911, not 999. For directory enquiries use 411 or, if that doesn't work use 1-617-555-1212. If there is an emergency within the expo itself, GET AN ENFORCER OR MCCA SECURITY OFFICER. This is because MCCA has a special emergency response team on site and the venue is a huge place and if you dial 911 it will just slow down the response as the fire and police services will have to search the expo venue for you.

12) Weather

PAX East 2012 takes place in early April 2012. 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%. For the state of Massachusetts the sales tax is currently 6.25%, and in Boston the Meals Tax (Tax on food/beverages served to you in bars/restauraunts) is 7% (6.25% state and 0.75% city).

kropotkin on

Posts

  • FrugusFrugus Podcaster Registered User regular
    edited October 2011
    Thanks for the thread Krop. You are probably the PAX specialist in this field :) I'm not done reading the whole thing yet but I will try to help (if required) about anything specific to Canada.

    EDIT 1 - Passports: Here's something that is "somewhat new" in regards to Canadians crossing the U.S. Border - The Licence Plus program. I only mention it because I often run into people who have no clue what it is so I figure it's not common knowledge. Basically, it's a driver's license upgrade that lets you cross the border as if you had a passport, but it only works by land or sea. Let me be clear that THIS DOES NOW WORK BY AIR. Please check out all the details before hand. Note that I found the link via the Quebec Provincial website and you will most likely want to check your respective Province info before doing anything else. I can attest to the fact that I've used this myself for at least two years without any problems. For the curious - it appears there's a microchip embedded in the driver's licence but it's not visible. You have to keep the license in the foil sleeve the give you when they deliver the permit as well. The only difference I've noticed on my permit is that it says "Plus" on the above right corner. Personally I like it more than a passport because I never have to think about having it on me when I decide to cross the border, which happens often enough for it to be practical.

    Another thing is the NEXUS program. Call it an advanced passport that treats you as a trusted citizen. You get to use express lanes and (I'm told, no proof) that you are not subject to random searches. The catch is that it's more expensive, requires extensive background checking and cannot be used if you are grouped with people who do not have it. For example, if you are driving by car with friends while crossing the border, everyone has to have a Nexus card to use the Nexus lane. No exceptions. I've never used the Nexus program and know of no one who does, so what I know comes from memory after I discussed the issue with a border patrol officer.

    I've been told that the same License Plus and Nexus programs exist for the Mexican border but that needs to be verified.

    EDIT 2 - Cell phones: Everything Krop said is very true. I would only add that it's always a good idea to check your Roaming settings if you have one (if you have a smart phone, you should). Turning Roaming on or off (check how your settings phrases it) will block any data taken over the cellphone network, meaning you can keep your phone turned on and keep getting calls and text messages (at the expense of being oversees) but NOT use data, which is orgamiscally even more expensive. This does not affect your ability to use Wifi when available. Speaking of which, there was free Wifi at the BCEC last year and the signal was good considering the amount of people using it.

    Frugus on
  • NullzoneNullzone Registered User regular
    Just as a note, Enforcers try to have stacks of lanyards in a lot of different places. You don't have to go to will call just for a lanyard; try info booth, or even the queue room. :)

  • SmallLadySmallLady Registered User regular
    Frugus wrote:

    Another thing is the NEXUS program. Call it an advanced passport that treats you as a trusted citizen. You get to use express lanes and (I'm told, no proof) that you are not subject to random searches. The catch is that it's more expensive, requires extensive background checking and cannot be used if you are grouped with people who do not have it. For example, if you are driving by car with friends while crossing the border, everyone has to have a Nexus card to use the Nexus lane. No exceptions. I've never used the Nexus program and know of no one who does, so what I know comes from memory after I discussed the issue with a border patrol officer.

    I've been told that the same License Plus and Nexus programs exist for the Mexican border but that needs to be verified.

    Nexus / Global Entry is amazing! for driving across the border everyone in the car DOES need to have a nexus card. But it also makes getting though the airport super easy. I get a special lane at customs which is very quick as I don't really send any time talking to a customs agent, then I get a second special lane though airport security that is ALSO super quick. :D

    It's only $50 so if you have a bit of time I highly recommend getting it if you ever travel to the US more than once a year.

    "we're just doing what smalllady told us to do" - @Heels
  • FrugusFrugus Podcaster Registered User regular
    SmallLady wrote:
    Frugus wrote:

    Another thing is the NEXUS program. Call it an advanced passport that treats you as a trusted citizen. You get to use express lanes and (I'm told, no proof) that you are not subject to random searches. The catch is that it's more expensive, requires extensive background checking and cannot be used if you are grouped with people who do not have it. For example, if you are driving by car with friends while crossing the border, everyone has to have a Nexus card to use the Nexus lane. No exceptions. I've never used the Nexus program and know of no one who does, so what I know comes from memory after I discussed the issue with a border patrol officer.

    I've been told that the same License Plus and Nexus programs exist for the Mexican border but that needs to be verified.

    Nexus / Global Entry is amazing! for driving across the border everyone in the car DOES need to have a nexus card. But it also makes getting though the airport super easy. I get a special lane at customs which is very quick as I don't really send any time talking to a customs agent, then I get a second special lane though airport security that is ALSO super quick. :D

    It's only $50 so if you have a bit of time I highly recommend getting it if you ever travel to the US more than once a year.

    I cross the border at least once every two months... Guess I should look into it.

    Nexus flyer - PDF from the CBSA-ASFC.

  • KhadourKhadour Dinosaur Cupcake Boston, MARegistered User regular
    While I have no experience with NEXUS, I do have experience with SENTRI (Mexico version of the same thing, from the sounds of it) - it's worth pointing out that, while everyone in the car has to have the pass, people can jump out of the car close to the border crossing and cross via a pedestrian crossing, and get picked up on the far side. The pedestrian crossings usually go a lot faster than the vehicle crossings do . . .

    Do unto others 20% better than you would expect them to do unto you, to correct for subjective error - Linus Pauling
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  • kropotkinkropotkin Mr London UKRegistered User regular
    Thanks for the feedback all, the Canadian stuff is great as I have no experience of knowledge about it. The OP has been updated to reflect these comments.

  • KilonumKilonum [E] West of Boston, East of WorcesterRegistered User regular
    edited October 2011
    Just going to make some observations/corrections from someone who is relatively local.
    kropotkin wrote:
    3) Money
    ...
    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
    At least we're finally making them different colors :P
    kropotkin wrote:
    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 early 40'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. =
    I can attest to the fact that the grocery store I work for has a nation-wide company policy that if we feel you don't look 35, we're going to card you. It's more to cover our own ass, as MA (and other states) has pretty severe penalties for selling to those under 21.
    kropotkin wrote:
    11) Telephone numbers

    To dial for emergency services use 911, not 999.
    Please note: for any emergency inside BCEC, GET AN ENFORCER OR MCCA SECURITY OFFICER. This is because MCCA has a special emergency response team on site and the BCEC is a huge place and if you dial 911 it will just slow down the response as BFD and BPD will have to search the BCEC for you.
    kropotkin wrote:
    For directory enquiries use 411 or, if that doesn't work use 555-1212 or 1-555-1212.
    failing that second number, 1-617-555-1212
    kropotkin wrote:
    12) Weather

    PAX East 2012 takes place in early April 2012. 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!
    Honestly, it can be anything between 80F and sunny and 20F and blowing snow. Check the extended forecast here when you go to pack for PAX East. As a matter of fact, at this moment, we are in the middle of the worst snow storm ever recorded in the month of October for the region.
    kropotkin wrote:
    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%.
    Currently in MA the sales tax is 6.25%, and in Boston the Meals Tax (Tax on food/beverages served to you in bars/restauraunts) is 7% (6.25% state and 0.75% city).

    Kilonum on
    9kcFSJ7.png

    PAX East 2015 checklist: Accomodations [X] Enforcer Roll Call [ ] Travel [X] Time Off [ ] BYOC [X]
  • kropotkinkropotkin Mr London UKRegistered User regular
    @Kilonum Thanks for the tips, I shall amend the OP to suit.

  • CannedfoolCannedfool Registered User
    Thanks for all the information.

    I am looking to hit Prime next year and so any information is help full.
    (from the uk)

    You cant can this fool!
    Spoiler:
  • peetsnackpeetsnack Registered User regular
    edited November 2011
    kropotkin wrote:
    3) Money
    Spoiler:
    kropotkin wrote:
    7) Reading material
    Spoiler:
    kropotkin wrote:
    9) Drinking and ID
    Spoiler:
    kropotkin wrote:
    12) Weather
    Spoiler:
    kropotkin wrote:
    14 Subway advice
    Spoiler:

    All of kropotkin's advice is good, good stuff. He is one of the reasons PAX stays awesome year after year.

    peetsnack on
    sig-500x80.jpg
  • KiashienKiashien Registered User regular
    Small bit of info on taxes.

    Food and non-alcoholic drinks are non-taxable. (Grocery store, convenience store, Pharmacy-type store)

    Prepared food and drinks are taxed at the meal tax rate (7% in boston), not the normal sales tax rate (6.25% in Boston- a little less or more around it (+/- 0.5% or less).

    Clothes are non-taxable unless a single item costs more than $175, in which case it's taxed Partially. Only the bit above 175 is actually taxed.

    Cell phone taxes are weird and archaic things here, that vary from month to month at this point, so if you get a temporary cell phone, expect an extra $5-10 tagged on to the end of the monthly bill, if you're staying long enough to warrant it. For a prepaid with prepaid minutes, I'm not sure how the tax shakes out.

    Ref: Meal Tax

    Ref: Sales tax

    The pirate hat riding bobcat compels you...

    Relevant info: #PAX East: 3 Coin Lunch organizer. 2012 Trading card available. Pokecrawl Assistant 2012. Pokecrawl attendee 2011. Cult of the Leaf attendee 2012.
  • Wraith260Wraith260 Registered User regular
    kropotkin wrote:
    International Travellers Guide to PAX East 2012

    This thread is guide to those that are travelling to PAX East 2012 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 2012 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 there is 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 2012.

    Special note on the License Plus and NEXUS Programs

    For those that live in Canada may be aware of the License Plus Program that is offered. This allows Canadians to cross the border into the US without a passport by 'upgrading' their drivers license. Note however that this only applies to travel by sea or land and not by air. For more details go here..

    Another cross border offer by both Canadian and US customs is the NEXUS program. This provides faster custom checks for a small fee. To find out more click here..

    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, PAX 2010, PAX East 2011, E3'11 and PAX 2011 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. They can be found in different colours now though, so at least that helps a little. No picture of a Queen on the back though :(

    Also, if you do plan on using a credit/debit card while at PAX East 2012 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 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 2012. 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/Android tablet/PS Vita you probably have a contract with your local carrier. Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to use the 3G functionality of your device while at PAX East 2012 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/PS Vita/3DS but by all means bring them all 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/PS Vita 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 portable electronic devices, 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, PS Vita, 3DS 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! Note that this does not apply to the 3DS.

    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 early 40'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 can collect your lanyard from the queue room, information booth and the 'Will Call', the name for the ticket collection area. Otherwise you have to pick up both your ticket and lanyard from Will Call.

    11) Telephone numbers

    To dial for emergency services use 911, not 999. For directory enquiries use 411 or, if that doesn't work use 1-617-555-1212. If there is an emergency within the expo itself, GET AN ENFORCER OR MCCA SECURITY OFFICER. This is because MCCA has a special emergency response team on site and the venue is a huge place and if you dial 911 it will just slow down the response as the fire and police services will have to search the expo venue for you.

    12) Weather

    PAX East 2012 takes place in early April 2012. 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%. For the state of Massachusetts the sales tax is currently 6.25%, and in Boston the Meals Tax (Tax on food/beverages served to you in bars/restauraunts) is 7% (6.25% state and 0.75% city).

  • kropotkinkropotkin Mr London UKRegistered User regular
    Hello all. This is a quick reminder to those travelling outside the US to PAX East that they must get their Visa Waiver form sorted at least 72 hours prior to leaving. Otherwise you risk not getting on the plane, let along PAX East! So do it! DO IT NOW!

  • PixelPrimePixelPrime Registered User
    edited April 2012
    Hi all,

    I've been told there are some customs in the U.S. that I may be unfamiliar with - most notable of which is the tipping policy you guys have.

    I'm coming over from the U.K. where we only really tip for table service in restaurants, and perhaps a cab ride as well. However, is it true that you guys tip for almost everything? I don't want to be in an awkward position where a tip is expected of me and I don't pony up!

    I'd appreciate some help on your customs :)

    Thanks!
    Andy

  • TopherRocksTopherRocks Rockstar Beard Grower Long Island, NYRegistered User regular
    Depending on the quality of service at a restaurant, tipping is usually about 15-20% of the bill. Taxi rides I usually give an extra 2 or 3 dollars but I'm not sure what's actually customary for them

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  • cpdavngrcpdavngr Registered User
    Aside from the bellhop in the hotel helping you with your luggage or maybe the shuttle driver, I'd say it's about the same here.

    PAX East 2012: Time Off [X] 3 Day Pass [X] Plane [ ] Hotel [X]
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