International Travellers Guide to PAX East
This thread is guide to those that are travelling to PAX East 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 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
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.
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 applies to members of the media if they are covering the event.
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!
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 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 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 Visa symbol so you'll be fine using it for withdrawing any money from a hole-in-the-wall that supports Visa. 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.
The closest AT&T store to the Hynes Convention Center (where PAX East is being held) appears to be on Bolyston Street and is located here
. So to get your SIM Card, pop into there and ask for a pay as you go SIM card.
On a final note, 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. 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. 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:
The favoured method of travel is a flight into Boston airport. We are taking a long haul flight, far more so than many other PAX attendees. This 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. If you have a PSP 1000/2000/3000, get a spare battery for the flight, you'll need it!
Getting around Boston
ASK DIRECTIONS AT ANY POINT, ANY TIME, FROM ANYONE. IF YOU AREN'T SURE, ASK, BECAUSE YOU WILL GET HORRIFICALLY LOST VERY QUICKLY.
On arrival, you will be at LOGAN AIRPORT
You will want to take a SHUTTLE
(It will be a bus) or the SILVER LINE
(Also a bus, it will be silver) to the LOGAN AIRPORT T STATION
From there, you will want to buy a weekly pass, or get a Charlie Card and slap $10-15 on it.
Take the BLUE LINE INBOUND
to GOVERNMENT CENTER
. You can bring your luggage. You can then take the GREEN LINE INBOUND
to get to the Prudential Center or Hynes Convention Center. EITHER STOP WILL WORK, THEY ARE ON OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE SAME COMPLEX
. From there you can get directions to your hotel, which may be in the building from just about anyone walking around.
TAKING A CAB DIRECTLY OUT OF LOGAN AIRPORT WILL COST AN EXTRA $5-10 OVER NORMAL CAB FAIR
. If you really want to take a cab, Take the BLUE LINE to the AQUARIUM. It will likely be the easiest stop to manhandle your luggage around, and will be relatively central to boston, which should make getting a cab easier, and you will not have to pay the "airport" surcharge.
A phone number to call for a cab (there is many companies) is (617) 536-5100. It is extremely difficult to flag down a cab, as that is not a common way to get one in Boston. Some locations will have taxi stands, such as the Convention Center, and any Hotel will call one for you.
Some T info was posted here
Other useful posts are here
Further points to note with respect to public transport within Boston:
There are two ways to get from Logan into Boston via the MBTA ("The T"). Well, three ways if you count a water taxi, but that's probably not relevant.
the Silver Line. The Silver Line is relatively new. Unlike all the other colored T lines, it is actually a bus, not a train, although it runs through some dedicated tunnels like a train. The Silver Line does not go to the Airport T station. It stops directly at each airport terminal, and then takes you to South Station, where you would switch to the Red Line. Take the Red Line Inbound to Park St, where you can switch to the Green Line. Take any outbound green line train except the "E" train. Get off at Hynes.
the Blue Line. This is the older option, and people not familiar with the Silver Line may tell you to take this. The Blue Line has a station named "Airport". You get from the terminal to the Airport station by taking a shuttle bus. Once on the Blue Line, you ride to Government Center where you can switch to the Green Line. Take any inbound Green Line train except the "E" train.
Inbound and Outbound refer to whether a train is getting closer or further from the central hub composed of Park St / Downtown Crossing. Transfers from one line to another are free.
You can buy a Charlie Ticket from a kiosk near the Terminal exit, and also at any T station. This is a paper ticket with a mag stripe with some amount of money stored on it. But the Charlie Ticket is a ripoff for tourists. There is also a Charlie Card, which functions almost exactly the same except it's a reloadable RFID card, and you pay $1.70 per ride instead of $2.00 per ride. The Charlie Card is free, you can sometimes find boxes of them on top of the ticket machines, and if you can find a station attendant they should be able to get you one.
Special note on navigation
Let the Prudential Center [sic] be your north star. The convention center [sic] is attached to the Prudential Center [sic], which is visible from almost anywhere in Boston. If you get lost, walk towards it, and you'll get found. This is what it looks like:
Brief Guide to Public Transport in Boston
Unlike London's sprawling and anchient Underground Tube system, Boston has a relatively straight forward mass transit system. A summary of it all can be read in this post.
6) 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 DS/DSi/PSP/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.
Press the Spoiler button to see an image of a UK DS/DSi Charger plugged into a Step-up transformer:
Alternatively, you can just buy a cheap 3rd party charger in Seattle. 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!
8) 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 had no problems with getting a drink using my European drivers license during PAX '08 and '09. This however is not the case with Boston, as PAX Primce is held in the state of Washington, not Massachusetts as PAX East will be. The state of Massachusetts has very different by-laws concerning valid ID's. Carrying around your passport is the only option I'm afraid. Yes it's a pain as the risk of losing such an important document is great, as are the consequences. The link below will take you to a list of officially sanctioned ID's that can be accepted for age checks:
Also note that no matter how old you actually look, you will get checked. Yes I know it's ridiculous, but three 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
. Also, note that the off-licenses (aka liquor stores) are required to close at 11 p.m. here (many shut before then), and bars are required to close at 2 A.M. (many shut down at 1 a.m.)
The public transport metro (or the "T") as it is called here runs until midnight (some lines run until 12.45 a.m., but you probably don't want to press your luck). So, if you're looking to have a big boozing in Boston, start early. Much like in the UK really!
All tickets purchased from outside of the US must be picked up from the 'Will Call' area prior to entry. This is a generic term meaning 'ticket collection desk'.
Once you register you will pick up your badge from there. Just to restate, you will not receive your badge via the mail.
10) 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 East takes place in the early Spring in Boston. Whilst temperate, Boston does actually have defined seasons, with snow being very much part of winter. Therefore it is very likely that you're going to have to pack some warm clothing whilst there as the temperature will likely drop to around 5-10 degrees C. What has been confirmed that March/April are rainy months, so packing an umbrella is a good idea.
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 legally required to include 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 =)