Visiting America’s capital is generally a safe and enjoyable experience, with just a few Washington D.C. travel tips to keep in mind. Like many nations, the US remains alert to terrorist activity with high security at airports and public places including the government buildings of Washington D.C. though this shouldn’t generally affect your travels.
The US travel advice can change but generally includes keeping an eye out for suspicious activities and being mindful of your personal safety.
Medical treatment can be expensive, so be sure to take out comprehensive travel insurance prior to departure and ensure any required vaccinations are up to date. You can talk to your Escape Travel consultant to arrange this.
Eligible Australians visiting America for less than 90 days no longer require USA visas. Instead, they can take part in the Visa Waiver Program and apply for authorisation via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). To be eligible, you must have an e-passport, a return or onwards ticket, and a passport that is valid for six months beyond your return date. This is only a guide, so be sure to check the USA immigration website before travelling.
Currency used in Washington D.C. is the US dollar, which can be readily obtained prior to your departure from Australia or at money changers and banks within the USA. Credit cards are widely accepted (although check with your bank regarding overseas charges) and there are plenty of ATMs within the city, so there’s no need to carry around large amounts of money. For more on currency, visit the currency page.
American food is diverse and reflects the nation’s strong history of immigration. From hot dogs, burgers and southern fried chicken to Italian, Mexican and French cuisine, there’s an array of options. America also boasts high food hygiene standards, but as a general travel rule it’s a good idea to assess the general condition of your dining venue before ordering.
Tipping is a big part of American culture. Expect a gratuity charge to be automatically added to your bill, as this money goes some way to topping up the lower wage rates that service workers earn. Generally, 15-20% of the bill total is a good figure to aim for when knowing how much to tip, or the restaurant may helpfully suggest an amount. It’s a good idea to keep a collection of $1 bills handy for this purpose alone.
You’ll need to make sure you take a travel adapter for your electrical appliances when visiting Washington D.C., because American electrical plugs and voltage are very different to the Australian standard. US voltage is lower than Australia, (110-120v compared to 240v here), while the plug has only two parallel pins. Adapters are readily available at post offices and stores prior to departure, or at the airport.
English is the national language of the United States of America, although there are linguistic nuances and the pronunciation or spelling of specific words may differ. You may find that harder ‘Z’s replace ‘S’s, amongst other nuances. By and large, communication is easy and people are more than willing to help if there’s a term you don’t understand.
Washington D.C. has three major airports, but the most widely used is Dulles International. It’s located in Virginia, about an hour’s drive from the city, and services all major international carriers. Get there by rail, bus or taxi and spend the time before your departure exploring over 100 restaurants and retail shops.