During any emergency, dialing 911 at any telephone will connect you to the emergency services in the area police, fire, ambulance, etc. Calls to 911 are free from payphones and any mobile phone capable of connecting with local carriers. Give the facts. The dispatchers will send help. Unless you are calling from a mobile phone, the 911 operator can almost certainly trace your line instantly and locate you.
With mobile phones it is more difficult, and in some states you may be connected to the regional office for the state police or highway patrol, which will then have to transfer you to the appropriate local agency once they talk to you and figure out what you need. Because of many horror stories of situations where mobile phone users became incapacitated either by criminals or illness after calling 911 and the operator could not locate them in time, in recent years more and more mobile phones have incorporated GPS devices that will display the user's precise geographical location to the 911 operator.
If you are staying in one area, it may be helpful to have the phone numbers for the local emergency services so as to get through directly to the local dispatch. Moreover, in most locations, 911 calls are recorded and are open, public records, while the conversation with the local emergency dispatchers cannot be accessed by the public. Do remember that if you dial emergency dispatchers directly, E911 the technology that allows 911 operators to trace calls services may not be available.
To send items to any destination within the US by post, the most important item in the addressee's section is the ZIP code postal code. The website of the United States postal service has a look-up feature that allows you to get a zip code after inputting a city as well as a more precise address. Inputting the more precise address may return a zip code with 9 digits known as ZIP+4. In general the addressee's section in the envelope will look something like the following:
name of recipient street address, which contains the house number and street name city or town, two digit state abbreviation ZIP code
Given that there are possibly plenty of streets with the same name in a particular metropolitan area, placing the correct ZIP code is crucial to speeding-up delivery of your post.
First class airmail postcards and letters if not oversized, or over one ounce/28.5 grams are $0.85 to Canada and Mexico and $1.05 elsewhere. All locations with a USPS zip code are considered domestic, including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau, U.S. Navy ships at sea, etc. Domestic postcards are $0.32, and small letters up to an ounce are $0.45. If you put a solid object like a coin or keys in an envelope, you'll pay a surcharge.
A rate increase took effect on January 22, 2012. "Forever" stamps on domestic mail can be used indefinitely with no surcharge after an increase, but these stamps are not valid for international use.
You can receive mail sent both domestically and from abroad by having it addressed to you as "General Delivery." In other countries, this is often called Poste Restante. There is no charge for this service. You just go to the main post office, wait in line, and they will give you your mail after showing ID such as a passport.
John Doe General Delivery Seattle, Washington 98101-9999 U.S.A.
The last four digits of the ZIP postal Code for General Delivery is always '9999'. If the city is large enough to have multiple post offices, only one usually in the center of downtown will have the General Delivery service. This means, for example, if you're staying in the Green Lake district of Seattle a few miles north of downtown, you cannot receive your mail at the Green Lake Post Office, and must travel downtown to get it. On the other hand, if you're completely outside of the city of Seattle, and in a smaller town with only one post office, you can have it sent there. UPS and FedEx also have a "Hold for Pickup" option.
The American health care system is world-class in quality, but can be very expensive. Americans generally use private health insurance, paid either by their employer or out of their own pocket; some risk paying high hospital bills themselves, or depend on government subsidized health plans. As a traveler you should have travel insurance or potentially face high costs if you need medical care.
In a life-threatening emergency, call 911 to summon an ambulance to take you to the nearest hospital emergency room "ER", or in less urgent situations get to the hospital yourself and register at the ER's front desk. Emergency rooms will treat patients without regard to their ability to pay, but you will still be presented with a bill for all care. Do not use ERs for non-emergency walk-in care. Not only can this be 3-4 times more expensive than other options, but you will often wait many hours before being treated, as the staff will give priority to patients with urgent needs. In most areas, the charge for an emergency room visit starts around $500, in addition to any specific services or medications you may require. Most urban areas have minor emergency centers also called "urgent care", etc. for medical situations where a fully equipped emergency room would be excessive. However, their hours may be limited, and few are open overnight.
Walk-in clinics are another place for travelers to find routine medical care, letting patients see a doctor or nurse-practitioner without an appointment but often with a bit of a wait. They are typically very up-front about fees, and always accept credit cards. To find one, check the yellow pages under "Clinics", or call a major hospital and ask. Make sure to tell the clerk you will be paying "out of pocket"; if they assume an insurance company will be paying for it, they may order tests that are not medically essential and in some cases bill for services that aren't actually provided.
Dentists are readily available throughout the United States again, see the yellow pages. Dental offices are accustomed to explaining fees over the phone, and most will accept credit cards.
Most counties and cities have a government-supported clinic offering free or low-cost testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases; call the Health Department for the county you are in for more details. Many county clinics offer primary health care services as well, however these services are geared towards low-income residents and not foreign travelers. Planned Parenthood (http://www.plannedparenth...) 1-800-230-7526 is a private agency with clinics and centers around the country providing birth control and other reproductive health services for both females and males.
While there are locations throughout the United States with higher crime rates, most crime is concentrated in inner city neighborhoods. Few visitors to the U.S. experience any sort of crime. Much crime is gang- or drug-related or the result of family / personal disputes, and it usually occurs in areas that are of little interest to visitors. You can all but ensure that you won't experience crime by taking common-sense precautions and staying alert to your surroundings. Locations frequented by tourists and visitors National Mall in Washington DC, and Manhattan in NYC often have a police presence and are quite safe for all but petty crimes.
Most American urban areas have homeless people. In some areas aggressive panhandling is a concern. If you feel you are being harassed, say NO firmly and walk away.
Security has increased along the United StatesâMexico border due to increased illegal immigration and drug crime. Only cross the country's borders at official crossings.
The U.S. is a huge country with very varied geography, and parts of it are occasionally affected by natural disasters: hurricanes in June through November in the South including Florida, blizzards sometimes called "Noreasters" in New England and the areas near the Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains, tornadoes mostly in the Great Plains region, earthquakes in California and Alaska, floods in areas of the Midwestern United States and wildfires in the late summer and early fall in Texas and on the West Coast, particularly California. See the regions in question for more details.
Because tornadoes are so common between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains, this area has earned itself the colloquial name Tornado Alley. The San Andreas Fault is a tectonic plate boundary running through California, an area prone to earthquakes.
Street drugs, including marijuana, are illegal throughout the U.S. Marijuana use is more widely accepted than other drugs particularly on the West Coast, but generally not to the degree that it is in Canada or Western European countries. Although a few states have passed laws legalizing the medical use of marijuana, this will not protect any foreign citizen caught in possession. Outside of drug-using circles, most Americans frown upon illicit drug use regardless of quantity, and travelers would be wise to avoid using such substances in the United States. Penalties can be very severe, and can include mandatory minimum jail terms for possession of personal quantities in some states. Also, ANY drug possession near a school, however slight the quantity, will land you a heavy jail term. Attempting to bring any quantity into the U.S. poses a serious risk of being arrested for "trafficking".
Being a highly industrialized nation, the United States is largely free from most serious communicable diseases found in many developing nations; however, the HIV rate is higher than in Canada and Western Europe, with about a 0.5% infection rate in the overall population.
Two diseases that, while rare, are worth becoming educated about are rabies and Lyme disease. Rabies is more prevalent in eastern regions of the country and may be contracted from animal bites; if you are bitten by any mammal see a doctor quickly - do not wait for symptoms. Lyme disease is spread via the deer tick, which are prevalent in the woodlands and open fields of many rural areas. When venturing into the outdoors, it is a good idea to apply an insect repellent onto exposed skin surfaces that is effective against deer ticks.
Other diseases that are endemic within the United States, but are of far less concern, include Hantaviral Pulmonary Syndrome found in western regions, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever mostly in the Rocky Mountain region, West Nile Virus all regionsand Eastern/Western Equine Encephalitis particularly in the mid-west region.
It should be noted that all of the above listed diseases are extraordinarily rare and the medical system of the United States is very much capable of handling any of these when necessary.
For the latest in traveler's health information pertaining to the United States, including advisories and recommendations, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention destination United States website (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/trav...)
Prostitution is illegal in all areas except at licensed brothels in rural Nevada counties. In other states, tolerance and enforcement of prostitution laws vary considerably, but be aware that police routinely engage in "sting" operations in which an officer may pose as a prostitute to catch and arrest persons offering to pay for sex.