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A practical guide to the US

The USA has a federal system, which means that national holidays come under the jurisdiction and discretion of each individual state. However, in most cases, all states recognise and celebrate the eleven federal holidays on the same day.

  • New Year's Day: 1st January
  • Martin Luther King Day: Third Monday in January
  • President's Day: Third Monday in February
  • Memorial Day: Last Monday in May
  • Independence Day: 4th July
  • Labour Day: First Monday in September
  • Columbus Day: Second Monday in October
  • Veteran's Day: 11th November
  • Thanksgiving Day: Fourth Thursday in November
  • Christmas Day: 25th December
  • Inauguration Day: Celebrated on 20th January every four years and only in certain states


Currency in all U.S. states is the dollar (US$) and it's the most widely used currency in the world. It is historically slightly weaker than the British pound, meaning you usually get more for your money in the U.S.

You can exchange dollars for pounds relatively easily in many places but shop around for the best rates. It's always handy to have some cash on you when you arrive for tipping purposes so try to exchange some money before leaving the UK.

Tipping is almost mandatory in the U.S., and is usually between 15 and 20 per cent. Taxi drivers and hairdressers expect a 15 per cent tip, bartenders expect $1 per drink and it's customary to leave a few dollars for the hotel maid, especially if you have stayed more than one night.

Credit cards are widely accepted in most major cities and ATMs are available countrywide. Check with your bank that your card will be accepted in U.S. machines before you go.

Eating out

Food is one of the great American pleasures and past times. Popular culinary creations include the hamburger and hot dog but there is a huge variation of regional cuisines to enjoy. Feast on a New York style cheesecake, savour a New England clam chowder or thrill your taste buds with some traditional Cajun style food in the Deep South.

In most major cities there is a wide variety of eateries, ranging from exquisite restaurants to cheap and cheerful fast food. America is a cultural melting pot, which means you are likely to find food from every corner of the world, on every corner of the street. Portions are big wherever you go.

Real food lovers should visit New York during Restaurant Week, usually celebrated in the summer. Fixed lunch and dinner prices in participating restaurants give you the chance to enjoy some delicious food at very reasonable prices.


Thanks to a shared past and the popularity of American media, American culture is instantly recognisable. A common language also helps to make communication easier. However, there are enough social and cultural differences to make the U.S. a fascinating destination in its own right.

The cosmopolitan outlook of New York contrasts with the traditional good manners of the south and almost horizontally laid back attitudes in California. Politeness, warm welcomes and 'can do' attitudes are the norm across all 50 states.


It is difficult to give an accurate overview of the U.S. weather due to its sheer size. You can find arctic and tropical conditions in the U.S., and everything in between. As a general rule, the further south you go, the warmer it will be.

  • Miami and Orlando are in Florida and experience weather similar to that of the Caribbean, averaging between 21°C and 28°C throughout the year.
  • California and the south west also enjoy warm temperatures all year round but with much drier weather than Florida.
  • Northern destinations like New York have widely fluctuating temperatures. In the winter temperatures will regularly drop well below freezing but can rise up above 30°C for extended periods in the summer.

Ask our expert U.S. advisers for more detailed weather information before booking. They can help you find a destination in America and recommend a specific time of year to give you the best chance of finding the right weather for your holiday.

Meterological information

Average °C 222121232527282929292724
Minimum °C 171616182022242525252320
Maximum °C 262626282931323333323028
Sunshine (hours) 6667910121211987
Rain (cm) 545681326162426209

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