Chicago is the major metropolis of Americas heartland,with three million people hustling and bustling in the city ofskyscrapers that appears to rise straight out of the waters of LakeMichigan, in northern Illinois. Once a gangsters hang-outsynonymous with infamous names such as Al Capone and Bonny andClyde, the windy city today has a squeaky-cleanreputation as an international business and commercial capitalboasting an eclectic mix of architecture, world-class theatre, artexhibitions, and super-enthusiastic sportsmanship.
Chicago emerged as a rough and tough survivor after beingdestroyed in the Great Fire of 1871 and a huge influx of immigrantsfrom all over the world in the early 20th century brought with thema determined spirit infusing the city with
ethnic diversityand the unmistakable sound of Chicago-style blues music. Chicagoanshave built a city that is to be reckoned with,boasting
soaring skyscrapers including the Sears Tower (one ofthe tallest
in the world); thriving ethnic neighbourhoods; alakefront business district, the re-energised downtown; unbeatableshopping along the famed Michigan Avenue; and top-class sportsteams.
One thing that does not attract visitors to Chicago is theweather, which, because of its geographical location is breezy atbest, and freezing and gale-ridden at worst. It is possible toignore the weather though, when getting caught up in the myriad ofthings to do, see and experience in this Midwestern metropolis-
there are 30 excellent museums alone.
Time: The USA is divided into sixtime zones. Eastern Standard Time is GMT -5, and Pacific Standard Timeis GMT -8, Alaska is GMT -9, and Hawaii GMT -10. Other than Indiana,Arizona and Hawaii, all states observe daylight saving time in summer. Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz. Plugsare mainly the two, flat-pin type, though three-pin plugs are alsowidely used. European appliances without dual-voltage capabilities willrequire an adapter, which can be purchased in most major departureairports. Money: The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs arewidespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widelyaccepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoidhassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.
Language: English is the official language. Entry requirements for UK nationals: UK passport holders require a valid passport for travel to theUSA. Under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), most British citizensdo not require a visa for holiday, transit or business purposesproviding their passports are machine-readable, the stay does notexceed 90 days and a return or onward ticket is held.Note: Holders of UK passports with the endorsementBritish Subject, British Protected Person, British DependentTerritories Citizen, British Overseas Citizen or British National(Overseas) Citizen do require a visa. Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadians do not require a visa, only a valid passport. Visitorsshould hold tickets and documents required for return or onwarddestination. Entry requirements for Australians: Australian nationals do not require a visa for stays of up to 90days under the Visa Waiver Program; a machine-readable passport anda return or onward ticket is required if travelling by sea orair. Entry requirements for South Africans: South Africans must hold a passport valid at the date of entry;a visa is also required. Visitors must have return or onwardtickets and the necessary documents for further travel. Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals require a valid passport. Irish passport holdersqualify for the visa waiver programme, but a machine-readablepassport (MRP) must be presented to gain visa-free entry to thecountry, which allows a stay of up to 90 days. Visitors must havereturn or onward tickets and all necessary documents for furthertravel. Entry requirements for New Zealand nationals: New Zealand nationals require a valid passport, but do notrequire a visa for stays of up to 90 days under the US Visa Waiverprogramme. A machine-readable passport is necessary to qualify forthe programme. A return or onward ticket is required. Passport/Visa Note: Visitors entering the country under the Visa Waiver Programme(VWP) must have a machine-readable passport (MRP) that has a barcode on the photo page. From 26 October 2006 eligible travellersunder the VWP must include biometrics in their machine-readablepassports if they wish to enter the country without a visa,containing unique personal data such as fingerprints or irisdetails. All new passports issued on or after 26 October 2005 mustcontain a digital photo image in order to travel visa-free. Due tonew security measures, all visitors to the USA will have aphotograph and two fingerprints taken by an inkless scanner onarrival, including those travelling visa-free under the Visa WaiverProgramme. All travellers arriving or departing by air between theUSA and Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and Central andSouth America are required to present a valid passport. From 1January 2008, this will include all travel by land and sea aswell. Embassy or Consulate in UK: United States Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 74999000 Embassy or Consulate in Canada: United States Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 238 5335 Embassy or Consulate in Australia: United States Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 62145600 Embassy or Consulate in South Africa: United States Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 3421048 UK Embassy or Consulate: British Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 588 6500 Canadian Embassy or Consulate: Canadian Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 682 1740 Australian Embassy or Consulate: Australian Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 797 3000 South African Embassy or Consulate: South African Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 232 4400 Health: There are no specific health risks associated with travel withinthe USA. Medical facilities are excellent, but expensive. Onlyemergencies are treated without prior payment and treatment can berefused without evidence of insurance or proof of funds. Goodmedical insurance is essential. Tipping: A 15% tip is expected by taxi drivers, bartenders, hairdressersand waiters, but don't tip in fast-food or self-servicerestaurants. In expensive restaurants or for large parties tip 20%of the bill. It is normal to tip staff in hotels. In more expensiveaccommodation there is sometimes a bed tax, often as high as 15%,and it is worth checking that this is included within thequote. Safety: Travel within the United States is generally trouble-free,however travellers should be aware that the US shares with the restof the world an increased threat from terrorist incidents. Securityhas been heightened particularly at airports. Following the counterterrorist operation in the UK on 10 August 2006, the terror alertstatus on all flights was raised, particularly on those originatingin the UK. Restrictions on hand luggage apply and travellers areadvised to check on the latest situation with airlines in advance.Travellers should also be alert to the dangers of car and streetcrime in cities and should use common sense and take basicprecautions. Forecasting teams in the USA have predicted anincrease in hurricane activity in the Atlantic for 2007, betweenJune and November, putting the southern USA, including the GulfCoast and the eastern US, at higher risk than usual. Customs: Laws vary from state to state, including speed limits, the ageof consent and the age at which you may legally buy and consumealcohol, but this is usually 21 years. Business: In such a large country, filled with so many diverse groups,business practices may differ according to each state, howeverrarely to any large degree. The East Coast is traditionally moreformal than the West Coast, however in states such as Californiadress code and conservative appearance are as common as they wouldbe in New York. Punctuality is important throughout the country andit is considered rude to be late for a meeting. Gift-giving isuncommon as it may be construed as bribery. Appropriate titles (Mr,Mrs, Ms) are used upon introduction and until otherwise stated.Americans favour politeness and greetings of 'Hello' and 'How areyou?' are often expressed with sincerity. Business hours may varyin each state, but an 8am start and 5pm finish Monday to Friday isthe most common with an hour over lunch. Communications: The international country dialling code for the United States is+1. The outgoing code is 011, followed by the relevant country code(e.g. 01144 for the United Kingdom). The US has numerous area/citycodes, which must be dialled before the local number required (e.g.New York Manhattan, 212, and Washington DC, 202). Mobile networkscover most of the country, including all urban areas, howeverunless you have a tri-band phone it is likely your cellular phonefrom home will not work in the United States. The largest GSMnetworks are T-mobile and Cingular. Internet cafes are prevalent inmost towns and cities. Duty free: Travellers to the United States who are returning residents ofthe country do not have to pay duty on articles purchased abroad tothe value of $800 provided their stay was longer than 48 hours andtheir duty-free allowance was not used in the 30-day period prior.For passengers arriving from Samoa, Guam and the U.S. VirginIslands, a duty-free allowance of $1,200 is allowed. The followingitems are included in this: 1,000 cigarettes, a reasonable amountof tobacco and 100 cigars. Travellers over 21 years are allowed 1US quart of alcoholic beverages; and perfumes, lotions and othergoods for personal use. Restrictions may apply to goods from Cuba,Cambodia, Korea and Vietnam. It is prohibited to import Cubancigars from any country. Further information may be obtained fromthe nearest US Consulate. Travellers to the United States who arenon-residents do not have to pay duty on the following items: 50cigars or 200 cigarettes or 2kg tobacco, or a proportionate mix ofthese. Travellers over 21 years can import 1 US quart of alcoholicbeverages. Non-residents may enter the USA with gifts to the valueof $100 provided their stay in the USA is not less than 72 hoursand that the allowance has not been used in the preceding six-monthperiod. Please note that it is a punishable offence to make falsestatements to a US customs officer. Prohibited items for residentsand non-residents include: meat or meat products, poultry,narcotics, marijuana, dangerous drugs, absinthe (or alcoholcontaining artemisia absinthium); plants; seeds, vegetables,fruits, soil, live insects, snails and other living plants oranimal pests. Fish is prohibited unless it carries disease-freecertification. Salmon and trout, including eggs canned, pickled orsmoked may only be imported from North America. Imports from orexports to Iran and leather souvenirs imported from Haiti areprohibited. Wildlife and animals or their by-products carryrestrictions. All types of lighters and matches are not allowed inluggage, unless properly sealed in an enclosed container. Dairyproducts and eggs from specified countries are not allowed.Firearms and ammunition are not allowed without the necessarylicense and permit.
Message Edited by LL_Editor on 05-30-2007 05:39 PM
Chicago is beautiful to visit. First, the restaurants are wonderful. They have so many choices, Greek, German, American, etc. I love the deep dish pizza! I have always felt so safe in Chicago. Yes, the weather is not perfect, but Chicago has much to offer. I would recommend visiting The Shedd Aquarium. On a specific day of the week, the visit is discounted. Also, try Navy Pier. There is a huge ferris wheel, great restaurants and shops. You can rent bikes and ride around the city. (best time early morning on the weekend...less traffic.) Also recommended is the Architectural boat tour around the city. If you can, try to get tickets to the Oprah show. We had a wonderful concierge once who was able to obtain tickets. Have fun...it is a great city and one of my favorite.