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Top Tips For Visiting Florida




If you are travelling from the UK you will normally use an ESTA with your passport, but apply for it early as if you are turned down you WILL NEED to apply for a proper visa.


The Language


Luckily Florida is the most visited state by tourists so, although the Americans you meet will still be delighted by a British accent (it's English actually, Scottish, Irish and Welsh are quite different) they do understand most of the language.  Words to be careful of are tea ("hot tea" if you don't want iced tea), rubbish ("trash" or "garbage") and, of course, loo ("restroom" or "bathroom" will work).


Tipping and Other Money Tips



American dollars


Credit cards:

Most debit and credit cards will ask you to notify them before using them overseas – worth double checking (Barclaycard says it's not necessary).


It's important to remember that most prices are quoted WITHOUT sales tax, so that's the annoying amount you'll see on your bill, (it’s not the tip!) and restaurants will expect a tip of 15-20% of the amount before tax.  Many will helpfully give you a choice of options on your bill, demonstrating various levels of tip.


I was shocked that many spas not only quote prices before tax, but will also add an automatic 15% gratuity and then expect a tip on top of that (huh?)  Luckily it didn't really come up for me (mainly because I was too scared of the prices to book many massages – seriously, London is so cheap by comparison) and I felt that everything I spent on massage services was either good value or absolutely essential (if I didn't want to end up having to pay for medical services instead!)


Although in the UK we are used to tipping in restaurants, and generally food is very good value in Florida, it’s important to remember to tip in bars ($1 min per drink and more if it's a fancy cocktail), anyone helping with your luggage ($1 per bag generally) and, in short, anyone you don't want to offend – or whose services you want to use again.  For concierges in hotels generally you tip for services i.e. booking tickets or restaurants, but don't feel obliged for general information.  I find tipping in bars, especially when you are ordering cheap or non-alcoholic drinks (as well as in restaurants) will get you smiles and often a round on the house (as they feel bad for taking your money for a soda!)  Tipping housekeeping is a more iffy game – even hotel magazines I read suggested different amounts ($1 - $3 in the Hilton mag, $5-$10 a day in another), but personally I feel it depends on whether you are messy (guilty) or dirty.  In one hotel I actually told reception not to bother doing my room as my luggage had kind of exploded everywhere, and as a single traveller in double/king sized rooms with stacks of towels I really didn't need "service".  I like to leave a little something for housekeeping, but please don't expect anything if you forget to top up the tea bags or unplug the coffee maker during convention!


Hotel toiletries:

For some reason every hotel in Florida (except Costa D'Este) gives you soap instead of shower gel.  If, like me, you find this a barbaric practice, make sure to pack your own.



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