If you have in mind visiting the United States, and concretely California, there are some tips that you should consider before you go.

  • Whenever you travel to the United States, you must submit the famous ESTA: An online authorization system which was created to strengthen security measures and to ensure the safety of visitors to the United States. It is a selection procedure that analyzes information from the applicant and determines eligibility for travel to the US. There are a very specific questions, and generally there is no problem for you to be admitted. With this document you can stay up to 3 months a year as a tourist.
  • US VAT works in a different way than in Spain. In the stores this tax is not included in the price of products, so you’ll have to add the sales tax in the register. Each state has its own rate, and in the case of California, this is one of the highest in the country. At the very least you will have to pay  7.5%, which could reach up to 9 depending on the city.
  • Unlike what happens in Spain, tips are part of everyday life. In all the restaurants you should leave around 10-15% tip (depending on the service), and you have to know that this is strictly respected, as the waiters base salary is very low,and therefore it is quite important for them that the customer is satisfied. If you are still unconvinced, I assure you that if you compare the service to which we are used to in Spain, you will notice that in our country we definitely lose.
  • Forget thinking about kilometers, centimeters, kilos, liters, or degrees Celsius. In the United States measures are different. Here we leave the main comparative:

Length units:
1 inch= 2.54 cm
1 foot= 30.48 cm
1 yard= 91.4 cm
1 mile= 1.6 km
Weight units:
1 ounce= 28.35 g
1 pound= 0.45 kg
 Volume units:
1 pint= 0.47 l
1 gallon= 3.78 l
 Temperature units:
1° Celsius = 33.8º Fahrenheit
1° Fahrenheit = -17.22º Celsius

  • Distances in the United States are huge. In fact, California is the third largest state in the entire country (and most populous), only behind Alaska and Texas. Therefore, the North-South contrast temperatures is quite important. If you have in mind that California has a wonderful weather you’re kind of wrong: While Los Angeles or San Diego are cities with a very good climate, San Francisco is quite colder. So if you have decided to visit it in the summer, do not forget halftime clothes for evenings, or even the day.
  • If you visit Los Angeles and have trouble communicating in English, don’t worry, almost the 50% of the population is Hispanic, so you can try to speak in Spanish and most likely you will be understood.
  • If you try to integrate as a local in San Francisco do not say Cal or Cali referring to California, or Frisco and Sanfran for the city. With this kind of expression it is easy to be identified as a tourist by those who are residents. Local names are ‘the city’ or simply San Francisco.
  • Water is perfectly potable throughout California, so if you go to a restaurant and you ask for ‘tap water’, you won’t have to pay for bottled water.
  • Try to avoid going to theme parks during weekend, the residents use their days off to take their children to places like Disneyland, Universal Studios , Zoos.. So plan your trip so that if you spend a day on any of these sites is during weekdays.
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