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Travel FAQ
 

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

As of 2009, all nationals or citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries who plan to travel to the United States for temporary business or pleasure will require an approved ESTA prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States under the VWP. 

Heightened Flight Security Measures for International Travellers to the U.S.

As a result of the recent attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has put additional security measures in place to ensure aviation security remains strong. Passengers flying into the United States from abroad can expect to see additional security measures at international airports such as increased gate screening including pat-downs and bag searches. During flight, passengers will be asked to follow flight crew instructions, such as stowing personal items, turning off electronic equipment and remaining seated during certain portions of the flight.

Security Measures for Air Travel to the U.S.

NOTE: Please check with your airline for information on latest security measures and prohibited items for air travel and check the TSA website (Transportation Security Administration):
New Security Measures for Travels to the U.S. | Prohibited Items | Traveling with Medical Conditions

Please note that all lighters are prohibited from sterile areas of airports and onboard aircraft.

See also: New EU Security Regulations for Carry-on Baggage, October 26, 2006.

Entry Procedures and Visa Regulations

Under the U.S. visa law and regulations, German citizens do not generally need to obtain visas if they intend to travel to the United States for business or pleasure for a period of 90 days or less (Visa Waiver Program). Please note:

Machine-readable Passport Required

Visitors entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must have machine-readable passports. Families seeking to enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program will need to obtain an individual passport for each traveler, including infants. more

Temporary machine-readable Passports

German temporary passports are no longer be valid for travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Holders of German temporary or emergency passports who intend to travel to or through the United States must either obtain a valid, machine-readable regular German passport for Visa Waiver Program travel or apply for a U.S. visa to travel to the United States.
See also: Visa Waiver Travel FAQ (pdf, 47 KB)

What Is a Machine-Readable Passport?

A machine-readable passport has biographical data entered on the data page according to international specifications. The size of the passport and photograph, and arrangement of data fields, especially the two lines of printed OCR-B machine readable data, meet the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Doc 9303, Part 1 Machine Readable Passports. OCR-B means the type is Optical Character Reader, style B. If there are questions about your passport after carefully reviewing this information, and any information, which may be available to you from your country, contact the passport issuing agency or authority in your country of citizenship. Left a data page example of a Machine-Readable Passport.

Biometric Passport Requirements

As of October 26, 2005 Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries are required to produce passports with digital photographs. Valid passports issued by VWP countries before October 26, 2005, that do not contain a digital photograph will still be accepted for travel under the auspices of the VWP, provided that the passports are machine-readable.

US-VISIT Program

Starting September 30, 2004, US-VISIT entry and exit procedures include visitors traveling under the Visa Waiver Program arriving at or departing from airports and seaports. US-VISIT does not apply to U.S. citizens.

US-VISIT aims to enhance security for American citizens and visitors while facilitating legitimate travel and trade. Foreign visitors will have their fingers scanned and a digital photograph taken to verify their identity at major ports of entry. These procedures take about 15 seconds and are carried out while Customs and Border Protection Officers review travel documents and ask questions about the visitor's stay in the U.S.
US-VISIT Brochure in English (pdf)
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Form I-94

Information on how to fill out the U.S. Customs & Border Protection Arrival-Departure record (I-94) is available from the U.S. Customs & Border Protection.

Transit

Traveling in immediate and continuous transit through the United States (U.S.) in route to a foreign destination requires a Transit Visa

Travel Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP)

The Department of Homeland Security’s Travel Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) is a single point of contact for individuals who have inquiries or seek resolution regarding difficulties they experienced during their travel screening at transportation hubs--like airports and train stations--or crossing U.S. borders, including:
- denied or delayed airline boarding
- denied or delayed entry into and exit from the U.S. at a port of entry or border checkpoint
- continuously referred to additional (secondary) screening
more information at DHS

Customs & Guidelines for Air Travel

Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS)
Airlines are required to collect and transmit passenger data for flights to the U.S. For further information on this DHS regulation see www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/inspections_carriers_facilities/apis/.

Customs
Information about customs requirements is available from the U.S. Customs & Border Protection. For answers to frequently asked questions such as: Can I take my dog / my cat with me to the U.S.? --- What can I take with me when entering the U.S. (food, medicine, alcoholic beverages ) ---- Can I get a sales tax refund on purchases made in the U.S.? check the U.S. Customs FAQ.

The U.S. Customs & Border Protection also published a fact sheet on
entry and customs regulations for visitors: Restricted/Prohibited Goods

 

Where can I obtain tourist information?

Discover AmericaThe U.S. no longer operates a national tourist office in Germany. Travel brochures may be obtained from the local tourism offices in the U.S. A list of addresses, phone and fax numbers to individual state and territorial Tourism Offices is composed by the Travel Industry Association of America (Discover America).

The Visit USA Committee Germany e.V., a private non-profit group offers a selection of information brochures on travelling to the U.S., and a number of tourist destinations have representations in Germany. List of tourist offices and representations in Germany

Alternatively, try the Travel Planner The Travel Planner which presents links to over 500 official Web sites of U.S. visitors bureaus, airports, airlines, and hotels. Included are over 300 official sites of state and regional Visitors Bureaus, many of which provide online forms to request free travel planning material by mail.

Where can I obtain travel information about a particular city or state?
All of the states now have their own homepages with a wide range of interesting and useful information for tourists. They usually include links to cities and places of interest within each state. Several sites have picklists of states and or cities that allow you to pinpoint your destination. For example, you can also use Yahoo! to home in on the information you need, or the German-language Travel Guides USA-Tipps or magazinUSA.com.

Where can I obtain U.S. road maps to plan my travel route?

Road maps by American and German publishers are readily available at German bookstores and from your local ADAC store (ADAC also offers the AAA TourBooks to its members). Free maps are usually included in the materials you can request from the individual state and territorial Tourism Offices in the U.S. Mapquest offers interactive maps and driving directions on the Internet.

Where can I find information on the West Nile Virus, SARS or other diseases?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers current information.

Weather, time, currency ....

What's the time difference?

Time zones in the U.S.:
EST (Eastern Standard Time) = MEZ - 6 hrs
CST (Central Standard Time) = MEZ - 7 hrs
MST (Mountain Standard Time) = MEZ - 8 hrs
PST (Pacific Standard Time) = MEZ - 9 hrs
Alaskan Time = MEZ - 10hrs
Hawaiian Time = MEZ - 11 hrs
For the current time look up the official U.S. time. This service is provided by the two time agencies of United States: the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and its military counterpart, the U. S. Naval Observatory (USNO) The time shown should generally be accurate within 1 second.
To convert time zones ask the Time Zone Converter.

Is the U.S. on Daylight Saving Time?

Most U.S. states observe Daylight Saving Time (DST), except for Indiana, Arizona and Hawaii. DST in the U.S. begins each year at 2 am on the first Sunday in April and ends at 2 am on the last Sunday in October.

What's the weather like where I'm going?

The websites of the Weather Channel, a 24 hour cable channel, and the national newspaper USA Today are among a number of websites providing current weather reports and 5 day forecasts for U.S. cities.

Where can I find storm, flood and fire warnings?
"Hurricane Season" begins June 1 and ends November 30 each year. The National Hurricane Center provides the latest Hurricane warnings.

NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly from a nearby National Weather Service office. NWR broadcasts National Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day.

The National Fire Weather Page carries warnings of wild fires.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides information on tornados, winter storms and floods at their National Warning Area.

How do I convert the following temperature/weight/speed?
Check with the Online Measurements Converter. Also, most travel guide-books, and possibly your English-German dictionary contain a section on measurement conversions.

What's the current exchange rate?
Ask the currency converter online or the Exchange Rates Calculator, which uses data from the Federal Reserve Bank. 

Accommodation 

Where can I find addresses of hotels and motels?
Materials available upon request from city and regional tourist offices often include a listing of hotels and other accommodations. Addresses of hotels are also listed in many travel guide-books, some even include recommendations. For a list of hotel chains in the U.S. see Yahoo!

Where can I find addresses of alternative accommodation such as youth hostels, YMCAs and B&Bs?

Addresses can be found in many travel guide-books, and on the Internet at YMCA of the USA, YWCA of the USA, Youth Hostelling International, Hostelling International - American Youth Hostels, or Budget Hotels Guide.

For Bed & Breakfast places see the Bed & Breakfast Inns Online and the Professional Association of Innkeepers International or one of the regional guides listed at Yahoo!: Bed and Breakfasts.

Is it possible to trade homes/houses with an American family during our vacation?
Please contact one of the International home exchange organizations found on the Internet at International Home Exchange Organizations.

How do I find addresses of campgrounds & trailer parks?

Check with Go Camping America Directory the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, RV America On Line, KOA's Campground Directory or Woodalls Campground Guide. Campers, hikers, and RV enthusiasts will appreciate the CampNet America web site, which includes links to a wealth of outdoors attractions and a useful U.S./Canada Public Parks Locator Map.

How can I find out about vacations on a dude or guest ranch?
Check with Guest Ranches of North America or Worldwide Ranch Headquarters. Download a free copy of the Dude Ranch Directory from the Dude Ranchers' Association or ask your local travel agent.

Transportation

How do I find information about Greyhound bus schedules, tickets & fares?
Visit the Greyhound web site or your local travel agent.

How do I find information about Amtrak train schedules and the North America Rail Pass?
Contact your local travel agent or visit Amtrak on the Internet. Train fares and information are available online at www.amtrak.com or at the following number 001 (212) 582-6875.

How far is it from ..... ?
How far is it from? (maps.com) helps you calculate the distance between two places.

Is my German driver's license valid in the U.S.? Do I need an international driver's license to rent a car?
The best advice is to carry both your German International Driving Permit and your German driver’s license. Some US states require an International Driving Permit in addition to a German driver’s license. For more information contact the ADAC or your local Straßenverkehrsamt.

What do I need to know about renting a car/motorcycle/motorhome in the U.S.?
Most car rental companies require a major credit card, and that you have held a full license for at least one year, regardless of age. The minimum age for renting a car is normally 21 although it can be as high as 25. Often an additional charge is levied on drivers who are under 25 years of age. We suggest that you check the requirements of your prospective automobile rental company by contacting them directly. Check with your local travel agent before you leave, it may be cheaper to book your rental car in Germany. Information on renting cars is available from Free Travel Tips.com.

What do I need to know about traffic regulations?
Most travel guide-books and the materials available from ADAC provide an overview of traffic regulations, speed limit and road signs. For more in-depth information about state by state rules of the road visit the Online Study Guide for Student Drivers.

May I take a motor vehicle with me on my trip to the U.S.A.?
Yes, you may temporarily import an automobile, trailer, airplane, motorcycle, boat, or similar vehicle for the transportation of yourself, your family, and your guests.
Motor vehicles and motor vehicles equipment for personal use may be imported for a period of one year or less. The vehicle must be imported in connection with your arrival and be owned by you or on order prior to your departure. A vehicle not complying with all applicable Federal laws (EPA + DOT) cannot be sold in the United States. For more information see the U.S. Customs and Border Protection page on importing a car.

How do I find out about 'drive-away' options ? (moving a car from one location to another)
Check with the local chapter of the American Automobile Association (AAA) a few days in advance or contact one of the local relocation companies. They might need someone to move a car from one city to another, sometimes clear across the U.S..... You will find addresses listed in the yellow pages under 'Drive-Away' or 'Automobile Transporters'.

Things To Do 

How do I find information on amusement and theme parks in the U.S.?
Check our links on Attractions in our travel section to find the websites for Amusement and Theme Parks.

Where can I find information about the National Parks and Wildlife Refuges in the U.S.?
The National Park Guide site provides general information on visiting parks, park maps, fees and reservations, and links to all of the National Parks web pages, which contain documents specific to that park.
The National Wildlife Refuge System provides information on wildlife sanctuaries, for information on national forests visit the USDA Forest Service.

How can I obtain a hunting or fishing license?
Please contact the individual state's Department of Fish and Wildlife. You can find the address and phone number information on this list of the State Natural Resource Agencies.

Where can I find information on visiting Native America?
Check the Native Tourism Alliance for addresses and activities.

Cultural and Sports Events

How do I find out about art exhibits at museums and galleries?
Check with the MuseumLink, the exhibition calendar at the Art Museum Network, the Gallery Guide Online or with the city or state you plan to visit.

How do I find out about cultural events in ??? or what's playing at ???
Check with the visitor's bureau at your destination or the venue directly (e.g. to find information on the MET opera season contact the MET.) For more information check the links at our "About the USA" > Arts & Leisure.

How can I get tickets to a cultural or sports event?
Check with your local ticket office (some do offer international ticket sales), or contact one of the ticket offices found on Yahoo!: Tickets, such as Ticketmaster or check our links on Arts & Leisure and Sports.
In many cases you may also reserve tickets through the theater, opera house etc. or through the organizers of a sports event.

Disabled Travelers

Where do I get information for disabled travelers?
For information on barrier-free vacations, accessible air travel, transportation and destinations start with the Disability Travel and Recreation Resources on the Internet.

Where to I get information on how to pass through the security checkpoint as a person with disabilities or medical concerns?
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides detailed information on passing throught the security checkpoint if you have a mobility, hearing, visual or hidden disability, or if you a a person with diabetes, a pacemaker, a person with assistive devices and mobility aids canes, walkers, crutches, prosthetic devices, body braces, and other devices or if you travel with assistant animals.

Do I need "Disabled Parking Permits" as a visitor to the U.S.
Requirements for disabled permits for visiting motorists vary from state to state. In some cases an out of state or international permit is sufficient; in others a local, temporary permit is required. Where applicable, it is worth checking with your car hire company or contacting a local tourist office representing your destination.
Many states' Departments of Motor Vehicles now provide information and/or application forms on their internet websites.

Can I take medicines with me to the United States?
Please check the Frequently Asked Questions at the U.S. Customs & Border Protection. 

Getting Married in the USA

How can I get married while vacationing in the U.S.?
All information of interest to German citizens can be found in: Merkblatt "Deutsche Heiraten in Nordamerika", published by the Bundesverwaltungsamt. You can request this publication from a Beratungsstelle für Auswanderer und Auslandstätige in your area.

For information on legal requirements in the U.S. and the documents you will need, check with the marriage license bureau or the county or city clerk of the place where you would like to get married. For an overview of requirements in the various states look at Marriage License Information on the Internet. MagazineUSA.com offers a good overview over marrying in the United States.