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USA

Currency: U.S. Dollar

Meals

Budget: US$3-5
Mid-range: US$5-20
Top-end: US$20 and upward

Lodging

Budget: US$12-25
Mid-range: US$25-60
Top-end: US$60 and upward

If you camp or stay in hostels, catch buses and self-cater, you could feasibly explore the country on around US$50 a day. Staying in motels and eating at modest cafes will mean you'll hit the US$100 mark, and enjoying the convenience of a rental car will push your daily budget up to US$150. If you want to do the US in style, welcome to the world of credit and consumerism.

You'll save yourself hassle and expense if your traveler's checks are in US dollars. Restaurants, hotels and most stores accept US dollar traveler's checks as if they were cash. Major credit cards are widely accepted; you'll find it hard to perform certain transactions (such as renting a car or reserving tickets over the phone) without one. You may also be able to access your bank account using US ATMs.

Tipping is expected in restaurants and better hotels. The going rate in restaurants is 15% or more of the bill; never tip in a fast-food or self service environment. Taxi drivers, bartenders and hairdressers depend on similar-sized gratuities. Sales taxes vary from state to state but are typically 5-8%, though some states have no sales taxes at all. Top-end accommodation also often attracts a bed tax, which can be as high as 15%. It's worth checking whether quoted prices for lodging include all relevant taxes.





Canada

Currency: Canadian Dollar

Meals

Budget: US$5-10
Mid-range: US$10-30
Top-end: US$30 and upwards

Lodging

Budget: US$15-30
Mid-range: US$30-45
Top-end: US$50 and upwards

For most visitors, the largest expense will be accommodation. Food prices are generally much lower than those in Western Europe, but are a little higher than those in the USA. If you stay in budget accommodation and eat in cafes, expect to spend around US$45 a day, not including long-distance transport. If you stay in motels and eat at restaurants occasionally, you're looking at around US$80 a day.

It's best to change money at companies such as Thomas Cook, which specialises in international transactions. If you can't find a money exchange office or booth, try a bank. American Express and Thomas Cook are the best travelers' checks to have, and you should make sure they are either in US or Canadian dollar denominations. Credit cards are widely accepted, especially Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

Residence in Canada means living and working in Canada. This means that you will be required to file Canadian income taxes. A Canadian resident is required to report all income, whether made in Canada, outside Canada, or both. Students attending school in Canada should also be aware of tax implications that are in place. However, there are convenient guides, forms and student tax software programs available to aid in this. Keep in mind, that even if no income has been made, a tax return still must be filed; you may still be eligible for certain credits.

A 7% Goods & Services Tax (GST) is applicable to all transport, accommodation, restaurant meals and just about anything else you're likely to purchase, including newspapers. On top of this, in most of Canada, a provincial sales tax also must be paid. This can, in some provinces, add 15% to the quoted price, so factor it into your expenses so you don't get a nasty surprise at the cash register.

It's considered normal to tip 15% of the bill. Tips are usually given to waiters, cab drivers, hairdressers, hotel attendants and, by savvy drinkers, bar staff.




Australia

Currency: Australian Dollar

Meals

Budget: US$3-5
Mid-range: US$6-14
Top-end: US$15 and upwards

Lodging

Budget: US$6-17
Mid-range: US$18-55
Top-end: US$60 and upwards

If you're coming from Europe or the USA, Australia is going to look pretty cheap. Food, in particular, is great value. Accommodation is also reasonably priced, and if you're staying in hostels or on-site caravans or camping, and mostly making your own meals you could conceivably get by on about US$20 to US$25 a day. Travel will be your biggest expense - distances are long - so if you're moving around a bit, eating out once or twice a day and staying in budget hotels, plan for around US$50 a day. If you're only coming for a couple of weeks and plan to take a few internal flights, you'll be looking at more like US$100 a day. You'll have no problems changing foreign currencies or cash at almost any bank or exchange bureau. Travellers cheques generally get a better rate than cash, though banks take out a commission. Credit cards (particularly Visa and MasterCard) are widely accepted (and pretty much compulsory if you're going to rent a car), and ATMs all over the country accept credit and Cirrus cards.

Tipping is getting a foothold in Australia, particularly in cafes and restaurants in the bigger cities - 5-15% is the usual. However, you won't be looked down upon if you don't tip. Taxi drivers are always grateful if you leave the change.




NZ

Currency: NZ Dollar

Meals

Budget: US$5-15
Mid-range: US$15-30
Top-end: US$30 and upwards

Lodging

Budget: US$10-20
Mid-range: US$20-100
Top-end: US$100 and upwards

It's possible to travel economically in New Zealand. Budget travellers can expect to get by on less than US$35 a day if camping or staying in hostels and self-catering. Motor camps and motels all have kitchens for guests' use, so staying in these also gives you the option of doing your own cooking. One of the main reasons people come to New Zealand is to participate in the activities the country is known for. Some cost nothing - tramping, swimming, birdwatching - but as so many enjoyable activities are expensive, they can end up being a major part of your travel budget. If you stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and spend money on rafting, bungy jumping and the like, be prepared to outlay about US$100 a day.

The currencies of Australia, the UK, USA, Canada, Germany and Japan are all easily changed in New Zealand. You'll have no trouble with the major travellers' cheques and credit cards. Banks will give cash advances on Visa and MasterCard, but for American Express card transactions you must go to an American Express office.

Tipping is becoming more widespread in New Zealand, although many Kiwis still regard it as a rather odd foreign custom. Nevertheless, it is on the increase, principally in the major centres where there's been more foreign influence. You should tip 5-10% of the bill in a restaurant (not in a simple caf?) if you feel you have received exceptional service.




Brazil

Currency: Brazilian Real

Meals

Budget: US$5-10
Mid-range: US$10-20
Top-end: US$20 and upwards

Lodging

Budget: US$5-20
Mid-range: US$20-70
Top-end: US$70 and upwards

After the long-expected devaluation of the real in 1999, many people anticipated explosive inflation. So far, however, exchange rates and prices have held steady. If you're traveling on buses every couple of days, staying in hotels for US$10 a night, and eating in restaurants or drinking in bars every night, US$40 is a rough estimate of what you would need. If you plan to lie on a beach for a month, eating rice and beans every day, US$20 to US$25 would be enough. Bear in mind that prices for accommodation increase 25-30% from December to February.

Credit cards are now accepted all over Brazil. Visa is the best card to carry for cash advances, finding an ATM that accepts your particular card can be difficult, though. Changing cash and travelers' checks is simple - there are cambios in all but the tiniest towns. It's worth having enough cash to tide you over the weekend, when finding an open change bureau, even in big cities, can be difficult. When buying cash, ask for lots of small bills as change is often unavailable for small transactions.

Most services get tipped a mandatory 10%, often included in the bill. If a waiter is friendly and helpful, you may like to give more. Because of Brazil's high unemployment rate, services that may seem superfluous are customarily tipped. Parking assistants are the most notable as they receive no wages, but petrol-station attendants, shoe shiners and barbers are also frequently tipped. Taxi drivers are an exception: most people round the price up, but a tip is not expected. Bargaining for hotel rooms should become second nature - always ask for a better price. You should also haggle in markets and unmetered taxis.




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Immigration and Visa Services for the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK and Brazil.