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Entry

Important notice for entry into the United States as of Jan. 12, 2009

As of Jan. 12, 2009, all nationals of VWP countries traveling temporarily to the United States for business or pleasure must apply for ESTA authorization before traveling by air or sea to the United States.

VWP travelers who fail to present an ESTA travel authorization after the ESTA system becomes mandatory may be denied entry by air or sea; face longer wait times; and may be denied entry clearance at the point of entry in the United States.

The rule does not affect U.S. citizens traveling abroad.

ESTA Application:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends obtaining electronic travel authorization as soon as travel to the United States is planned under the Visa Waiver Program, but no later than 72 hours before departure. However, the electronic travel authorization system is designed to allow coverage of last-minute travelers and those traveling on short notice due to emergencies.
Note: Accompanied and unaccompanied children, regardless of age, must have their own ESTA authorization and VWP travel authorization.

To apply for ESTA:
https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

Please refer to the information provided by the U.S. Embassy, at the following link:
https://de.usembassy.gov/

Important rules for your vacation

There are some traffic rules in the States that you may not be familiar with from Europe.
For example, you are allowed to turn right on red while respecting the right of way, as long as this is not explicitly forbidden. Then there is the famous stop sign with the additional notice “4-Way”. This sign means that the right of way is regulated according to the order of the arriving vehicles. The first to arrive at the intersection has the right of way, the second to go next, and so on.
In the numerous school zones, there is a very strict speed limit at certain times (usually 20 miles/hour), which you should abide by. Times are posted on signs and sometimes supported by a flashing yellow light. School buses that stop to let children on or off may not be overtaken; this also applies to oncoming traffic unless the lanes are divided by a traffic island.

Very important: Here in America, overtaking is done on the left as well as on the right. So be careful when changing lanes!
You will notice that Florida’s traffic police are very eager. They are hidden behind bushes, buildings, intersections and billboards. From these positions, they monitor traffic.
If a patrol catches you breaking a traffic law, they will follow you with their flashing lights on. Then immediately pull over to the side of the road and bring your vehicle to a stop. Do not get out of the vehicle without being asked; put your hands on the steering wheel and wait for instructions from the police officer.

Also be aware of the following traffic laws

  • In Florida, seat belts are mandatory for both the driver and passenger. Children under four years of age belong in a child safety seat.
  • Adhere to the speed limits. On the highway, this usually means 55 – 70 miles per hr.
  • If police stop a vehicle on the shoulder of the highway, all other vehicles must move to the passing lane.
  • Do not park on the curb and never park in a tow-away zone.
  • Always carry your driver’s license and vehicle documents (or rental car agreement).

Here’s perhaps the most important tip:

If you are caught drunk driving (alcohol level of 0.8 per mille), it means not only license revocation but also jail time, tourist or not.
The laws are extremely strict. The next day you will then be brought before the judge who will set the bail amount. After that you will get a court date.
Unlike in Germany, you are already liable to prosecution if you have only one open container of alcohol in your vehicle, whether filled or empty. Also the passenger as well as all other passengers are strictly forbidden to drink alcohol in the car.
So alcohol and opened alcoholic containers have to stay in the trunk.

Enclosed is a list for the most important tips for a USA trip.

Vacation preparation

  • Are passports still valid at the time of travel? Children also need a regular passport!
  • Apply for ESTA travel authorization at least 72 hours before travel: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/
  • Conclusion of an international health insurance
  • Are credit cards still valid for the duration of the vacation?
  • Copies of important documents

you might want to take this with you:

  • ESTA printouts
  • Credit cards, cash
  • Printout of flight booking or confirmation
  • Driver’s license / International driver’s license)
  • Travel adapter, check electrical devices for suitability for 110 V
  • Possibly ADAC membership card

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