A nutshell about to [K]rack

Chicago: A Second-to-none City [Take Three]

Tips

HOW TO HAIL A CAB

  • Cabs are harder to find in residential neighborhoods and less densely populated areas of the city. If you’re trying to get a cab in one of these areas, find a busy intersection.
  • Stand on the curb facing oncoming traffic. DO NOT stand in the street.
  • Cabs that are available will have the light atop their cars turned on. Raise your hand as the cab approaches to gain the driver’s attention.
  • If cabs are unavailable or if you have difficulty finding one, call a cab company and give them a pickup location (i.e. a nearby address or intersection).

HOW TO UNDERSTAND YOUR CAB FARE

  • Most cabs can accept credit card payments. That said, it’s wise to ask your driver ahead of time, particularly if you’re not carrying enough cash to cover your fare.
  • Cab fare in Chicago starts at $3.25 as soon as you enter the vehicle. From there, your fare will increase $0.20 for every 36 seconds of elapsed time. A clearly displayed meter is a fixture of every cab, which allows you to monitor fare increases.
  • Most cabs charge flat rates for transportation downtown to and from the airports (O’Hare and Midway). Typically, these rates are posted in your cab.
  • If you’re sharing your cab with one passenger, there is an additional $1 charge. For each passenger extra, there is an additional $0.50 charge.
  • To compensate for rising gas costs, a new city ordinance allows a surcharge of $1 to be added to all fares when the average price for a gallon of gas exceeds $3.20 in the Chicago area for seven consecutive business days.
  • It’s standard to tip the driver about 15 percent of your total fare. If your driver helps you with your baggage, and additional $1 or $2 per bag can be added.

FINDING TRANSPORTATION FOR VISITORS WITH DISABILITIES

  • Minivans equipped with wheelchair-accessible ramps, securements and seatbelts are offered by man cab companies in Chicago
  • To order an accessible taxi, call the toll-free centralized dispatch service at 1.800.281.4466
  • Chicago’s public transportation system is available for individuals with disabilities and offers a reduced fare. For accessible trains and buses and to plan an accessible route, visit http://tripsweb.rtachicago.com.

TIPS FOR TRAVEL SERVICES

  • Tipping is customary, but not necessary if you feel you’ve been mistreated or received particularly poor service. Ask to speak to a supervisor first, skipping a tip is sometimes perceived as insulting.
  • In restaurants: tip servers 15-20% of the bill. Bartenders should receive roughly $1 per drink with extra compensation for specialty cocktails. In self-serve food establishments, tipping is optional. If you’re receiving food that is delivered, a suggested tip is around 10% of your bill.
  • In hotels: if the concierge arranges tickets, a dinner reservation or another specific service, tip a minimum of $5. Valet drivers should receive $2 or $3 and the doorman should be given $2 for hailing a cab or assisting you with luggage.
  • As spas and salons: Leave a 20% tip for your stylist or service provider.

DRIVING

  • In the United States, drive on the right side of the road.
  • 16-years-old is the legal driving edge. Car rental companies rely on a different standard of minimum age, often requiring renters to be 21-years-old with surcharges for people under 25-years-old.
  • If driving a private vehicle, you are required to possess a valid driver’s license and insurance. International driver are not required to carry an international driving permit in the U.S., but must possess a photo ID along with their native driver’s license.
  • Speeds are measured in miles-per-hour and speed limits are clearly displayed by signage along streets and roadways.
  • In Chicago, talking on your cell phone while driving a car is illegal. Fines range from $50 to over $200.
  • Consuming alcohol while traveling in a vehicle is illegal for drivers AND passengers. Specially chartered vehicles like limousines and particular kinds of buses are an exception.
  • It is illegal to transport alcohol with a broken seal. If you’re transporting alcohol with a broken seal, open bottles should be stored in the trunk. Violators face fines up to $2,500.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

  • Carry a copy of your prescription for any or all drugs you are taking in the U.S.
  • Some drugs that are common or legal in other countries may require a prescription or could be totally illegal in the U.S.
  • You are required to report all imported medications to U.S. Customs
  • Carry all prescription medications in their original and intended containers.

SALES TAX

  • A 10.25% tax is applied to all non-perishable goods. A 2% tax is applied to grocery items and medical supplies.
  • An additional 1% tax applies to food and beverage purchases in the downtown area of Chicago.
  • Car rentals in Chicago are taxed at a rate of 20%
  • Hotel rooms in Chicago are taxed at a rate of 15.4%
  • Soft drinks in Chicago are taxed at a rate of 13.25%
  • Bottled water carries a tax of $0.05 per bottle.

CELL PHONES & OTHER ELECTRONICS

  • If you’re visiting Chicago from another company, many of your electronics may require an adapter to operate with the 110 voltage socket in the U.S. Many of these adapters are available at airports and electronic stores.
  • Without an international plan, many cell phones will not work in the U.S. Check with your service provider before visiting Chicago.
Going Frugal?

If you are looking to have a blast in Chicago without breaking the bank, the first thing you’ll need is an Unlimited Ride Card from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).  This will allow you to traverse the city at a fraction of the cost of paying for cab fees or individual rides on the train, or as we call it in Chicago, the ‘L’.

Chicago’s ‘L’, its rapid transit line, acquired its nickname because the majority of the system is elevated. A one day all access pass will run you $10, so if you want to travel easily throughout the city, this is definitely your most cost effective option.

Next on the agenda, dancing! What better way could you spend a beautiful Chicago summer night than dancing in the famous Grant Park?  The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events offers a diverse lineup of dance styles from around the world, offered weekly,  and each with an hour long free introductory dance lesson followed by music and social dancing.

Looking for something a bit more relaxing?  Try Chicago’s movies in the parks, which features over 150 showings of current as well as classic movies in multiple parks throughout the city. Another free and fun way to spend an evening in the city, grab your favorite blanket and enjoy!

For all the art fanatics, the famous Art Institute of Chicago offers completely free entry every Thursday evening.  The Chicago Cultural Center, conveniently located near Millennium Park, also has many free events throughout the year.  These events include film showings, lectures, music, dance, theater and art exhibits.  The Chicago Water Tower City Gallery is another wonderful hotspot for art lovers.  It showcases displays of Chicago-based photography from a variety of local photographers, and is also the one of the oldest water towers in the United States.

In short, Chicago is a lively city full of art and culture. Even on a budget the city has a plethora of exciting things to keep your mind expanding.

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