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Houston

Downtown Houston

Practical Info about Houston

Getting around the city

Visitors to Houston are well advised to hire a car, which is relatively inexpensive and provides the quickest and most convenient way to navigate the spread-out city. There are plenty of car parks and a well-managed road system. To hire a car, a full national driver's license is required and drivers must be at least 25 years (some companies hire cars to those aged 21 to 24 with surcharges). Those opting for public transport will find that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) has it well covered with an efficient and extensive bus service, as well as a light rail line which links Downtown, Midtown, the Museum District, Hermann Park, the Texas Medical Center and Reliant Park. Correct change is required for on-board bus fare boxes, or purchase tokens or a day pass in advance from local stores sporting the Metro sign. Taxis are a rather expensive option, though readily available downtown.

Time

GMT -6 (GMT -5 from March to November).

Electricity

120 volts, 60Hz. Plugs are mainly the type with two flat pins, though three-pin plugs are also widely used. European appliances without dual-voltage capabilities will require an adapter.

Currency

The official currency is the US Dollar (USD), which is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards are widely accepted. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

Communication

The international country dialling code for the United States is +1. Mobile networks cover most of the country, including all urban areas, however unless you have a tri-band phone it is likely your cellular phone from home will not work in the United States. Internet cafes are prevalent in most towns and cities.

Emergency number

Emergencies: 911

Visa and health information

Everything about visa and health information

Public holidays

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2014 2015
New Years Day 1 Jan 1 Jan
Martin Luther King Day 20 Jan 19 Jan
Presidents Day 17 Feb 16 Feb
Memorial Day 26 May 25 May
Independence Day 4 Jul 4 Jul
Labour Day 1 Sep 7 Sep
Columbus Day 13 Oct 12 Oct
Veterans Day 11 Nov 11 Nov
Thanksgiving Day 27 Nov 26 Nov
Christmas Day 25 Dec 25 Dec

Climate

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Houston has a humid subtropical climate, prevailing winds bringing in the heat from the deserts of Mexico and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico during most of the year. Summers are swelteringly hot and humid, making air-conditioning a necessity rather than a luxury. Summers are characterised by afternoon thunderstorms, which bring rain most days, and sometimes tornadoes. Winters, by contrast, are cool and temperate, with no snow but some rain. The coolest month is January.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport

www.fly2houston.com/iah

Getting to the city

Numerous shuttle services, including minibuses and limousines, are available from the airport to downtown Houston and a variety of other destinations, including the Gulf Coast resort city of Galveston. SuperShuttle shared-ride service picks up from any home or business. The Houston Metro offers public bus services from the south side of Terminal C, including an express airport bus. Courtesy vans are operated by various hotels and there are courtesy telephones in the baggage claim area.

Car rental

The airport is served by major car rental companies who operate from a Consolidated Car Rental Facility, reached by shuttle bus from the terminals. Companies represented include Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National and Thrifty.

Airport taxi's

Metered taxis are available outside each terminal. An average fare to downtown Houston is $53. A $2.75 departure fee will be added to the meter, plus $1 should the journey be between 8pm and 6am.

Transfer between terminals

The TerminalLink automated people mover connects Terminals B, C, E and the International Arrivals Building. There is also an underground inter-terminal train that connects the five terminal buildings.

Facilities

Facilities at the airport include dozens of food and beverage establishments from formal dining to fast food. There are also many newsstands and speciality shops throughout the airport. Duty-free shops are available in the international terminal. ATMs and currency exchange are available throughout the airport, as are business services including fax, photocopying and internet facilities. Disabled facilities are good.

Parking

Parking rates start at $3 per hour with a $19 daily maximum, and parking lots are located near all the terminals. A free shuttle service connects the parking facilities to the terminals. Note that all vehicles entering the A/B and Terminal C garages will be searched by security personnel.

Internet

Wifi is available through Boingo.