Fountain in Chicago

Helpful info

From road rules to tipping guidelines, get the inside scoop on all things practical before you travel.

Accessibility

Here are a few of the many resources that make Chicago so accessible:
Accessibility equipment

Attractions and events

Interpreters

Transportation services

Vacation planning

Age regulations

  • Legal car rental age: 21, with surcharges for those under 25
  • Legal driving age: 16
  • Legal drinking and gambling age: 21
  • Legal age to purchase cigarettes and tobacco: 21
  • A valid photo ID is required.

Alcohol

  • The legal drinking age is 21.
  • A valid photo ID is required.
  • Open containers cannot be taken outside drinking-establishment premises.
  • It is customary to tip bartenders; generally, $1 per drink ordered.
  • Consuming alcohol while traveling in a vehicle is illegal for both drivers and passengers. It is also illegal to transport alcohol with a broken seal.

Electricity

The U.S. uses 120 volt, 60 hertz. Tip: buy a Type-B adapter plug NEMA 5-15 to ensure your electrical items work while you’re visiting.

Emergency services

SERVICENUMBER
Police/Fire Emergency911
Police/Fire/City Services Non-emergency311 (in Chicago)
(312) 774-5000 (outside Chicago)

Phone calls

Check with your local service provider for an international plan before you visit.

  • Telephone area codes: 312 and 773
  • Directory assistance: 411

Postal services

Find your closest post office here. Or call 800-ASK-USPS (800-275-8777).

Self-service kiosks at most post offices can dispense both domestic and international stamps. Main downtown branch: Loop Post Office, 211 S. Clark St.

Prescription drugs

  • Carry a copy of your prescription for all prescriptions you will be taking while in the U.S.
  • Some drugs that are common or legal in other countries may require a prescription or may be 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.

Road rules

  • Always drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Speeds are measured in miles-per-hour; speed limits are clearly displayed on road signs.
  • Age 16 is the legal driving age. Car rental companies often require renters to be 21, with surcharges for those under 25.
  • You must have a valid driver’s license and auto insurance. International drivers must have a photo ID and their native driver’s license.
  • It is illegal to talk or text on a mobile phone while driving (fines range from $50-$200).
  • Consuming alcohol while traveling in a vehicle is illegal for both drivers and passengers. It is also illegal to transport alcohol with a broken seal.

Check out the full list of Illinois Rules of the Road.

Sales tax

  • A 10.25% sales tax is applied in the city of Chicago.
  • Hotel Accommodations Tax is currently 17.4%.

Smoking

Smoking as well as “vaping” or the use of e-cigarettes, vape pens, and e-hookahs is prohibited in enclosed public places, and within 15 feet of the entrance of these establishments.

Time zones

Chicago is on Central Standard Time (CST). That’s 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), 1 hour behind New York City (EST), 1 hour ahead of Mountain Time (MST), and 2 hours ahead of Los Angeles (PST).

Tipping

  • Taxi drivers, bartenders, and waiters generally receive a 20% gratuity on the pre-tax amount of your bill for standard service, though it is appropriate to leave a 25%-plus gratuity for exceptional service.
  • Hotel doormen and valet parking attendants are tipped approximately $2.
  • Bellhops are tipped $2 per bag.
  • Hotel chambermaids are usually tipped $2 per day.
Cloudgate (The Bean) at night

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