FAQs – Travel and Tourism

Transportation Security Administration officials are responsible for screening checked luggage. Either by choice or by chance, your luggage may be selected for examination. You may lock your luggage if you wish. However, if TSA screeners cannot open your checked baggage through other means, then they may have to break the lock.

TSA suggests that you help prevent the need to break your locks by using a TSA recognized locking mechanism. TSA is not liable for damage caused to locked bags that must be opened for security purposes.

TSA screeners will secure your bag if they need to open it for screening. If your bag has a TSA recognized locking mechanism, and TSA officials open your locked bag, they will re-lock the bag after the screening process.

TSA recognized locking mechanisms are available in retail outlets around Australia.

No, an Australian citizen (non-resident alien: defined as a person who is not a citizen or resident of the United States) who has won money gambling on a holiday trip to the United States cannot claim back the 30% tax withheld by the United States government.

Australians travelling to the United States on holiday for less than 90 days generally do not need a visa if certain conditions are met, however, from 12 January 2009 you will need to apply for an electronic travel authorization BEFORE departing Australia.

An International Driving Permit serves as proof of validation of your Australian state license and as another form of photo identification. However, you must also carry your Australian state license. Some rental car agencies require an international driver’s license as part of the agreement. Contact your local Australian motoring association for more information.

Useful websites for Australians planning to drive overseas:

For more information on driving in the U.S. see the USA.gov site and the Discover America site.

Australian Citizens

Please Note: The U.S. Embassy in Canberra CANNOT facilitate White House tours for non U.S. Citizens
White House tours for non U.S. citizens are organised through their respective Embassies. The Embassy of Australia in Washington, D.C., does not assist in setting up White House tours for Australian citizens: “This [clearance] process is particularly complex and time-consuming for non-US citizens. Unfortunately, the Embassy of Australia is not able to support this process for the large number of Australians who visit Washington every year. 

U.S. Citizens
Public tours of the White House are available for groups of ten (10) or more people. Requests must be submitted by American citizens through their Member of Congress and are accepted up to six months in advance. These self-guided tours are available from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (excluding federal holidays), and are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis approximately one month in advance of the requested date. Please submit your request as early as possible since a limited number of tours are available. All White House tours are free of charge. For the most current tour information, please call the 24-hour line at [0011 1] 202-456-7041. White House tours may be subject to last minute cancellation.

The U.S. government does not refund sales tax to foreign visitors.

You can only claim back the sales tax for purchases from selected stores in the state of Louisiana.

You cannot claim back sales tax from any other state. Each state in the U.S. has the right to charge its own local taxes, including a sales tax on certain purchases. The sales tax varies from state to state and from item to item. This sales tax is not the same as the GST in Australia or the VAT in the United Kingdom and cannot be claimed back except, as noted above, in Louisiana.

The nearest U.S. Customs office is the regional office in Singapore:

Customs and Border Protection
American Embassy
27 Napier Road
Singapore 258508

Telephone: 0011-65-6476-9135
Fax: 0011-65-6476-9188

If you have questions about taking animal or plant material into the United States, please contact the local office of the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service on (02) 6214-5857.

Australian passports have been machine-readable for many years. You may verify this and check on your own passport by contacting the Australian Passport Information Service on 131 232.

You must be 21 to bring alcoholic beverages into the United States.

There is no federal limit on the amount of alcohol someone may import into the U.S. for personal use, however, large quantities might raise the suspicion that the importation is for commercial purposes, and a CBP officer could require you to obtain an Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) import license before releasing it.

Please be aware that State ABC laws govern how much alcohol a person may import into their state without a license and those laws are enforced by CBP. You must check with the state ABC board where your shipment will enter the country to determine their limits.

Duty rates on alcoholic beverages are based on the percent of alcohol per liter in the product – not on units of packaging such as per bottle/case. Duty on wine and beer is generally low, $1-2 per liter, while fortified wines and spirits are considerably higher. Duty rates can be obtained in Chapter 22 “Beverages, Spirits and Vinegar,” (PDF 851 KB) in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States.

Information on the Federal Excise Tax is available from the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau.

If you are planning a trip to the United States and you have access to the internet, we suggest you search for the specific locations you wish to visit. All states, big cities, and well-known tourist attractions have their own websites.

Your local public library may offer access to the internet or you may ask a librarian to help you find books about the area you would like to visit.

Narcotics and dangerous drugs are prohibited entry. There are severe civil and/or criminal penalties if imported. According to the CBP publication Welcome to the United States: a guide for international visitors (PDF 470 KB):

A traveler requiring medicines that contain potentially addictive drugs or narcotics (e.g., some cough medicines, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antidepressants, or stimulants) should:

  • Carry drugs, medicines and similar products in their original containers.
  • Carry only the quantity of such substances that a person with that condition would normally carry for personal use.
  • Declare all drugs, medicines, and similar products to the CBP officer.

We also suggest you obtain either a prescription or written statement from your personal physician that the medicine is for use under a doctor’s direction and that it is necessary for your physical well-being while traveling.

Drug products that are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may not be acceptable.

Other websites you may find useful:

This advice applies to all medications taken into the United States by travelers.

Australian citizens should be aware of this advice from the Australian Government Health Insurance Commission on Taking & sending PBS medicines overseas.

The continental United States is divided into four times zones: Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific. Alaska and Hawaii are each in their own time zone. The continental states observe daylight savings time during the summer months.

Some websites you may find useful:

Technically, the U.S. does not observe any national holidays as each state has jurisdiction over its own holidays that are designated by legislative enactment or executive proclamation. In practice, however, most states observe the federal legal public holidays, even though the President and the U.S. Congress can legally designate holidays only for the District of Columbia and for federal employees.

Federal legal public holidays are New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

When a holiday falls on a Sunday or a Saturday, it is usually observed on the following Monday or the preceding Friday. Government and business closing practices vary. In most states, the office of the secretary of state can provide details for holiday closings.

The following are legal or public holidays in most states:

  • New Year’s Day – January 1
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Third Monday in January
  • Washington’s Birthday or President’s Day – Third Monday in February
  • Memorial Day or Decoration Day – Last Monday in May
  • Independence Day – July 4
  • Labor Day – First Monday in September
  • Columbus Day – Second Monday in October
  • Veterans Day – November 11
  • Thanksgiving – Fourth Thursday in November
  • Christmas Day – December 25

The dates of school holidays vary from state to state and from school district to school district, however, generally speaking, the following applies:

  • The school year ends by mid-June at the latest and resumes in mid-August at the earliest. Most schools will be in session on or before the first Tuesday in September (after the Labor Day holiday which is the first Monday in September).
  • Schools will close for a week during March or April, often around Easter but not always.
  • Schools will close for two weeks in December, up to and including the New Year’s Day holiday.