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Information About the U.S. for International Attendees

SLAS2019 welcomes participants from around the world. Please find important information below regarding travel to the United States.

Business Hours

Business hours in the United States are extensive in the services/retail sectors. One can shop for clothing, food and other items, or find an open restaurant very late in the evening, and in some cases, 24 hours per day. Business hours for banks and government agencies, such as the post office, are more limited — typically between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. — though some may have extended hours.

SLAS2019 is located at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which is within walking distance of many top DC attractions, Metro stops and both official hotels. The Convention Center is in the Shaw Neighborhood of DC, which offers extensive options for dining, retail, entertainment and shopping. Most establishments often stay open until 9:00 p.m. or later. For complete details regarding this and other DC neighborhoods, click here.

Calendar Dates

Calendar dates are expressed in the month-day-year order in the United States. This is contrary to the system used in many other countries. For instance, the 4th of January, 2019, will be listed as 01/04/2019 rather than 04/01/2019.


Foreign currency exchange bureaus are becoming increasingly scarce in the United States and often hard to find.

ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) or cash machines are located on almost every block in the United States and are available at or near all SLAS2019 meeting locations and within official hotels. ATMs are also located at the airport and in many convenience stores or gas stations. You will need your personal identification number (PIN) to withdraw money. Most ATMs accept VISA, MasterCard and American Express credit cards, as well as ATM cards from other U.S. banks. Expect to be charged a transaction fee (between $2 to $5 USD) if you are withdrawing money at an ATM owned by a bank other than your own. It is highly recommended that you complete your ATM transactions at the airport before traveling to the conference site and store your money securely.

Credit and debit cards are widely used in the United States and accepted at almost all businesses.

Most businesses in the United States accept payment in the form of travelers checks, and checks can also be exchanged for cash at a bank. Travelers are advised to have them issued in U.S. dollars because foreign currency checks are difficult to exchange. The three types of travelers checks most widely recognized are VISA, American Express and Thomas Cook. Make a record of the check numbers and keep the information in a separate place in case the checks are lost or stolen. Remember — photo identification, such as your passport, is required to use a travelers check. If you plan to exchange travelers checks, please do so before traveling to the conference site.

Drinking Age (Alcohol)

The legal age for buying and consuming alcoholic beverages is 21. Proof of age (a government-issued photo ID card, such as your passport) is required when you purchase alcohol at stores or restaurants.


The United States uses 110-120 volts AC (60 cycles), compared with 220-240 volts AC (50 cycles) used in most countries in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. If your small electrical appliances use 220-240 volts, you will need a 110-volt transformer and a plug adapter with two flat parallel pins to operate them in the US. Converters are difficult to find in the United States, so it is recommended that you bring one with you if you anticipate that you will need one.

Embassies and Consulates

All embassies are in Washington, D.C. International visitors can obtain telephone numbers for their embassies and consulates by calling "Information" in Washington, D.C., at +1 (202) 555-1212.

Emergency Medical Care (Medical, Fire, Police)

Dial 911 in case of an emergency. If you become ill during your visit, please alert a member of the SLAS staff. If there is a medical emergency, dial 911 from any phone. SLAS cannot cover the cost of medical expenses, so please consider travel insurance options available to you before traveling to the United States.

SLAS and the official conference venues have extensive emergency procedures in place and a licensed EMT will be onsite at SLAS2019 during Exhibition hours.

Legal Aid

If you are stopped by the police for a minor infraction of the law (such as a traffic violation), never attempt to pay the fine directly to a police officer. All fines must be paid to the clerk of the court. If you are accused of a more serious offense, it is wise to say and do nothing before consulting a lawyer. Call your embassy or consulate immediately for assistance.

Postal Service

The domestic rate for postage is $0.50 USD per ounce. Shipping rates vary for packages and flat mailers based on weight, destination and carrier.

There is a FedEx Office located in the Marriott Marquis Washington, DC to assist with any shipping needs you may have while attending SLAS2019.


Please take the precautions you would take travelling to any large city. Avoid deserted areas such as dark streets or empty city parks at night. Avoid carrying valuables with you on the street — especially large amounts of cash — and keep expensive cameras or electronic equipment in your bag or covered when not in use. Both SLAS2019 official hotels offer locking safes in all guest rooms. It is recommended that you use these to lock valuables when you are not in your room.

SLAS cannot guarantee protection of your personal property but will make every effort to help you secure your items.


In the U.S., smoking laws vary by city. In many locations, smoking is prohibited in indoor public places, including all restaurants and their attached bars, theaters, educational facilities, auditoriums and public transportation as well as within 25-50 feet of a public entrance. If you smoke, take care to ensure that you are in an area where it is permissible to do so. Tobacco products may not be sold to anyone under 18 years of age.

SLAS2019 is a smoke-free environment and smoking areas are not designated at official SLAS2019 functions or venues.


In the United States, there is no VAT (value-added tax) or other indirect tax assessed on most things at a national level. Every state, city and county have the right to levy its own tax on purchases. Hotels add additional taxes as do some restaurants. Unlike the VAT in many countries, sales taxes are not included in the sticker prices; they are added to your bill at the checkout counter. Taxes are added to restaurant bills at the time the bill is presented and usually itemized on the receipt.

Telephone Calls

Costs, especially for long-distance service and operator-assisted calls, can vary widely. Generally, hotel surcharges on all calls are extremely high. It is more cost effective for visitors to use a public pay telephone or a pre-paid telephone card. Many convenience stores and newsstands sell pre-paid calling cards. Local calls made from public pay phones in most places cost $0.50. Pay phones do not accept pennies, and few take anything larger than a quarter ($0.25) and are not readily available in the United States. To place an international call, dial 011 and then the country code, city/area code and phone number. If you need assistance, press "0" to speak with an operator. If you are attending a conference at a hotel site, a phone will be available in your guest room. If you are attending a conference at a school or college site, please inquire in advance about access to a telephone.

You will need to purchase a special data plan to use your cell phone in the United States. Please contact your plan carrier. SLAS2019 provides free Wi-Fi for attendees in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center meeting rooms and at both SLAS2019 official hotels. You may be able to contact your friends and family using online communication methods.


Outside of official SLAS2019 functions, it is customary to tip bartenders, waiters and cab drivers between 15% and 20% dependent on quality of service. When paying a restaurant bill, make sure the tip has not already been included (it will appear as a "Service Charge" or "Gratuity" on the receipt). Tips are not expected in facilities or functions officially associated with SLAS2019.

Time Zones

The continental United States has four time zones: Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific. Washington, D.C. is on US Eastern time.

Visa Application and Waiver Program

The U.S. requires the citizens of many foreign countries to obtain visas to enter the United States. If you are not a U.S. citizen and are intending to travel to SLAS2019, please ensure that you obtain the correct visa to enter the country.

The information below is subject to change, so be sure to check details specific to your situation.

Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of participating countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business (visitor [B] visa purposes only), for stays of 90 days or less, without obtaining a visa.

More information on the VWP

To travel without a visa on the VWP, you must have authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a U.S. bound air or sea carrier. ESTA is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) automated web-based system to determine eligibility to travel without a visa to the United States for tourism or business.

More information on ESTA

Visas from Countries Not Covered by the VWP
Citizens of countries not covered by the VWP must obtain a visa through their local U.S. Embassy. Applicants are advised to allow up to four months to obtain a visa for entry into the U.S. Please note that fees are applicable to visa applications. See below for more information:

Registration Information and Invitation Letters

When you register for the SLAS2019 from outside the United States and your country DOES NOT participate in the Visa Waiver Program (see list above), SLAS2019 will provide a letter of invitation upon request. You must first register for the SLAS2019 Conference and Exhibition to be eligible to request a letter of invitation.

Click here for registration. During the registration process, you will have the opportunity to request and download a letter of invitation using the registration dashboard.

Please contact SLAS2019 Registration if you have questions about the letter of invitation procedure.

Due to the fact that an application for a visa can be a lengthy process, SLAS2019 recommends that you start your visa application process early: 90 to 120 days prior to the conference.

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