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New Orleans Travel Guide
When Jean Baptiste Le Moyne picked out the strategic spot on the Mississippi River for his French colony in 1718, little did he know that he had doomed a future city to tragedy nearly 290 years later. Situated on a swamp, and surrounded by the sea, Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, the subsiding city of New Orleans chose to swim rather than sink with the construction of a system of levees, pumps and canals to protect the city from flooding.
However, on the 30 August 2005, Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst hurricanes ever to hit the United States, slammed into the region, catapulting New Orleans into world headlines that followed the struggle of the community to cope with extensive damage, loss of life and the flooding of more than 75 percent of the city.
Despite the 'I told you so' attitude of much of the world, the proud residents of New Orleans were more determined than ever to rebuild their city, to bring back the jazz, the extravagant celebrations and the 'Big Easy' lifestyle that once made it the party capital of America. Local musicians have returned home, after-dark options are burgeoning and the strains of jazz and blues rhythms are once again echoing through the streets of the atmospheric French Quarter. Legendary Bourbon Street continues to host carnivals and parades, including the annual Mardi Gras, which has a reputation for being the most scandalous and sensational event on the world's festival calendar.
Besides all the partying, New Orleans has plenty of serious sightseeing to offer. The city is full of picturesque historic buildings, lush parks, interesting museums displaying everything from voodoo culture to modern technology, riverboats and historic streetcars, and of course jazz cafes. But for now evidence of the calamity, as well as the city's determination to survive, take first place in any visitor's 'to do' list.
When in New Orleans, the vintage electric rail vehicles or 'streetcars' are the way to go. With various lines crossing the city, most destinations are accessible by this means of transport. Various VisiTour passes allow unlimited rides on buses and streetcars, and for streetcar fare and route information visit . The Canal Street Ferry takes passengers across to the suburb of Algiers and is free for pedestrians, offering fine views of the city skyline. Walking, cycling, taxis and rental cars are some of the other options; many tourist areas, like the French Quarter, are most enjoyable on foot. Driving a car in New Orleans may be difficult as many roads are still inaccessible due to hurricane damage.
United States of America Contacts
United States Tourist Office:
United States Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7499 9000.
United States Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 688 5335.
United States Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6214 5600.
United States Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 431 4000.
United States Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 668 8777.
United States Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 462 6000.
British Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 588 6500.
Canadian Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 682 1740.
Australian Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 797 3000.
South African Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 232 4400.
Irish Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 462 3939.
New Zealand Embassy, Washington DC: +1 202 328 4800.
Laws vary from state to state, including speed limit, fines and punishment. The age at which you may legally buy and consume alcohol is 21 years.
Visitors entering the country under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) must have a machine-readable passport (MRP) that has a bar code on the photo page. Travellers under the VWP must have passports that include biometrics if they wish to enter the country without a visa, which means that passports must contain unique personal data such as fingerprints or iris details. All passports must contain a digital photo image in order to travel visa-free. All visitors to the USA have a photograph and two fingerprints taken by an inkless scanner on arrival, including those travelling visa-free under the Visa Waiver Programme. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers travelling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. If departing from the USA, a valid passport is required by immigration authorities. All visitors who do not need a visa, under the US Visa Waiver Programme, need to register online three days before travel. This allows the US government to screen all visitors before travel. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.