Louisiana is located in the southern part of the United States, bordering Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, and the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana was named after Louis XIV of France. Sieur de la Salle claimed the territory drained by the Mississippi River for France and called it La Louisane, meaning “Land of Louis.” There are still remnants of French influence throughout Louisiana, seen in the food, architecture, and the high number of French speaking locals.
Louisiana is the only state in the US with the political subdivisions known as parishes, which are local governmental separations akin to counties. The largest parish is East Baton Rouge. Many of the more urban environments of Louisiana have an extremely multicultural and multilingual heritage, recalling 18th century French, Spanish, Native American, and African cultures.
Louisiana is also the home of New Orleans, which is well known for its distinct French Creole architecture, as well as its cross-cultural and multilingual heritage. New Orleans is famous for its cuisine, music (particularly as the birthplace of jazz and its most famous patriarch, Louis Armstrong), and its annual celebrations and festivals, most notably, Mardi Gras. The city is often referred to as the “most unique” in America.
- How do I get to Louisiana? How do I get around once I'm there?
- What do I need to know about money?
- Do I need a Visa?
- What is the climate like?
- What are business hours?
- What are some laws that I should be aware of?
- What are some local customs that I should be aware of?
- Anything else I need to know?
How do I get to Louisiana? How do I get around once I'm there?
Louisiana has several major airports, including Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, Alexandria International Airport, and Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport. These are all easily accessible from destinations both within the United States and internationally.
By land, the Amtrak train system can be used both to enter the state from neighboring territories and to travel between cities in Louisiana. However, the train system is not terribly efficient, and it is often much simpler and more effective to rent a car.
What do I need to know about money?
Most major American and international banks have a strong presence throughout Louisiana, therefore, it is unlikely that you will have a problem finding an ATM when you require cash. Many places accept major credit cards.
Tipping is standard practice across America. In city restaurants, tipping 15% of the bill is the minimum expected, and high-end restaurants expect around 20%. Bartenders expect $1 per drink. Taxi drivers and hairdressers expect 10% to 15%. Skycaps at airports and porters at nice hotels expect $1 a bag or so.
Do I need a Visa?
Entry requirements for the United States continue to evolve as the country fine-tunes its national security guidelines. Everyone should double-check current visa and passport regulations before planning a trip. In general, the US Department of State is a good place to start if you are unsure of your status. Most Canadian citizens and many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can come to the United States without a visa if they meet certain requirements. All Visa Waiver Program travelers must present a machine-readable passport at the U.S. port of entry to enter the US without a visa; otherwise a U.S. visa is required. CLICK HERE for more information about the Visa Waiver Program with a list of participating countries.
Please note that all travelers eligible to visit the US under the Visa Waiver Program must now obtain approval before they travel through the US' Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA is an online system run by the US government, determining the preliminary eligibility of visitors to travel under the Visa Waiver Program, prior to setting out. Take a look at the ESTA website for more information.
What is the climate like?
Louisiana has a humid subtropical climate with long, hot, humid summers and shorter, mild winters. The subtropical characteristics are largely due to the Gulf of Mexico. Rain is prevalent throughout the entire year, with summer being the wettest of seasons. Winters are normally warm, but can, on occasion, be cool, or even cold. The coastline receives heavy rains and sometimes full-on hits from the hurricanes that brew in the Gulf Coast, August through October.
What are business hours?
New Orleans really is the city that never sleeps, as it contains a large quantity of 24-hour bars. Otherwise, general business hours are very similar to those in the rest of the United States, with most observing Monday through Saturday 10am to 6pm and Sunday 10am to 5pm. Malls usually stay open until around 9pm, Monday through Saturday.
What are some laws that I should be aware of?
Packaged, alcoholic beverages of any strength may be sold in supermarkets, drug stores, gas stations, and convenience stores 24 hours a day. Local municipalities may not restrict this.
Many parishes and municipalities permit consumption of packaged alcoholic beverages (for example, cans of beer) on the street, but glass is prohibited. Alcohol can be consumed in the streets of New Orleans as long as it is in an "unbreakable container" (no glass) and taken from club to club, if the establishment allows it. However, most parishes, other than the Orleans Parish, do not permit alcoholic beverages served at on-premise establishments to be taken off-site. You must be 18 to enter a bar, and 21 years old to purchase or consume alcohol.
What are some local customs that I should be aware of?
Louisiana is home to many cultures, especially the distinct culture of the Creoles and Cajuns. Creole culture is an amalgamation that takes a little from each of the French, Spanish, African, Haitian and Native American cultures. Cajun culture stems from west-central France. The culture of the south fused with French is prominent throughout all of Louisiana.
Anything else I need to know?
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina, one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States, devastated the Gulf Coast. The most significant number of deaths occurred in New Orleans, which was flooded when the levee system catastrophically failed. 80% of the city and large tracts of neighboring parishes became flooded with floodwaters lingering for weeks. While several years have gone by since this horrifying natural disaster, the aftermath can still be seen, as the economic, environmental, and social effects were extremely far-reaching.