Portland (Maine)

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Travel Guide North America USA Northeastern United States New England Maine Portland

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Introduction

Portland is Maine's most populated town. The working waterfront here remains a vital part of Portland's industry - and charm. That charm is being noticed by more and more people these days and this big town, with a population of 67,000, handles it's burgeoning fame rather well. Boutique shops, world-renowned restaurants, waterfront hotels, historic sites, museums, galleries, harbor cruises, and that charming working waterfront all exist within a place that still retains a sense of itself; locals love Portland as well and indeed contribute to the genuine feel of this thriving harbor town. Did you know over 80 cruise ships dock in Portland between September and October? This time of year is the end of the official tourist season but offers up the showy spectacle of autumn in New England, and the cruise industry has responded. For more active visitors, Portland has a great network of over 70 miles of mixed use trails throughout the city and Casco Bay offers fine sea kayaking year-round. Even winter in Portland sees the city offer up cross-country skiing and snowshoeing (for free!) on miles of maintained trails in various locations.

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Neighborhoods

  • East End-Munjoy Hill-Eastern Promenade - This recently revitalized neighborhood features corner grocery stores, The Portland Observatory, chef-owned restaurants, several pubs and a vast park offering sweeping views over Casco Bay.
  • West End-West Street to Western Promenade - Many fine old brick homes and apartment buildings line the streets in this neighborhood. There are also a few pubs as well as a pizzeria, butcher shop and gourmet grocery stores.
  • Old Port - Exchange St. is the heart of the Old Port, full of boutique shops housed in antique brick and granite buildings. Many restaurants also feature here as well as hotels, clubs, pubs and Portland's legendary working waterfront
  • Downtown - A pleasant mix of hip shops, offices, music venues, art galleries, museums and a variety of restaurants make up downtown Portland.
  • Bayside - Portland's old industrial quarter has been turned into a very trendy area, complete with several microbreweries and distilleries offering tasting rooms. This area also features an organic grocery store and a trendy bowling alley as well as a vintage diner.
  • Woodfords Corner - Brewpubs, ethnic grocery stores, bakeries and several restaurants make this one of the coolest neighborhoods off the Portland Peninsula.
  • Deering Center - This leafy, residential area still retains an old fashioned grocery store and the best butcher shop in Portland, Pat's Meat Market.

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Sights and Activities

  • Portland's waterfront - Ferries to the harbor islands are a popular tourist activity AND a way for island residents to get to and from the mainland. Fishing vessels still dock alongside several processing plants on the docks and watching these boats unload the catch makes for the perfect Maine photo op. Watch locals fish off the Portland Pier, or catch a concert on the pier in summer.
  • Exchange St. - This is the very heart of the Old Port, full of boutique shops, cafes, restaurants and several hotels. The architecture in this part of Portland has a distinctly European appearance. This is the main tourist center of the city and a great place to base yourself.
  • Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Sq. Changing exhibits as well as permanent works occupy this large modern brick building downtown. NOTE: The entire museum is free to everyone from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm each Friday!
  • Deering Oaks Park - This central city park, designed by the famous Olmsted Brothers, is a great place to escape the din of the city. Local enjoy this park throughout the year.
  • Standpipe Park - North St. between Quebec and Melbourne Streets in the Munjoy Hill neighborhood. - The very best skyline views of Portland and the Back Cove can be found at this small park. Relax on one of several benches and take in the sprawl of the city beneath you.
  • Back Cove - A circuitous 3.5 mile path winds along this tidal inlet, perfect for a walk, jog or bike ride. Fine views of the Portland Peninsula can be seen along the path.
  • The Portland Observatory is a historic maritime signal tower in the Munjoy Hill section of Portland, Maine. Built in 1807, it is the only known surviving tower of its type in the United States. Using both a telescope and signal flags, two-way communication between ship and shore was possible several hours before an incoming vessel reached the docks.
  • The Maine Narrow Gauge Railway is located in Portland, Maine, United States. Operating out of the former Portland Company Marine Complex, the organization was founded in 1993. The collection consists of passenger and freight equipment, as well as artifacts from the 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge railways that ran in the state of Maine in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
  • Victoria Mansion, also known as the Morse-Libby House or Morse-Libby Mansion, is a landmark example of American residential architecture located in downtown Portland, Maine, United States. The brownstone exterior, elaborate interior design, opulent furnishings and early technological conveniences provide a detailed portrait of lavish living in nineteenth-century America. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971 for its architectural significance as a particularly well-preserved Italianate mansion.
  • The Wadsworth-Longfellow House is a historic house and museum in Portland, Maine, United States. It is located at 489 Congress Street and is operated by the Maine Historical Society. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, and administratively added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. The house is open daily to public from May through October.
  • The Neal Dow House, also known as Gen. Neal Dow House, is an historic house found at 714 Congress Street in Portland, Maine. It was built in 1829 for noted politician and prohibitionist Neal Dow (1804-1897), and was later designated a National Historic Landmark for that association. Dow was the author of the first prohibition law passed by the Maine legislature in 1851.

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Events and Festivals

  • The Old Port Festival is a yearly one-day festival which takes place in the Old Port. For the first 36 years (1973-2009), it took place on the first Sunday in June. However, noting weather patterns which consistently brought rain storms on that day, organizers moved the Festival to the second Sunday in June 2010, avoiding heavy rain. In 2009, Festival organizers sought to create the world's largest lobster roll as part of the festival. It included 48 pounds of lobster meat and 4 gallons of mayonnaise. It measured 61 feet and 9.5 inches long. Pieces of the roll were sold to benefit a youth association. In 1998, the event included children games, including a petting zoo and miniature golf.
  • The Portland Chamber Music Festival is an annual chamber music festival located in Portland, Maine. Founded in 1994 by Jennifer Elowitch (violinist) and Dena Levine (pianist), the festival presents a summer concert series in August at the Abromson Community Education Center. In addition, the festival presents mid-season concerts at SPACE Gallery in Portland and elsewhere in the region. The Festival has played to a nationwide audience on National Public Radio; has been awarded three grants from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music for performance of American contemporary music; has been recorded and broadcast by WGBH radio in Boston; and has been featured in both local and national press. Performers in recent years have included members of the Vermeer, Mendelssohn, Borromeo, and Brentano String Quartets. Resident Composers have included Lee Hyla, Chen Yi, Osvaldo Golijov, Earl Kim, Michael Gandolfi, Melinda Wagner, Peter Child, and many others.
  • Beach to Beacon 10k is a 6.2 mile (10 km) road running event that takes place along the coastline of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. It begins at Crescent Beach State Park and ends at the Portland Head Light in Fort Williams Park. Starting out as mainly a local event, athletes from all over the U.S. and various parts of the world now participate in the annual event, including some world-class distance runners, including Olympic Marathon medalists. 1998 was the first year that the event was held and over 3000 runners participated in the race. The event was sponsored by then People's Heritage Bank, which changed parent companies. Now the event is formally known as the TD Bank Beach to Beacon 10k. The 2009 race event registration filled in just 1 hour 45 minutes.
  • Porchfest is an annual music event held in Portland on front porches of homes. Started in Ithaca, New York in 2007, porchfest events bring local musicians and neighborhoods together to celebrate and create a sense of community. Porchfest music festivals began as a means for neighbors and local community members to highlight their music on front porches. The concept was to find musicians and porches on which for them to play. The original event in Ithaca, New York, started with about 20 musicians but has since grown to over 100. Bands, singers, and instrumentalists participate in the festival for no other reason than to showcase their talents and engage the community. Music is diverse and can range from country to pop, classical, reggae, blues, rock, jazz, Latino, R&B, folk and many others. Musicians voluntarily take to the "stage" on porches at their designated times and perform for the public. Signs with artists' names and performance times are usually posted in front of porches and online.

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.
  • Patriots' Day is an annual event, formalized as several state holidays, commemorating the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and the Battle of Menotomy, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War. The holiday was originally celebrated on April 19, the actual anniversary of the battles (fought in 1775). Since 1969, it has been observed on the third Monday in April in Maine (which until the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was part of Massachusetts). The Monday holiday creates a three-day long weekend. It is also the first day of a vacation week for public schools in both states and a school holiday for many local colleges and universities, both public and private.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Weather

Portland has a very diverse and rapidly-changing humid continental climate (Köppen: Dfb), with cold, snowy, and often prolonged winters, and warm, relatively short summers. The monthly average high temperature range from roughly 30 °F (-1 °C) in January to around 80 °F (27 °C) in July. Daily high temperatures reach or exceed 90 °F (32 °C) on only 4 days per year on average, while cold-season lows of 0 °F (-18 °C) or below are reached on 10 nights per year on average. The area can be affected by severe nor'easters during winter, with high winds and snowfall totals often measuring over a foot. Annual liquid precipitation (rain) averages 47.2 inches (1,200 mm) and is plentiful year-round, but with a slightly drier summer. Annual frozen precipitation (snow) averages 62 inches (157 cm) in the city, However, Neighborhoods and suburbs away from the immediate coast average between 5 and 15 additional inches annually, as the warmer ocean waters and onshore flow can cause snow to transition to sleet or rain along the coast. In Southern Maine, winter-season snowstorms can be intense from November through Early April, while warm-season thunderstorms are markedly less frequent than in the Midwestern, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeastern U.S. Direct strikes by hurricanes or tropical storms are rare, partially due to the normally cooler Atlantic waters off the Maine coast (which usually weaken tropical systems), but primarily because most tropical systems approaching or reaching 40 degrees North latitude recurve, carrying most such storms just south and east of the Portland area. Extreme temperatures range from -39 °F (-39 °C) on February 16, 1943, to 103 °F (39 °C) on July 4, 1911, and August 2, 1975

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Getting There

By Plane

South Portland Airport (PWM) is an airport that borders with Portland about 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) from the Central Business District. The airport is accessible from I-95 (the Maine Turnpike) and I-295. METRO Bus and taxi service can be accessed from the ground transportation booth outside the baggage claim.

By Train

The Downeaster travels between Boston, Massachusetts and Portland. Trains arrive and depart from Portland Transportation Center. See link below.

By Car

Portland is accessible from I-95 (the Maine Turnpike), I-295, and US 1. U.S. Route 302, a major travel route and scenic highway between Maine and Vermont, has its eastern terminus in Portland. State Routes include SR 9, SR 22, SR 25, SR 26, SR 77, and SR 100. SR 25 Business goes through southwestern Portland.

By Bus

  • Portland Transportation Center 100 Thompson's Point Road. This center handles buses to and from Boston's South Station and Logan International Airport. Buses also arrive from Bangor, Maine. Note: - Concord Coach Lines is the ONLY bus service operating from the Portland Transportation Center.
  • Greyhound 950 Congress Street. This station is separate from Portland Transportation Center and offers less frequent bus service to Boston.

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Getting Around

By Car

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

The Greater Portland METRO is a regional public transportation system in Southern Maine. Operated by the Greater Portland Transit District, a transit district comprising Portland, Westbrook, and Falmouth, the system also covers Brunswick, Gorham, South Portland, Yarmouth, and Freeport. METRO was formed in 1966. METRO is Maine's largest public transportation agency. The transit system's annual ridership was 1,850,686 in 2017. As of 2016, METRO operated a fleet of eighteen compressed natural gas (CNG) buses and fourteen diesel buses. It operates and maintains the only CNG fuel station in the state of Maine.

By Foot

Portland is a very compact city and it is very easy to get from one neighborhood to the next on foot. Even walking to downtown from some of the furthest outlying neighborhoods is achievable in about 30 minutes. In addition, there are many parks and public spaces to cut through and designated walking trails on which to make your way about town.

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Eat

  • Mister Bagel, 10 Moulton St. ☎ (207) 774-8704‎. Come and grab a bagel for sitting down or checking out.
  • Wild Burrito, 574 Congress St # 5, ☎ (207) 761-1600‎. A nice sitdown or takeout Mexican-style burrito shop in downtown Portland.
  • Bill's Pizza, 177 Commercial St, ☎ (207) 774-6166. A favorite with the late night club and pub crowd. The big slices here are perfect for folding.
  • The Great Lost Bear, 540 Forest Ave. ☎ (207) 772-0300. www.greatlostbear.com - With over 70 beers on tap and a huge menu, you will find this neighborhood pub and grill a great choice. In summer enjoy the outdoor beer garden. Don't forget to answer the trivia question located on the blackboard behind the bar - winners get a free pint of their choice.
  • The Bayou Kitchen, 543 Deering Ave. ☎ (207) 774-4935. www.bayoukitchenmaine.com - This Cajun style greasy spoon restaurant is a local favorite. Check out their famous wall of hot sauces and sample one with your breakfast or lunch. Get here early on the weekend.
  • Susan's Fish-N-Chips, 1135 Forest Ave. ☎ (207) 878-3240. www.susansfishnchips.com - Come here for fried seafood at a reasonable price. One of the specialties here is fried lobster tail on a stick. Try the fried oysters or clams as well. Susan's Fish-N-Chips is also quite famous for their homemade coleslaw.

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Drink

  • Downtown Lounge, 606 Congress St, ☎ (207) 773-1363. This hipster watering hole opens in late afternoon. Check the blackboards around the perimeter of the lounge for changing daily food offerings.
  • Rivalries, 10 Cotton St, ☎ (207) 774-6044. www.rivalriesmaine.com Just your basic sports bar featuring multiple televisions tuned into any and every sporting event ans serving plenty of pub grub and beer to wash it down with.
  • Old Port Tavern, 11 Moulton St, ☎ (207) 774-0444. This basement bar has an amazing giant aquarium. The bar also has one of the best happy hours in town; a plate of mussels and 2 pints of beer are about $12.
  • Novare Res Bier Cafe, 4 Canal Plaza Suite 1, ☎ (207) 761-2437. www.novareresbiercafe.com For true beer lovers who are willing to pay a premium for some of the best brews from around the world. From ales brewed by monks to seasonal fruit beers from Poland, this is where you come to drink the finest.
  • Bull Feeney's, 375 Fore St, ☎ (207) 773-7210. One of several "authentic" Irish pubs in town featuring live music and traditional Irish breakfasts. The mirth is spread out over 2 floors at this Old Port haunt.
  • Brian Boru Public House, 57 Center St, ☎ (207) 780-1506. www.brianboruportland.com Another Irish pub spread out on 2 floors playing traditional music and pulling pints to go with their lunch and dinner specials.
  • Ruski's, 212 Danforth St, ☎ (207) 774-7604. Ruski's is billed as a neighborhood bar. Indeed, this local favorite is in a residential area and can be described as a dive. The crowd here is as real and friendly as it gets. Few tourists make it here, which adds to the appeal of the place.

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Sleep

Portland Regency Hotel and Spa, 20 Milk St, ☎ +1 207 774-4200, toll-free: +1-800-727-3436, fax: +1 207 775-2150. In the Old Port waterfront district. The building dates back to 1895 and includes exquisite turret rooms, working fireplaces and ornate brickwork. All hotel guests get complimentary saunas, therapeutic steam rooms and waterfall Jacuzzi in The Spa. Beautiful chandeliers, towering windows and a working brick fireplace set the mood of the Portland Regency's premier steakhouse, Twenty Milk Street. The Armory Lounge is a cozy hideaway with cocktails, extensive wine list, and hearty pub fare.
Portland Harbor Hotel, 468 Fore St, ☎ +1 207 775-9090, toll-free: +1-888-798-9090, fax: +1 207 775-9990. Experience old world charm, distinctive design, and impeccable service at one of the newest downtown luxury hotels. A unique collection of on-premise services and amenities will enhance your stay be it for business, pleasure or a milestone celebration. The "Eve's At The Garden" restaurant located in the hotel is home to chef Jeff Landry. Named Maine Restaurant Association's Chef of the year, Chef Landry will compliment your stay with a sumptuous meal.
Eastland Park Hotel, 157 High St, ☎ +1 207 775-5411, toll-free: +1-888-671-8008, fax: +1 207 775-2872. Combining American history, modern convenience and euro-style service to give visitors a prime lodging and dining experience downtown. The "Top of the East" restaurant at the top of the hotel offers a stunning panoramic view of the city, while occasionally offering low-key live performers.
Fairfield Inn Portland Airport, 340 Park Ave, ☎ +1 207 871-0611, fax: +1 207 871-8243.
Holiday Inn, 88 Spring St, ☎ +1 207 775-2311.
Holiday Inn, 81 Riverside St, ☎ +1 207 774-5601.
Motel 6, One Riverside St, ☎ +1 207 775-0111, fax: +1 207 775-0449.
Portland Marriott, 200 Sable Oaks Dr, ☎ +1 207 871-8000. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: noon. Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks offers space for meetings and events, golf course, fitness facilities, as well as dining options.
Wild Iris Inn, 273 State St, ☎ +1 207 775-0224, toll-free: +1-800-600-1557. 7 rooms.
Inn on Carleton Bed and Breakfast, 46 Carleton St, ☎ +1 207 775-1910, toll-free: +1-800-639-1779, fax: +1 207 761-0956.
Celtic Cottage Maine, 1433 Westbrook St, ☎ +1 207 773-6072. 3 rooms. $100-120.
The Chadwick, 140 Chadwick St, ☎ +1 207 774-5141, toll-free: +1-800-774-2137, fax: +1 207-774-5140. 4 rooms
The Percy Inn, 15 Pine St, ☎ +1 207 871-7638, toll-free: +1-888-417-3729, fax: +1 207 775-2599.
The Inn at St. John, 939 Congress St, ☎ +1 207 773-6481, toll-free: +1-800-636-9127.

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Keep Connected

Internet

The Javanet Cafe in the Old Port provides internet connection. There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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as well as Hien (1%), The LostRo (<1%)

Portland (Maine) Travel Helpers

This is version 52. Last edited at 10:20 on May 10, 19 by Utrecht. 9 articles link to this page.

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