Are you going for a vacation to the USA? Well, the USA is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. An astonishing fact is that most Americans do not own a passport because they don’t feel a need to go out of the country and people from all over the world come to witness the beauty this stunning country has to offer.
It is an incredible country offering almost everything travellers and tourists dream of – from sunny beaches to the snow-covered cold desert of Alaska, and from sky scraping buildings in Manhattan and New York to the star-studded Hollywood. America is a country of rich culture and history which Americans do not realize as they were born and brought up in the same. This article will give you travel tips to the USA, you need to know before entering the country and while you’re on your dream vacation.
- Know Your Passport Situation – People from certain countries can enter the USA for a maximum of 90 days under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Still, their passport has to be valid for a minimum period of six months. You have to apply for the authorization before entering the country and get the approval at least 72 hours before boarding your flight.
If you are not eligible to enter the USA under VWP, then you need to obtain a valid visa before entering. For applying for a visa, your passport needs to be valid for at least six months before the application. Detailed information can be found in the related website of the government regarding the same.
- Don’t panic if your luggage’s lock is broken – Travelling within the states and found your luggage’s lock to be broken? Do not worry! The Transport Security Administration (TSA) was behind it. The TSA may break the lock if they feel the need to check inside the bag. They will also place a note inside your bag if they do so.
But can you avoid this? Yes, you can buy a TSA approved lock so that they can open it with a master key.
- Book a single airline in case of a transit – Everyone is aware that the USA has stringent immigration rules and regulations. Thus, you need to get yourself cleared at the immigration when you arrive in the USA. There are three scenarios here:
- Immigration at your destination airport: This one’s pretty obvious as there’s no transit and you’re arriving at your destination airport. Thus, you need to get yourself cleared at the airport.
- In case of a transit – Most flights to Canada or South America transit through the USA. You’ll need to clear US Customs. There’s no such thing as ‘in transit’ in the US. Try to book a single airline in case of a transit (domestic or international) so that they know about the same and prepare accordingly. Please note that you need to keep a gap of at least two to three hours in both your flights.
- Do not use your mobile data – Turn on your mobile data in the US if you have unlimited money. Mobile data rates in the US can be costly for most international travellers. Make sure that you buy a plan from your mobile operator before visiting the USA or you can enjoy FREE WiFi at most public places, after all, you have entered one of the most advanced countries in the world.
- Tipping is mandatory – As the US is one of the most advanced countries, it is also one of the most expensive. Most people working at food joints or restaurants do not get huge paychecks, and thus, it is official (kind of) to tip them. You know some rules are not written in the books but still need to be followed; this is one of them. Other people you need to tip are taxi drivers, housekeeping staff, bartenders, watchmen, and more.
- Know about the sales tax – Saw a beautiful dress and the price was also low? Well, most states in the US levy sales tax, which is not shown in the price tag. Only five states in the USA do not levy a sales tax (but you won’t be visiting most or all of them). Be mentally prepared to pay a bit more than you see or expect.
If you’re staying in a hotel, there are some other ‘extra’ charges that you need to pay for the pool, internet, etc.
- Get travel insurance – Medical facilities in the US top the rate-list in the world. Make sure to get travel insurance to cover in case you suffer from an injury or any mishappening. It might be the most advanced country, but bad things happen everywhere, and you must ensure your safety while on vacation.
- Game of time zones – If you’re an international traveller, this is for you. Most countries in Europe have the same time or work on a difference of not more than two hours. There are six time zones in the US – yes, that’s right. You need to get the details of the locations you’re travelling to so that you can arrange your airport transfers accordingly and commute within the country smoothly.
- Always book your airport transfer in advance – The USA is a huge country comprising of 50 states. Thus, public transport is not always feasible. Roads in the States are usually busy as most houses have at least one car, and it is people’s favorite mode of transportation. If you’ve come here for a vacation, book your airport transfers in advance. This is the best way to reach your hotel and to make sure that you do not get lost on the vast roads of the country.
- Be prepared to witness the friendliness of the people – There were times when people getting mugged on the streets of the US were common. Moreover, the behaviour of New Yorkers has become astonishingly friendly over the past decade. No one knows what happened, but the US has the most friendly residents than any country. They’ll never hesitate to help you with the directions; you can easily socialize at Times Square or Central Park. Spending an entire day on the streets of New York will gift you with at least two best friends.
- Air travel within the country – The US is enormous and major cities are far from each other. If you’ve decided to see it all, the best way to commute is by air. It will shoot up your budget a bit, but if you book them in advance, you might find a lucky deal.
Although, if you’re willing to save a few dollars, commuting by public buses is the best option but will take a lot of time.
- Be careful while you wander on the streets – They say that the best way to experience a city is by walking on the streets for an entire day. It is a good idea to explore the streets of the cities of the USA, but there are some areas that you need to avoid at all costs. Sometimes, safe and unsafe regions may look identical as they are one block away. Try to get the advice of the locals, especially in cities like New York, Boston and Detroit.
- Visit the country’s national parks – You might be fascinated with the idea of visiting the skyscraping building in the cities like Las Vegas, New York, and Manhattan. But, the national parks in the US cover a large part of the land. They offer a treat to the eyes for people who love to spend their time in the lap of nature.
Please note that you’ll need to wear comfortable t-shirts, pants like the 5.11 Pants, hiking boots, apply sunscreen, and stay hydrated to ensure a smooth visit to 84 million acres of the land acquired by such areas.
- Do not overburden yourself – The USA is larger than the whole of Europe combined. If you wish to witness the beaches of Miami, party in Vegas, visit the Statue of Liberty, and more in one trip – it’s a bad idea. You will overburden yourself if you have a limited number of days. Plan everything and try to explore one part of the country in one trip.
- You cannot smoke anywhere – Most governments in the world have raised their voice against the harmful effects of smoking and what passive smoking can do in public spaces. The USA is on top of that list in not only publicizing its adverse effects but also implementing the strictest laws for the same. Major cities like Seattle, Chicago, New York City, Washington DC, and more have entirely banned public smoking in indoor spaces like bars, hospitals, shopping malls, movie theatres, etc. Moreover, you cannot smoke at most public places in California, including the beaches.
- Be on time – Americans are very punctual. If you have a meeting at 10 in the morning, it means that you’ll find the other person there at 10. You should be ready at the discussed time or arrive a few minutes early to check if everything’s fine. Also, take out some buffer time for sudden delays, such as traffic jams.
- Do not try to copy the American slang – The Americans take your words seriously and feel insulted if you try to copy the regional slang you might have heard in a Hollywood movie. They consider it rude when someone tries to do so. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid remarks that might affect a specific section of society.
- Forget about the thoughtfully designed metric system – Americans do not follow the commonly followed metric system. Although it was officially implemented in 1866, it never got popular among the people of America. Say goodbye to kilometers and Celcius and welcome Miles and Fahrenheit while you’re staying in America.
- Follow the traffic rules – In most major cities of Asia, traffic rules might seem a mere suggestion to the drivers but not in America. If you’ve decided to drive in the USA, make sure to follow all the traffic rules – obey the signals, do not park at no parking areas, etc. Please note that Americans drive on the right (opposite) side of the road.
- Do not cut in line – A long-awaited Hollywood movie released while you’re in America and you thought that it’s a great idea to watch it right away? The show is about to start, but there are ten more people in front of you? No, do not think about that. Never ever cut a line in America. Everyone waits for their turn in America (even the aged). In fact, most ques are peaceful, and people aren’t in a rush.
Some Dos and Don’ts
- Do: Bring cash with you – Coming to the most technologically advanced country in the world and think that you won’t need hard cash? Wrong! You can enjoy such liberty in Europe but not in this part of the world. It is always a good idea to have some dollars on you because most foreign tourists complain of the inability to get access to their banks.
- Do no skip the Grand Canyon – People who are not fond of natural places often think that going to the Grand Canyon is a waste of time. In fact, it is one of the best things you’ll see on your USA trip. It is something that you’ll regret if not seen.
- Do not: Visit one coast and skip the other – The eastern and western coast of America are so far away from each other that their weather and culture are entirely different from each other. One of the common misconceptions people have is that if they have visited one coast, they can skip the other.
- Do not: Keep your passport in your hotel – Your passport is an essential document that you need to get back home, but it is equally important to carry it while in the USA. If you are caught without a passport by the cops, they can ship you out of the country in no time.
To Sum Up
It is almost everyone’s dream to visit the USA at least once in their lifetime. You can enjoy the sunny beaches of Miami, party in Vegas, visit the Statue of Liberty, relish the American food full of cheese, and much more. Plan your USA trip wisely by following the above mentioned tips to make memories of a lifetime.