Country Guide: United States of America
Currency: US Dollar
Language: English, Spanish (spoken in many places), other languages spoken by different diasporas around the U.S. (Russian, Chinese, Hebrew, French, Portuguese, and a few others)
Visa information: Generally, Europeans and other travelers need to apply for a tourist or holiday-work visa. If accepted, they can be granted entry for up to 6 months. People from Canada do not need a visa. It is best to check this link for the most accurate and updated information: http://travel.state.gov/visa/
Most Visited Cities: New York City, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas
State Guides: Louisiana
Budget: $5-10 per meal, $20-40 per accommodation
Random Fact: Only around 30% of Americans actually have passports. These people tend to be more in the major metropolitan and cosmopolitan cities. It is quite uncommon for many small town Americans to have ventured out of the country.
Overview: The United States is one of the most diverse countries in the world as far as ethnicity, terrains, and mindsets go. People from the North and the South tend to be as different as people are from the east to the west. However, there exception to every rule. The United States offers you a chance to see the huge sky-scrappers, waterfalls, deserts, beaches, mountains, plains, and yes even rain forests in Puerto Rico.
Traveling around the United States, you will likely encounter many different people types, accents, and ways of life. Whether you seek the allure of the city or tranquil country-side and mountainous view America has something to offer you.
For information specific to traveling through US cities or states, check the city links above. If you want information about traveling America specifically click here. Bus, train, and plane links for the US can be found here.
How to get around?
It is extremely easy to travel around the United States. Although the intercity public transportation is not so good, people can generally get around quite easily by bus, train, or through carpooling. People that have cars or motorcycles will find that America is quite easy to navigate as well. City streets are generally well-labelled and highways and interstates are marked accordingly by the direction that they travel. For example, highways and interstates traveling east to west will bear an even number, whereas ones traveling north to south will be oddly numbered.
People without cars, but those who want to see things on a more personal level can look into carpooling. There is not yet a universal system of carpooling for Americans like other nations have. However, one can sometimes find good ride deals and make posts through websites like Backpage.com, Craigslist.org, and Kijiji.com.
Hitchhiking is not so easy in the United States. In the past, the practice was much more accepted. In the more recent years, hitchhiking has grown to be seen as a more taboo subject. It is not impossible, but one needs to look into a proper place like truck stops or service stations. Standing on the side of the interstate in some states is actually illegal.
Trains in the United States are generally expensive. A few hours on a train could cost quite a lot in comparison to many countries of a similar distance in Europe. In my experience, the trains are fairly luxurious and comfortable. If you have the money and are not on a tight budget, then keep traveling by train as an option, but for the budget travelers taking a bus is probably a better option. Train prices and schedules for the United States can be found here: Amtrak.
The bus network in the United States is quite extensive. Additionally, there are many bus companies that service different areas. Buses in the United States are also extremely cheap, or they can be at least. In fact, if you do some planning you will likely find bus tickets for under $5, sometimes even $1 between major destinations. To plan your route and take a look at the available bus companies check the USA links page here.
What you should visit? Where should you go?
I have been fortunate enough to visit many places in the United States. In my opinion, if someone wants to get an accurate taste of America, then they need to do both major cities and smaller places off of the beaten path. Major cities such as New York, Chicago, Miami, and San Diego are great. The United States has a lot more to offer though. From the south you can find great food, southern hospitality, and real culture. Places like New Hampshire, Colorado, Wyoming offer beautiful nature, hiking, and sight-seeing. Truthfully, as a friend once told me, “there is something for everyone within the borders of the United States. If you like mountains, beaches, deserts, hills, cities, farming, islands, you have it.” There is a place for everyone to visit.
If you are only going to be traveling for a short time, then it is best to see what you can. If you have the luxury of taking your time, then check out some places off of the beaten path.
Where should you stay?
Unlike the rest of the world, the concept of a hostel has not quite caught on in America. Even though many major cities actually have hostels, the idea of budget accommodation is nearly out of the window. Finding a hostel for a summer night in New York city is likely to run you up into the upper $50-70 range, and yes that is for a dorm-style room. However, in some Californian cities and Miami you can find reasonable and well-priced accommodation. Generally speaking, you will only find hostels in the larger, or more famous, cities. Therefore, you cannot count on them when traveling through more urban areas.
The next option that you have is to stay in a motel. A motel is basically a budget hotel. It is between a hostel and a hotel. You get a private room, but it is not going to be very nice. They are usually 1 level buildings with 20 or so rooms. If you are going to be driving across the country it is likely that you will stay at least one night in a motel. Names of common motel companies are: Motel 6, Super 8, Quality Inn, America’s Best Value.
Camping is another option. There are many camp sites such as KOA and other local sites around the country and in the national parks. There is normally a fee, but if multiple people are camping then the fee is quite negligible.
Lastly, if you have to sleep in your car, then I suggest you stay at one of the rest areas that are found along the Eisenhower Interstate System. Every few miles that you drive, you are likely going to see a sign for a rest area. For the most part these places are safe, populated, and often patrolled by State Troopers (Interstate police officers).
How to budget for the US?
The United States can be extremely expensive or inexpensive depending on your spending habits and the areas that you choose to travel through. Places like New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco and Chicago have reputations for being expensive, but can be visited relatively cheaply.
If you are traveling by yourself than I suggest $50 a day. Mainly because your accommodation will tend to hover around $30 while food at around $20. Truthfully, this number will fluctuate a bit depending on a few factors. People who smoke or drink alcohol can expect to spend more. People who travel more will spend more on transportation costs. A budget conscious traveler though can expect to save in various areas.
Do you want more information on how to travel the United States?
If you answered yes, then click on my links page for the United States. Additionally, check the travel blog for related articles or type USA in the search box.