A country where kilometres become miles, liters become gallons, kilograms become Pounds, and so on. This makes us think how huge is the United States of America. And after reaching to the USA you can imagine how big and huge this country is. There are many unique things that the US has little different or unique than the rest of the world. As the USA is a new country and inhabited by many migrants from different parts of the world you can spot amalgamation of many cultures here. Therefore the lifestyle here is little unique for first-timers in the United States of America. Let’s read about travel tips for Visiting America for the first time or the United States of America – things to know about America before going.
TIPS FOR ROAD TRIP OR COMMUTING
- As the United States is huge, and if you are traveling by car from one place to another then it will be a long drive. As many are used to kilometers, so sudden distance in miles creates a mirage and therefore plan accordingly. Take breaks in between as the US is known for distance blindness.
- In big cities of the US, parking is a big issue or very expensive, so better not to rent a car in big cities. Rely on taxis, Uber, or metros.
- The cities are very big and can’t be done by walking tours as it is very common in Europe. The cities of the US are not for walking tours as all attractions are widespread and you can not walk so long.
- If you rent a car from the airport then it is always cheaper as compared to renting a car from city-center. If you are an international tourist, then carry an International driving license and also with rental charges, you have to pay extra driver insurance charges.
- Always check the condition of the car before renting, take the toll card machine as for first-timers, you may cross toll roads many times unknowingly. Or ask car company to add I-pass or similar transponder to deduct automatic toll on highways.
- Most of the petrol pumps or Gas stations are automatic ones and man-less which means you have to fill gas yourself which is not very common in Asia or Middle East countries.
- Staying in a motel in between the cities is cheaper than staying at hotels in cities. So if a distance is too long, then break your journey and rent a room in the nearby motel of that driveway.
- Some people also take internal airlines to commute from one city to another. There are many airline cards associated with the bank with many good offers. They have yearly membership too. Check them and then book the tickets. The only issue in internal air travel is that you can’t take too much luggage with you as they have some restrictions on baggage and extra baggage costs you a lot.
- There are many gas stations with snacks bar, resting zones, small stays on highways between cities. Whenever you feel tired from driving, stop there to relax as sometimes you feel, the roads will never end in the US. Also, the distance of one city to another is very long with all nature in between. Also, you cannot see villages or villagers in between, so many of the times it can be boring.
- Keep your car stocked with eatables, snacks, music collection, juices, water, and some road trip games for children.
- All US states have different rules in terms of speed and penalties vary in the state to state. The drive is right-hand side in the whole country
STAY, HOTEL AND RESTAURANT TIPS
- There are plenty of huge family rooms with big king-sized beds in hotels in the USA. You can even accommodate 4 to 5 people officially in those family rooms with 2 to 3 king beds. In Europe, it is very difficult to find a family room with all family staying in one room.
- Check for buffet breakfast and in the US, not many hotels offer buffet breakfast with rooms. Also if they give buffet breakfast then it is very minimal and not like Asia, the Middle East, or Europe.
- Many hotel stays have laundry room and you can clean your laundry by paying a coin and then drying them out also by paying a coin. Mostly using of washing machine and dryer are at extra cost but sometimes it is included in room rent too.
- Free parking is available in some of the hotels and not at all hotels. Better to check before the type of parking, as hotel parking is very expensive.
- Generally, breakfast is served on disposable crockery and cutlery. And more of self-service or self-made types.
- The power plugs and sockets are of type A and B. The standard voltage is 120 V which is just different from the rest of the world. So if you are taking any electrical gadget without an adapter then it will not run there.
- Many US hotel chains offer happy hours or evening snacks which are included with room rent. Check those hotels as they are always winners with family. I enjoyed the in-room happy hours with Hilton, Chicago, and popcorn time at Radisson Blu, Champaign.
- While eating out in a restaurant, which is not a self-service type, tipping to waiters is recommended. Tipping in restaurants is very common in the United States of America.
- They serve tap water at many places for drinking water and in many cities, it is not risky to drink that water.
- Consumption of alcohol or drinking age is 21 years in the USA. If you look too young, then the bartender or server will ask for your age proof on a legal document.
- Vegetarians will find good options at Indian restaurants, Pizza bars, Mexican outlets, Italian joints. As vegan is trendy in US, you will now find many vegan restaurants sprawling everywhere here.
PLACES OF ATTRACTIONS
- As this country is huge with major 6 time zones, don’t try to cover all attractions on the same trip.
- Include any one of the national parks or nature trip on your trip.
- If you are visiting more than one national park, then check for national park cards as some card offers access to many National Parks with a single payment and this proves to be a savior.
- Many cities offer city cards with many attractions clubbed together. If you are doing many attractions they purchasing these city cards is a wise option or else for 1 or 2 attractions don’t purchase city cards.
- Don’t go to less visited natural areas or go for a hike to an isolated place in your first visit.
- There are many museums of all interests, like science & technology, arts & culture, Natural history and many more.
- Marine life lovers will find many aquariums and under water zoo in many cities. Also for children there are many varieties of theme parks and water parks in US. But for theme parks or water parks, you have to shell out at-least 1 full day in your trip.
- There are many mural arts or huge painted surfaces with funky colors and figures. Look out for some artistic walls or corners in the city.
SHOPPING IN USA
As the United States of America is considered a shopping destination, you will find many tempting deals and shopping ideas here.
- You would find good deals in factory outlets or shopping malls outside the city. Many upscale brands you will find these outlets at good rates.
- In cities, you will find good deals at Macy’s, Burlington’s, Primark and many such departmental stores.
- Credit cards are majorly accepted at all places.
- The currency will be deducted in the local currency of your credit card issued country and not in USD.
- Many US stores offer return policy up to 30 days and therefore keep the receipt safely with you for returning an item.
SOME COMMON SLANG OR LANGUAGE DIFFERENCES
Read some common differences between English – British and English – US
- Luggage becomes Baggage
- Lift – Elevator
- Autumn – Fall
- Car Park – Parking Lot
- Crossroads – Intersection
- Film – Movie
- Air Hostess – Flight Attendant
- Bathroom – Rest Room
- Milk for Tea or Coffee – Creamer
- Dustbin – Garbage or Trash
- Flyover – Overpass
- Pavement – Sidewalk
- Holiday – Vacation
- Chips – Fries
- Caravan – Trailer
- Not many attractions or public places offer free WiFi in the US. But the majority of hotels, malls, restaurants, and eateries offer free WiFi.
- If you are thinking to buy a local SIM then it is recommended to take from T-mobile as it is more customer-friendly. Buying prepaid International SIM cards is very tricky in the US as they offer so many plans with locked or unlocked phone options. If you take local number then do not receive calls from unknown numbers as half of them are fake or spam.
- If your country offers better International calling rates, then better to activate your International calling on your phone.
SAFETY & GENERAL TIPS
- Mostly the US is safe but it is advised to take general precautions.
- Don’t explore unheard neighborhoods or shady areas at night time.
- When to visit US ? – US have beautiful Fall (autumn), spring, summer and winter. You can choose your preferred season and can plan your trip.
Check 4 seasons of US – Fall, Winter, Summer & Spring –
LOCAL CULTURE & PEOPLE
- Americans are social and talkative. A courteous smile with Hi is always respected here. Sometimes they love to crack jokes or talk to you if they meet you in a lift/elevator or hotel reception.
- Sometimes in crowded places, you will find lots of talkative people and a little noisy which is just opposite to Europe.
These all observations are based on my personal experience when I visited the US for my East Coast road trip and Midwest trip. I hope I am not hurting anybody’s sentiments of any country or lifestyle. I hope you loved reading some tips for Visiting the United States for the first time or things to know about America before going. Traveling to the US is always great as it is huge and too big and welcomes all open-heartedly.
- EAST COAST ROAD TRIP ITINERARY.
- THINGS TO DO IN CHICAGO.
- THINGS TO DO IN NYC.
- THINGS TO DO IN WASHINGTON DC.
- WHERE TO STAY IN NYC OR HOTEL OPTIONS IN NEW YORK CITY.
- FOOD TOUR IN CHICAGO.
- TOUR TO NIAGARA FALLS FROM CHICAGO.
- VISIT PHILLY.
- TAKE A UNIVERSITY TOUR IN USA – VIRTUAL TOUR OF UIUC.
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