United States of America Travel Guide
🗝️ Key Facts
🏛️Capital: Washington DC
💶Currency: American Dollar (USD)
🕙Time Zone: -4 to -10 GMT
📞Phone Code: +1
✈️Best time to visit: Year round
🍴Eat: BBQ Ribbs / Gofres / Real Hamburger
🗺️Don't miss: Golden Bridge (SF), Statue of Liberty (NY), Hollywood (LA), Seattle Needle (SE)
🗺 Menu of Contents:
The USA has so many attraction and things to see in a whole, that we would need a complete new website guide to enlist them all! It's therefore so hard to write something to summarize what the United States of America is about in regards to travel, because the options are just limitless! However, it's true that its the country of opportunity and everything is possible to see in the 50 official states of the country.
The US is an enormous country stretching about 4,800 km from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and spanning 7 different time zones. An interesting characteristic that although English is the official language, the US itself is a mixture of cultures from all over the world, which came to the US from 1880 to 1920 in the first big wave of immigrants seeking to establish in the country a new life. It's not surprising therefore to see in big cities its own Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Somalia, or Little Italy. These enormous cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco, which offer world-class museums, shopping, restaurants and nightlife, being the most famous.
Despite the US is a fairly young country, it still has numerous monuments and museums, where its history is displayed. Some highlights include the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, the Tea Party Ships in Boston, the iconic Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, and the Declaration of Independence in Washington DC's National Archives.
Cities in US are the most visited, but this should not fool any travellers, wishing to venture further and visit some impressive wealth of natural beauty. Ranging from the majestic Rocky Mountains to the calm serenity of Minnesota's Boundary Waters, the rugged Pacific coast of California to the endless 'Big Sky Country' of Montana, the scenery is astounding. Natural attractions are scattered throughout, including the 'Old Faithful' geyser in Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park, the giant redwoods of California, the Niagara Falls in upstate New York or the Volcano Natural Reserve Parks in Hawaii.
Travelling to the US can't be done lightly. It takes several visits to get a good understanding how different each state is, together with its people. So, whether it's driving the famous Route 66 across the country from Chicago to Los Angeles, skiing in the Colorado Rockies, tanning on a Miami beach or visiting the Statue of Liberty, a holiday in the US offers endless possibilities of entertainment, culture, history and fun!
Getting to The United States of America can be done either by air, rail or road. Mostly air travel proves to be the most popular as it saves a lot of time taking into consideration the massive size of the country. Interestingly, back in the 1900's it was also popular to travel to the US by ship. Those days have long gone with the revolution in air travel.
The country spans an incredible radius of over 4.800km, which means travelling to the US and within it, is better than by air. The US has 3 major airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Airlines, all of which offer a great route network from many European, African, Asian and Australian cities to America, travelling direct to some of the US major hubs. (New York, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles or San Francisco)
When travelling from Europe, in addition, many national European carries offer daily flights to many US cities, the most popular destinations being on the east coast, such as New York, Boston, Miami, Chicago and Washington DC. However when travelling from Asia or Australia the most popular destinations are Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Naturally there is more presence of Asian national carriers on this side of the country also.
✔️Tip: The choice of airlines is vast, and so is the competition, with many airlines fighting for the market. They offer special deals and packages which benefit travellers taking up flights and Hotels together in order to save money. This is very recommended when travelling to US as generally Hotels are expensive.
Flights are also the best option when travelling domestically in the USA, taking up to 6 hours to cross coast to coast. If you are not making a transit stop with the major airlines then it's also worth looking at the low cost airlines which operate in the country. Airlines such as jetBlue, Frontier Airlines, Spirit and Southwest are the main competitors in the low cost market, amongst many more.
Other options when travelling to the US from neighbouring countries, include train and bus. Specially rail from Canada is more popular and busses from either Canada and Mexico. Journey times are considerably long from one state to another so it's always suggested check air tickets as the first alternative. Unless you like doing a road trip for many days!
For the locals, it's quite common to reach other states by coach. This being an economical option, although lengthy rides at times and not the most comfortable vehicles are some of the negative sides. The most popular company used is Greyhound.
Within the country, transportation is widely available in every city and town. There are ample options to choose from in the major cities whilst in smaller towns there are at least public busses. Each main city has its unique transport system, combined with metro, busses, trams, rail etc. Please refer to each city for a more detailed overview of their transport options.
Another popular option when travelling in the USA is driving. It's roads are generally straight, in good condition and are easy to navigate your way around. Most local people own a car, so it's definitely widespread to use cars in smaller cities where the minimum driving age is only 16 years old. One of the key tourists attractions is to drive along the 66 Route through the desserts. Running between Chicago and Los Angeles, over two thousand miles, this legendary old road passes through the heart of the United States on a diagonal trip that takes in some of the country’s most typical roadside scenes.
❗Attention: Driving in the US is relatively straight forward. Remember that most cars are automatic, so it takes a little while getting used to if you're a manual gear change person.
Also note that some journeys by road like Route 66 are very long and big distances can be covered without any services. Taking extra fuel (gas) and calculating the driving distance is recommended not to get stuck on the road!
All citizens from around the world are required a VISA when travelling to the USA. (even on transit). The visas can be made either electronically via the official website of the US Home Office or in person at the embassy of your country if you are not permitted to apply for the electronic option.
The ETA, Electronic Travel Authorization VISA is valid for most EU citizens and other countries included in the visa waiver programme and can be applied online for a fee of $14. The visa then is valid for 2 years from the approval of the application with any trip not staying longer than 90 days in the USA at one time. Note, that if you do not hold the ETA (electronic visa) you will be refused to enter the USA and deported back.
Additionally, you need to have proof of address stay in the USA (this can be asked several times before you arrived in the USA). Some borders can be tighter and can also ask about your funds (cash or credit cards), employment details and plans in the USA.
The climate is generally continental on the upper half of the country, with a warmer climate taking shape as you travel down to the lower half of the country. Therefore each city can be extremely different depending when you are travelling. Temperatures are generally cold and get below 0°C in the upper half whilst in the south they enjoy mild winter's but harsh summer's up to 40-45°C at times!
Check below for more detailed weather information on each city in our guides.
Americans' appetite for learning more about food and becoming familiar with diverse cuisines has grown exponentially in the past decade, along with their waistlines.
In large cities, restaurants are mostly modern and very clean, offering a vast range of cuisines, prices and facilities. Restaurants come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from fast-food, self-service and counter service, to drive-thru and table service. There are numerous options for casual and fine dining alike. 'Diners', now a fading US institution, consist of simple food served from the counter. These are often located in smaller towns, and although they have been replaced by fast food chains in many areas, can still be found along the east coast and in parts of the southern US, midwest and southwest.
Given the country's diverse cultural groups, the range of cuisines available in the US is large. In fact, many people believe the US does not have its own distinct cuisine. There are however many ethnic cuisine in the large cities like New York, New Orleans or Los Angeles.
American servings and dishes are generally big in size and quantity. Therefore always consider how many dishes you order to be satisfied. Family chain restaurants, franchises and road cafes tend to be able to have free refills, including water, coffee and sodas.
Famous american dishes and specialities include: Hamburgers, Fried chicken, Barbecue meat, Waffles, Bagels, Cheesecake, Key lime pie and Apple pie.
As for drinks, Coca-Cola is the number one drink with it's other associated flavours. Regional wines are popular specially in California. Microbrewery beer. Speciality coffees and regional cocktails (Manhattan in New York; the Sazerac or the Vieux Carre in New Orleans).
Curiosities of dining in America: There are also many types of bars, cocktail lounges, café-style bars and English-style pubs. Restaurants with a reception and high quality Waiter/waitress service will cost much more than other more simple restaurants that are easy walk-ins. At the higher-end restaurants expect an extra surcharge for the service, plus they would expect a tip on top. (Wages are generally low for them so they rely heavily on these tips and surcharges). Another thing to take into account is the general norm not to include the VAT (TAX), so a meal which might look cheap at first might not be as much when you get the bill. (cheque as they say in the states).
✔️Tip: In the big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago etc is common to have dinner around 6-9pm, so it's best to call and reserve a table during this time to avoid having to walk around looking for space available. If then you fail to turn up, there are no penalties! So you can even book 2 or 3 just in case!
America can't be described until you have travelled at least a few times to the different states and cities around the whole country. It's vast size and difference in customs from one side of the country to the other are very noticeable. It's said that America lacks culture when compared to Europe, and this is true to one extent. However there is still lots of history to learn about. Many cities offer interesting museums and galleries to visit. America played an important part in the World Wars, specially after the Pearl Harbour attack, so it's common to come across with monuments and statues around the whole country in honour of the heroes and fatalities which resulted from the wars.
Each city is a world of it's own, and it's so curious to discover those differences, including its locals, from warm, welcoming and chatty in the west to hard working, ambitious and fast moving in the east.
Food is something you will always amaze about, specially for the size of the portions, good quality used, but unfortunately it's understandable how people can let themselves go with so much food on offer. Good prices in take out restaurants and a culture of driving instead of walking are the factors which make this nation over-size in so many ways.
However my experience in USA has always been positive, with people keen to help, converse and give tips to a typical tourist like myself. America is hard to describe in a few words, from modern, open and stylish to poor, run down, essential and basic to others. However the country has some stunning places to visit, both natural and human built.
New York, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco are the few cities which remain so fascinating and I enjoyed every aspect about them.
There is still a lot of road to discover and I look forward writing it in future trips!
(6 times visited)