The Top 30 Important Things to Know Before Traveling to USA: Hey! Do you wish to travel to the United States of America? Yes, of course, everybody wants to visit the beautiful cities of the USA. However, before venturing on your dream journey to the United States, here are the 30 important things to know before traveling to the USA in 2023.
Why should I travel to the USA?
You must travel around the world while you are still young. This will help you to explore, learn, and grow. While there are many parts of the world where you would love to go for soul-searching, the United States is a great place to begin.
There’s so much to discover in the US, from top cities for young travelers to small towns filled with unique attractions. But, before you grab your backpack and other essential travel photography gear, here are 30 things you should know before visiting America for the first time.
The United States has numerous natural wonders and sophisticated cities that draw visitors from all over the world.
From lush Caribbean jungles and beaches to vast deserts and snowcapped mountains, the country has some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes on the planet—not to mention the famous concrete jungles.
The Beautiful American Landscape: Things To Know Before Traveling To USA
It’s exciting to visit all of these famous attractions, but before you book your trip, here are 30 things you should know about planning a trip to the United States to help you plan your dream vacation.
The United States of America (USA) is one of the world’s largest countries. This country spans a large portion of the North American continent, from sea to sea, from mountain peaks to ocean shores.
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The country has a rich history that dates back well over 200 years, and the United States continues to lead the world into the future. They provide some of the most expensive and high-quality entertainment available anywhere in the world. A country of this size is a popular destination for international tourists.
More so, across the beautiful American landscape, there are numerous cities to visit, landmarks to see, and places to explore. This article will look at 15 aspects of the United States, ranging from important and useful information to amusing and interesting facts to remember.
Traveling to the United States is something that everyone should do at least once in their lives.
30 Important Things To Know Before Traveling To USA
So here we go: Things To Know Before Traveling to USA.
1. Is a PCR for COVID-19 still required for entry into the United States?
No, as of June 22, 2022, the United States eliminated the testing requirement for all visitors. Vaccination documentation is still required. (From travel.state.gov)
2. To enter the United States, you must have a tourist visa or an ESTA.
Incoming visitors must be aware of and understand the requirements for entering the United States.
The US Visa Waiver Program, also known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), currently allows citizens of these 39 countries to enter the US without a visa for up to 90 days.
The majority of these countries are from the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and a few others.
Know that your 90-day period begins the moment you set foot on US soil, including Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and other US territories.
Those 90 days in the United States include time spent in Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or Caribbean islands if they arrived via the United States.
The ESTA application is only required if arriving by air or cruise ship. It is not required if entering overland or on local ferries, such as those between Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and Washington State.
The ESTA is valid for a period of up to two years. You may visit the United States an unlimited number of times, as long as each stay is no longer than 90 days.
More so, the ESTA is far less expensive than a traditional tourist visa, and filling out a simple application form takes only about 20 minutes. While you can apply for your ETSA at any time before boarding your flight, it is recommended that you do so at least 72 hours in advance.
Have your ESTA and approval number ready when you leave, as it will be requested during check-in.
If you want to stay in the US for more than 90 days, or if you don’t qualify for the ESTA program, you’ll need a visa.
Obtaining Other US Visas: Things To Know Before Traveling To USA
If you want to stay in the US for a longer period or if your citizenship is not covered by the ESTA program, you will need to look into other US tourist visas, primarily the B-2 Visa (tourist visa).
These visas are typically much more expensive than the ESTA (around $160–$180 for many countries), but the process is a bit more complicated, and there is no single list of requirements because they vary depending on your citizenship.
There are three types of visas available: a tourist visa (also known as a visitor visa, which is the easiest to obtain), a temporary visa, and an immigration visa (the hardest one to acquire).
Check to see if your country is part of the Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens to visit the United States without a visa for business or tourism. Travelers from these countries must apply for an ESTA Visa, or Electronic System for Travel Authorization.
This operates more like a permit than a visa. You will be able to enter the country if you have an ESTA.
We recommend using iVisa to get the most accurate information, understand your visa requirements, and expedite your application.
You can also check the requirements on the website of your country’s US embassy or by visiting such an embassy or consulate. (For example, if you’re Moroccan, go to the US embassy in Rabat.)
3. Transportation: Things To Know Before Traveling To USA
The United States is massive, with 50 states. Flying is the most convenient way to reach long-distance destinations within the country. It is also the most efficient, convenient, and cost-effective mode of transportation when traveling between regions.
Furthermore, America is well-known for its car culture, with 95% of Americans owning a personal automobile. Cars have remained the most popular mode of transportation since the 1950s and 1960s, and they are deeply ingrained in the nation’s lifestyle and popular culture.
Because of their convenience, Uber and Lyft have begun to replace traditional taxis and public transportation in urban areas.
Things To Know Before Traveling to USA (contd)
4. Check the Validity of Your Passport
To enter the United States, your passport must be valid for at least six months at the time of travel. This means that if your passport expires in less than six months, you will be unable to travel to the United States.
You should also ensure that your passport is valid for the duration of your trip.
5. Accommodations: Things To Know Before Traveling To USA
It is best to book a hotel room in advance to avoid any last-minute problems. Keep in mind that hotel rooms are priced per room, not per person. So, if you’re traveling with a group, ask about group discounts. These are available for both low-cost motels and luxury hotels.
6. Understand The United States’ Tipping Culture
In the United States, you are expected to tip for all types of services, including cab drivers, deliveries, valets, porters, room service, and, most notably, waiters and bartenders. (Most of them earn less than the federal minimum wage, which is already far too low!)
The typical tipping range is 15% to 20%.
While tipping is customary, it is not required. As a general rule, if the service is adequate (nothing outstanding), I give 15%.
If it is exceptional, I’ll give you 20% off. On the other hand, if the service was terrible, I would give 10% or less, depending on how bad the service was.
Other common hospitality industry tip suggestions include:
- Concierge: dependent on the difficulty of your request
- Housekeepers: $1–5 per night
- Bartenders: $1–2 per drink
- Hotel porters: $1-2 per bag
- Valets: $1–5 each time the valet brings your car
- Doormen: a few dollars if they help you get a cab
- Taxi drivers: 10-15%
- Shared shuttle drivers: $2–3 per person
- Food delivery: $1-$4, depending on the distance from the restaurant to your accommodation
Finally, always check your restaurant bill before tipping, as some restaurants include the tip in the total of your bill. Likewise, some other services already include a “service charge,” which is a tip.
7. Sales Tax: Things To Know Before Traveling To USA
Expect to spend more than your initial budget because almost everything in the United States is subject to sales tax. Depending on the city or state, this tax can add five to ten percent to the purchase price. Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon are the only states that do not have sales taxes.
Things To Know Before Traveling to USA (contd)
8. The United States of America is Much Larger Than You Think
With a total land area of 9.83 million square kilometers (including territories), the United States has such a diverse landscape and culture that it almost feels like each of the 50 states is a country in its own right.
Not to mention the diverse geography and cultures that Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and other territories offer.
Many states are larger than some European countries when compared. The country is divided into three distinct regions by two north-south features.
The Pacific states are located west of the Rocky Mountains and are known for their long stretches of beach along the California coast, stunning deserts such as the Grand Canyon, and year-round temperate weather.
The vast plains stretching from Mexico to Canada are sandwiched between the Rockies and the Mississippi River, making the United States one of the world’s most fertile growing regions.
Last but not least, we have the east of the Mississippi, which is the country’s industrial and economic center. Several major cities, including New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Chicago, and Miami,.
The Appalachian Mountains, which are not only one of the most diverse ecological regions in the country but also played an important role in US history, from settlement to westward expansion, are also found here.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the United States, is located in the Appalachians.
That brings us to…
9. Don’t Forget to Visit at Least One National Park
Although the United States is well known for its bustling cities, its national parks provide a healthy balance of nature and outstanding landscapes.
The United States established the world’s first national park. Theodore Roosevelt established Yellowstone National Park in 1872, ushering in a natural conservation practice that would spread throughout the world.
With 62 national parks, the United States has amassed an impressive collection of landscapes, flora, fauna, and outdoor experiences.
Get away from the city and immerse yourself in nature by camping in the dense forest, marveling at the sky-scraping snowcapped mountains, exploring hidden red desert canyons, and hiking past lush valleys and pristine lakes.
When planning your trip, look into which national parks are in or near the states you’ll be visiting. They are, without a doubt, worth seeing!
Things To Know Before Traveling to USA (contd)
10. You Must Be At Least 25 Years Old To Rent A Car In The United States
Most rental companies will require it! Some will allow you to rent a car, but you will have to pay an additional fee! Depending on the location and company, this surcharge fee will range between $25 and $30.
11. Metric System in USA Is Very Confusing
Another surprising difference between the United States and the rest of the world is the use of the metric system in measurements. While nearly all developed countries use a system of centimeters and milliliters to measure substances, the United States continues to use its time-honored inches and feet units for the same purpose.
This conversion divide can be difficult for travelers who do not understand the exact value of the numbers stated. Travelers should keep a conversation table on hand for reference if precise amounts are required.
Among the most popular US National Parks are:
- Yellowstone National Park
- Yosemite National Park
- Zion National Park
- Mammoth Cave National Park
- The Grand Canyon National Park
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- And others.
12. Plan your USA Itinerary Accordingly: Things To Know Before Traveling To the USA
As previously stated, the United States is vast, so plan your trip accordingly. How much free time do you have? Several days, weeks, or months?
If your trip is limited in time, you should probably concentrate on just one or a few nearby cities, such as New York, Washington, DC, and Boston.
If you have a few weeks, you could extend your trip by flying to the other coast (for example, from New York to Los Angeles) or driving across several states.
More so, if you have up to 12 weeks (roughly three months), you could take a road trip across the entire continental US, or you could focus on exploring one region in depth.
Also, do you have a specific goal in mind for your trip? What do you want to experience?
It could be anything from visiting several national parks to seeing some of the country’s most famous cities and visiting several theme parks.
You could also go off-roading, camping in the wilderness, attending festivals and major events, or discover the US’s historical trails, among many other things.
The possibilities are endless, but keep in mind that due to the size of the country, getting from one point to another may take a long time if driving or a long time if flying.
Make a list of the following items as you plan your trip:
- Free activities in each city or town
- Interesting National Parks
- Best hikes, bike trails, and walks (if you enjoy them)
- Tour of the city or Interesting day trips
- Interesting Attractions
- Restaurants of note
Now, try to fit them all into the timeframe of your trip to see how they all fit. This will let you know if your trip plans are too ambitious or if you have time to visit additional destinations or attractions.
Always include your estimated travel time from point A to point B. Using Google Maps Directions is ideal for this.
As a general rule, I like to leave some wiggle room in my schedule.
13. Consider Taking A Road Trip or Going On An Overland Adventure
Many cities in the United States are far apart, but in between, there are many beautiful places and quirky roadside attractions to explore and enjoy. This is one of the reasons why road trips or overland trips are so popular in the United States.
You can travel between cities and rural areas by bus with companies like Greyhound and Megabus or by train with Amtrak, the national train operator.
When it comes to buses, the earlier you book, the better the deals you’ll find, including $1 bus fares! Amtrak is the same, and they even offer a USA Rail Pass for 15, 30, or 45 days.
When looking for trains or buses, I highly recommend using Busbud. They display a large inventory of train and bus routes at the best price.
Renting a car or an RV, on the other hand, is the recommended option for road-tripping in the United States if you want more freedom to move around.
Unless you’re visiting a city like New York, Chicago, or San Francisco, I recommend renting a car while in the United States.
Unfortunately, unlike Europe, most of the country was not developed with urban centers and public transportation. Even in major cities such as Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, and Orlando, a car is required, or at least recommended, to get around.
I use and recommend DiscoverCars.com, Kayak, and SkyScanner for car rental searches.
When renting a car in the United States, we recommend doing the following:
- Check the total cost of the car rental. Typically, the price quoted during a search does not include taxes or insurance.
- Car rental companies frequently push for premium insurance coverage above the minimum required. Based on your circumstances, you must decide whether or not to include it.
- The current price of gasoline in the states you will be visiting. Calculate the potential cost of gas based on the distance you intend to travel and the car’s gas consumption rate (you can find that online by searching the car model and its miles per gallon rate).
- Will it have GPS? If so, what is the cost? Nowadays, you can get a local sim card with data and use your phone as a GPS with Google Maps or Waze.
- How much does each additional driver cost? To be safe in case of an accident, including all drivers on the rental agreement.
- How much will it cost to drop off the car in another city (if you’re only traveling one way)?
- Is your route subject to tolls? Look them up online. Tolls can quickly add up!
- Before leaving the car rental lot, document and photograph any visible defects on the vehicle. Take a picture of the dashboard as well to keep track of the fuel level and mileage.
When taking a road trip
When taking a road trip in more remote areas, such as the Midwest, keep in mind the distance between gas stations, as some can be quite far apart. Make sure your gas tank is full enough to get you through those empty stretches.
Finally, if you have an RV, know that the Walmart chain allows RVs to park for free in their parking lots for one night. There are also numerous free or low-cost campgrounds located throughout the country.
It should be noted that overnight RV parking at roadside rest stops is prohibited in many states, so check to see if this applies to your trip.
Things To Know Before Traveling to USA (contd)
14. Book Your Domestic Flights separately From International Flights
If you’re short on time and want to travel between cities, flying is the best option. However, I recommend that you purchase your domestic flights separately from your international flights.
When domestic flights are purchased in conjunction with an international leg, airlines and flight aggregators frequently charge a premium. If you book them separately, you will have more options across all airline alliances.
Many popular routes in the United States, which are frequently traveled by foreigners, are extremely competitive among US airlines, so you’ll have a better chance of finding a good deal if you search for them independently.
15. Expect to pay more than what is Displayed
Unlike in most other countries, the prices displayed at supermarkets, stores, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses do not include sales tax. Every state has its own sales tax, which ranges from 7% to 11.5%.
Resorts are notorious for charging a hefty “resort fee” that is frequently not disclosed when making a reservation.
Depending on the resort, this could range from $10 to $100. To see these additional taxes and fees, always read the fine print or the “not included” section of the advertised price.
16. DO NOT TRAVEL IF YOU DO NOT HAVE TRAVEL INSURANCE
I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories about the ineffective and costly medical system in the United States. They are all correct.
I’m sure you don’t want to return home and find a $1200 bill for a doctor’s prescription for ibuprofen. This may appear exaggerated, but it isn’t far from the truth.
Travel insurance with medical coverage is essential for any trip, but especially so in the United States.
It’s also a plus if your insurance covers trip cancellations in the event of flight cancellations or other unforeseen events. I use World Nomads travel insurance and have had nothing but positive experiences with them.
17. Remember to Visit the Islands! Things To Know Before Traveling To USA
Both Hawaii and Puerto Rico have several stunning islands that make you feel like you’re in a different country, worlds away from the typical American image.
I can attest to that as a native Puerto Rican, having grown up there.
Kayak in the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay, visit one of the Americas’ oldest cathedrals and surf in the Caribbean’s surfing capital.
18. Always keep Cash on Hand: Things To Know Before Traveling To the USA
As advanced as the United States is, it still lags far behind many European and South American countries in terms of digital payment options.
Because the United States is always playing catch-up, don’t be surprised if many rural businesses still only accept cash.
Also, in many places, the tip is left in cash, unless you have a credit card that can accept it.
Almost everything can be paid for with credit cards and contactless payments in most major cities. However, there are a few businesses that accept only cash for tax purposes.
Before leaving your home country, notify your bank that you will be using your debit and credit cards in the United States so that they do not block it as a suspicious charge.
19. The Different Climates: Things To Know Before Traveling To USA
The United States of America has all four seasons and a wide range of climates. The north tends to be cooler, while the deep south remains warm.
At the same time, the east coast has hot and muggy summers, whereas the west coast has fairly consistent weather all year. The Southwest is a desert region with few plants and trees. Because of the various climates, travelers should pack appropriate clothing for the region and time of year they wish to visit.
Things To Know Before Traveling to USA (contd)
20. Is the US safe for tourists?
Not Always. As a developed country, the United States is naturally one of the safest places to visit. However, there are some dangerous areas that authorities advise people to avoid. Begin by always traveling in pairs, and if you must travel alone, do so in a well-lit area.
21. You Might Be “Investigated” at the Airport
Since the tragic events of 9/11, airport security has become increasingly tight around the world. Travelers to some of the busiest airports should expect long wait times and a thorough inspection of what they are bringing to the airport and on board the plane.
It is recommended that travelers arrive 2-3 hours before their flight to allow enough time to clear security and board the plane. This is especially important for the United States, which is home to many of the world’s busiest airports.
22. You have to show your ID very often, So Get Use To It
It is important to keep your PASSPORT with you at all times. A DRIVING LICENSE or ID from your home country is usually insufficient.
Even if you’re 40 years old, they’ll still ask for ID when you order alcohol or enter a club.
If you are from another country, it may be annoying and slightly insulting at first, but you will grow accustomed to it (same as locals).
23. English is the Spoken Language in the USA – Things To Know Before Traveling To USA
The United States is a diverse society with people from all walks of life and backgrounds, but visitors should expect to see mostly English on signs and in stores.
As the universal language of the world, English is usually not a barrier for foreigners. It wouldn’t hurt for travelers to pick up a phrase book or memorize key lines to help them get around. Most Americans are willing to assist anyone who is looking for a specific location or requires directions.
24. Getting a Visa Might Be Difficult
Obtaining a passport and a visa are two of the most important requirements for traveling abroad. This is the process by which a country must grant permission for a foreign individual to visit. Before entering the United States, almost all non-citizens must obtain a visa.
To obtain one, the traveler must simply submit an application and wait for it to be approved. This is usually a smooth process with no problems. Individuals from specific countries, on the other hand, should expect their applications to take longer due to external factors in global affairs.
25. Make sure you know where you’re going! Bring a map with you on your road trip
A map is an essential part of traveling throughout the United States. Streets are divided into blocks, and some buildings house multiple businesses. It is strongly advised that travelers plan their days in advance.
The map is also useful in case you get lost. It’s easy to get lost in a crowd of people near tourist hotspots. Make sure you and any travel companions are on the same page when you can’t find each other. The sheer size of the country necessitates the use of a map more often than you might think.
26. Driving on the Left Side – Things To Know Before Traveling To the USA
While much of the world drives on the left side of the road, it is important to remember that the rules of the road in the United States are fundamentally different.
Not only do Americans drive on the right side of the road, but the driver’s seat is on the left side of the vehicle. As a result, the country’s transportation infrastructure is at odds with the rest of the world.
Therefore, if you intend to drive across the United States, be sure to thoroughly research road signs and travel tips. Even if the fundamentals are reversed, it may not feel the same as your home country.
27. You will need a CREDIT CARD (not debit)
Most car rental companies in the United States will accept debit cards to verify credit at the time of rental. Renters must also meet certain requirements to rent a car.
They should, for example, be over the age of 25. However, younger drivers may face an additional surcharge and must be at least 21 years old in most states and provinces.
A valid driver’s license issued in the United States, Canada, or any other country that meets the car rental requirements is required.
A round-trip plane ticket or travel itinerary with a return date, as well as your passport, may be required.
Things To Know Before Traveling to USA (contd)
28. You will need a lot of Money! US is Expensive
This may seem obvious, but bringing money is critical to ensuring a successful trip to the United States. The major cities are spread out, and there are numerous stores to visit along the way.
Individuals should expect to spend a lot of money on transportation, especially if they plan to visit more than one city. A short bus ride or walk is rarely sufficient to get you where you want to go.
29. Americans are Loud
One of the most common stereotypes a foreigner has likely heard in their lifetime is that Americans are loud. While it is true that Americans like to be heard, this is due to the abundance of entertainment available in the country.
The United States has a plethora of ways for people to express themselves actively and passively in all forms of media, from the movies to parks, singing, and performances. Being the best version of yourself is central to American culture.
30. Washington State and D.C. are Two Different Places
As with any language, there will inevitably be some communication difficulties for foreigners. This is frequently caused by similar-sounding words being mixed up when used in the same context. However, because Washington is such a popular name in the United States, this problem extends to place names.
Foreigners are frequently perplexed by the west coast state of Washington and the east coast capital of Washington, D.C. The simplest way to avoid this misunderstanding is to remember that the capital is designed to function independently of any state in the union.
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