Important things to know before traveling to the USA

 

Planning on traveling to the USA on holiday for the first time this year? While there is much to see and do in this exciting country, there are a number of things that you should keep in mind as you plan your trip to America … check out our list below:

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1) Apply for a visa waiver before packing your bags

Unlike many other nations in the developed world, entry into the United States of America is tightly controlled, even for western nationalities.

Even Canadians, who have the easiest requirements to meet, are routinely grilled with questions by eagle-eyed border guards trained to sniff out individuals with less than noble intentions.

As long as you look into visa waiver programs before booking your ticket (which will allow you 90 days of travel in America for business and/or pleasure), and remain calm as you answer the queries that Homeland Security asks of you, everything will be fine.

2) The United States is a massive country

The USA is not like the United Kingdom or France – measuring 4,314 kilometres east to west, and 2,514 kilometres north to south at their widest points, this country is impossible to experience in its entirety during the standard two week holiday.

Even if you use the maximum 90 day allotment that your visa waiver provides you, you’ll be constantly rushing around, which will make it hard to soak in your destinations.

As a result, it is best that you confine yourself to one or two geographical regions during your stay in the USA.

3) Tipping culture is pervasive

Throughout much of the Western world, gratuities for workers in the service industry are either included in the bill, or wages are at a rate that makes leaving a sizable one unnecessary. In America, the choice of whether to leave a tip is left up to the consumer.

Most citizens opt to do so for even sub-par service though, as wages for many jobs in this sector in the USA are very low ($2.13 an hour, though servers that don’t make enough in gratuities in a given month are topped up to $7.25 an hour over the amount of time that they worked).

For acceptable service, 15-20% is standard, and locals are more than happy to tip more than that for an exceptional experience.

4) Units of measurement are in imperial units, not metric

Just drove away from the airport in your rental car, and are shocked at how slow freeway speed limits are in the USA? Unless you are from Germany or Italy, you might be mistaking miles per hour for kilometres.

Units in America are still in imperial units, despite most other nations switching to metric more than a generation ago. Other things to watch for: temperature is in Fahrenheit, petrol/gas is sold by the gallon, and product measurements are in ounces and pounds.

5) Travel to the US can be a costly affair

It’s good to start pre-planning a while in advance as flights can be anywhere up to $600 one way depending on where you are flying from. Expedia often run deals, sometimes you get upto 60% off last minute offers, these can be found on mamma.com. Make sure you look out for various deals and get saving well in advance.

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