The USA is a very popular travel destination, for tourists and locals alike. With incredible diversity and numerous attractions, the many states are great for exploring and enjoying new experiences.
If you’re planning to travel to the USA for the first time and are not sure what to expect, then here are seven things you should know before your visit.
Know Before You Go USA
Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) Application
One of the most important things you need to do before travelling to the United States is to make sure you get a travel authorization before you enter the country. Foreign visitors will need to apply for an ESTA in advance. An ESTA application takes about a day to process so make sure you apply at least 72 hours before your flight.
An ESTA isn’t the same as a visa, but it’s a permit that allows you to travel to and around the country. It’s also valid for two years so you can go back and forth as many times as you want in that time.
There are 38 countries that fall under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows travellers from those countries to enter the USA without a visa for up to 90 days. Visitors from these 38 countries will still need authorization to enter the United States and must apply for an ESTA.
If you come from a country that doesn’t fall under the VWP, then you’ll need to apply for a tourist or visitor’s visa in order to enter the USA. To get a visitor’s visa you’ll need to fill out the forms, either online or at a USA Embassy, compile all the necessary documents and be interviewed.
You’ll need to prove that you’re just planning to visit and will leave after a certain period of time, as well as that you can afford to travel there.
In the USA, tipping is customary and many travellers don’t realise that the tipping etiquette is different to their own countries. The standard tip for restaurant service is about 15-20% as wait staff are generally paid very low wages, and therefore rely on their tips.
When dining at restaurant, always check your bill as a gratuity fee is usually automatically added onto your total. Tipping also applies to bar staff, housekeepers, valets, hotel porters and taxi drivers, so remember to set aside some dollars just for tipping.
Almost everywhere in the USA, you’ll find that the sales tax isn’t included on an items price tag. So when you go to pay, you’ll find that the total cost of your purchases will be more expensive than you calculated. Always expect to pay more than you think and try to make a budget beforehand that takes sales tax into account. This is a helpful way to avoid overspending.
Different states and cities may have different sales taxes but you can assume that it’s about 10%. So when you look at price tags, remember to add on an extra 10% to make sure you can afford it.
There are various transportation options available in the USA, and the best type to go for varies from place to place.
For example, if you’re travelling around New York City, you should use the subway system rather than rent a car, but other cities may be easier to travel around by car.
Uber is very big in the USA so you could always use the app to get around and even use the carpool feature.
One thing to keep in mind is that the food servings in the United States are usually a lot bigger than you would find elsewhere in the world. While you may struggle to finish your meals, you can always keep the leftovers to eat at a later time and save some money by not buying extra snacks.
English is the main language you’ll find spoken in the USA so you can always find someone to speak to, no matter what state you’re in. Other languages, like Spanish, are also spoken in some cities, but the vast majority speak English.Before you go, we'd love to hear from you in the comments below. I'm working hard to build a community here and a big part of that are your contributions! If you have experiences to share, questions, comments, suggestions, or anything else, please leave us a quick comment. I promise to reply!