More people are travelling abroad than ever before – Groupon report that the travel industry contributed over 7.75 trillion USD to the global economy in 2017. The United States of America is one of the countries tourists are flocking to in huge numbers, and it’s easy to see why. From the tropical beaches of Hawaii and Florida, to the snow-capped peaks of Colorado and Lake Tahoe, there’s something for everyone here and it’ll take you a long time to explore it! To help you plan your trip, we’ve pulled together some of the most important things you should know.
1. You will probably need a visa
First and foremost, you need to check if you require an ESTA. This is America’s visa waiver program and stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation. It allows people from certain countries to enter the US without requiring a visa. All you need to do is fill out an online form and submit some personal information in advance of your departure and pay a small fee. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to apply and receive approval from the US State Department. If you are not eligible for an ESTA, you will need to contact your embassy to see what the process is for applying for entry.
2. Tipping culture
This is one of the biggest cultural differences between the US and other countries. In America, it is considered standard practice to tip your server and it’s rude if you don’t. The general rule of thumb is to tip around 15%-20% of your bill if the service was good, or even more if it was exceptional. Other services such as baristas and taxi drivers will also expect a tip but it can be given from the change you receive.
3. State tax
Most of the prices you’ll see in the US exclude sales tax, so be prepared to pay more when you get to the counter. Each state regulates its own sales tax too, so it’s different depending on where you are. It’s safe to say you’ll be adding 10% for most purchases including any accommodation.
4. Take time to explore national parks
An often overlooked part of the USA is its national parks. Well-maintained, with a huge amount of wildlife and hikes for you to take, this is a truly American experience you shouldn’t miss out on. Home to some of the most diverse landscapes in the world, you can explore dense forests, mountainous regions, deserts, and valleys. Some parks that are definitely worth your time are Yosemite National Park (to experience the beautiful waterfalls), the Grand Canyon National Park (where you can kayak down the Colorado River from the Hoover Dam) or Yellowstone National Park (home to the Ol’ Faithful geyser and other natural wonders).
5. Check out the USA’s second cities
While it’s amazing to visit major cities like New York and San Francisco, visiting these places comes with a high price tag and a lot of time spent navigating public transport. Consider visiting second cities like Charleston, Portland or Nashville which are all easy to get around and are noted for their food and music culture. Charleston is famous for its southern charm, whereas Portland goes by the mantra of “Keep Portland Weird”. Nashville is the place to go for a great night out with some toe-tapping music.
Where would you most like to visit in the US?