The United States of America is the most popular tourist destination in the world. It is a widespread country with a very diverse culture and historical and architectural values. The buildings and parks and museums in the country make it a tourist haven. Because of its spread and diversity, visitors need to know some basic things before traveling to USA to save themselves from any unpleasant situations. The security measures in the United States and before visiting the United States are strict, especially after the 9/11 incident. Therefore it is essential to know about every prerequisite expected from you before traveling to the United States. Once you land in the country, make sure you understand the rules of the State you are heading to and also the costs involved.
The United States has a plethora of stuff for visitors to enjoy. It has a magnificent landscape, best music scene, historic buildings, lush green parks, adventure and theme parks for kids and teens as well as monuments. Therefore it is essential to draft a well laid out plan before visiting the USA to avoid wasting time and money and have the most of the fun.
Here, we have compiled a list of things to know before traveling to the USA to get yourself well-prepared and ready for the fun and adventure ahead.
1. Check your passport validity
“Is my passport valid?” and “How long can I travel on this passport?”; These are the two most important and valid questions you would ask yourself while planning for a trip. Now, every country has its own rules. Therefore, you have to check according to the regulations of your destination. While visiting the USA, you have to follow the six months rule. That means your passport has to be valid not only on the day you are leaving or the day you are coming but longer than that. While traveling to the USA, your passport has to be valid for six months after the day of your travel. For example, if you are leaving on March 15th, your passport must be valid until September.
2. Get your US Visa
Traveling to the US means you have to apply for a US visa. You can apply for different types of visas, depending on the reason you are visiting the US. You can use it for tourism, studying, business, working, or residence. DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application is the form you will have to fill at the US consulate website of the country from where you are applying. The visa form includes general information like name, age, passport number, etc. and some security information questions like if you have ever been convicted, held by police, or used any substance.
After submission of your DS-160 form, you have to schedule your visa interview date at the US consulate or embassy. They will give you a time, and you might have to wait for weeks or months, depending on the workload of the government.
Once you are given the date, prepare your required document, as mentioned by the US authorities. Finally, appear for the interview, they might ask some background questions about you and your plans for visiting the USA.
The process is, no doubt, long, but it is not much of a strict routine if you are fully prepared and are honest in your form and interview.
3. Don’t visit without Travel Insurance
While people in some countries take insurance for granted, one traveling to USA tip is to always have travel insurance in hand before going. Medical treatment cost in the US is quite high, and in case you fall ill during your trip, you may experience a significant cost overhead.
Look for a travel insurance plan that has a wide range of emergencies covered. Your travel insurance must include a medical emergency, loss of luggage, theft, flight delays, flight cancellations, and personal accident. Make sure your flight, transits, and destination stay all are covered in your travel insurance plan.
Research about the approximate medical and other costs while traveling to the US. The price may be considered high considering the exchange rate and the cost of services there; therefore, make sure you have appropriate financial cover in your insurance.
4. Book Cheapest flight
A big chunk of the budget goes to the air tickets. However, if you act smart, you may find a myriad of deals that offer the cheapest flights while traveling to the USA. The cost you save on air tickets is eventually useful in making your trip more memorable with more places to visit and to have more fun.
Use more than one flight’s search engine so that you get the fairest price and do not fall into the trap of popular ticket booking websites. One of the best travel to the USA tip I have come across is to search for flights in the incognito mode of your browser. Some popular ticket searching apps make use of the cookies and your search history to increase the prices to make you believe that the prices are soaring. Therefore, you are psychologically trapped to book the flight in haste.
Then work out a schedule to fly on the cheapest day. Search for several days to find out the best day to travel to the US. Also, use your travel points or frequent flyer bonus to book for cheap.
Another pro traveling to the US is to book with budget airlines. They might have some luxuries missing, but the cost-cutting factor is beautiful.
5. How to deal with Airport security
Airport security can be tiring and time-consuming if you are not prepared beforehand. Here is a guide to pass the security line at the US airports without hassle.
It is advisable to arrive at the airport two to three hours before the departure of the flight to avoid any unnecessary situation. Electronics need to be accessible for security personnel to check if the laptops and tablets and new cell phones are safe. Make sure the devices are sufficiently charged and are within easy access.
Pack your necessary travel documents in a bag or pouch and keep them within easy access to provide them at the check-in without a fumble. Do not carry more than 100 ml of any liquid except breastmilk, formula, and medicine.
6. How to dress in the USA
Wearing in the USA is relatively casual and easy-going. Just about everything goes in the United States. However, the clothing must be neat, clean, and ironed. Americans find body odor extremely offensive and unbearable. Therefore, your garment must be adequately washed, as well as your body. Use deodorant, and do not try to take an extra day out of your dress.
If you are on a business or work trip, Research about the place you are visiting. While most of the offices allow casual dressing but some more formal setups may expect casual business or business attire.
7. The metric system differs
While most parts of the world have adopted the SI units universally, the United States has not yet gone on the metric system. They use the imperial system mostly that consists of inches, pounds, and feet. If you ask for directions, they might brief you in miles and not kilometers. So, a refresher in the Imperial System is the best thing to know when visiting the USA.
It might be handy to keep a conversion table or phone app to convert the US conventions to SI to understand better the distance or weight or whatever you are using the units for.
8. Tipping is expected in restaurants
Although in most European countries, tipping is minimal; In the USA, however, a generous tip is expected at hotels for room service, on trips, as well as in restaurants. Moreover, this is so much a part of the business that you might find tip already added to your bill. 15% is standard and can go up to 18-21 %.
9. The USA is expensive
The cost of a trip to the United States largely depends on the state you are visiting. While New York, Los Angeles, and Washington are on the higher side of the price spectrum and Detroit and Nashville are more budget-friendly.
10. Visit National and States Parks
The United States has a high culture of national and states parks. The parks are very well taken care of and are clean and very visitor friendly. Though the parks are very crowded during peak hours. To get the full advantage of visiting lush green and vast parklands, you should try to avoid the crowds.
11. Every State seems to be a little country
The states in the United States are relatively autonomous geographical entities. What the visitors from other countries may find astonishing and annoying some times is that there are different rules and legal laws were operating in different states. So it is a thing to know before visiting the USA that different states work on their own just like a small country. The legal stuff like driving speed, the minimum age for driving, and visiting night clubs and laws regarding Marijuana, nudity on the beach, and hate speech may vary.
12. Don’t depend on public transportation
Except for a few places, the USA is majorly a car-dependent country. The mass transit systems are mostly on life support because of security and functional issues. Since the USA is a widespread country and many cities are settled on the highways, it is very money intensive and difficult work to keep a mass transit program in working.
For a visitor, there are many other options, though. They can book for cabs and also for self-driven road trips.
13. Americans are friendly people
Though Americans are a very diverse nation because of people from across the world coming and settling there and given their personal touch to behavioral and social setup. However, generally, people in America are friendly and welcoming. They also love their privacy, so it is essential to know before traveling to USA that people expect you to ring them before visiting them, and personal comments and involvements are perceived as offensive.
Overall, the USA is a fun and friendly country if you are well-prepared ahead of time. So, save yourself from the hassle and panic, take some time to prepare well, and then head to a fun-filled holiday.