United States of America
The sheer size of the US prevents any kind of all encompassing statement about the typical American experience. From the state-of-the-art skyscrapers of New York City to the scenic country lanes of New England, the United States of America is a place of astonishing beauty and extraordinary diversity. Nothing can remotely prepare you for your first glimpse of the glorious Golden Gate bridge, the glistening Empire State building, the neon lights of Las Vegas or the iconic Statue of Liberty. Not to mention the natural treasures on offer - the country’s beautiful national parks are home to some of the world’s most treasured wildlife and landscapes; the west and east coasts are strewn with spectacular beaches, and the Rockies provide endless opportunities for outdoor adventures. In fact, it is a country of such epic proportions that you could easily spend a lifetime in the US and still feel like you have barely scratched the surface.
Banking and Currency
The US Dollar is the currency of United States. The currency code for Dollars is USD, and the currency symbol is $. Notes come in $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 denominations and coins come in 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, and $1 denominations.
Most major credit cards are accepted throughout the USA, including American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa. Visitors are advised to carry at least one major credit card, as it is common to request pre-payment or a credit card imprint for hotel rooms and car hire, even when the final payment is not by credit card. Be sure to check with your card issuer for current surcharge rates imposed for use of the card outside your home country. You should also inform your issuer that you are travelling for a specified period so your card is not flagged or temporarily suspended.
Travellers' cheques are widely accepted in US Dollar cheques; Pound Sterling traveller's cheques are rarely accepted and few banks will honour them. Change is issued in US Dollars. One or two items of identification (passport, credit card, driving licence) will be required.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Americans drive on the right hand side of the road. Driving is a great way to see the USA but distances can be huge eg 4,716km (2,930 miles) between San Francisco and New York City. Nevertheless, for those visitors with ample time, travelling by road is an ideal way to get a sense of both the vastness and the diversity of the country. Besides, road tripping is a favourite method of travel for Americans, and some of its great roads are iconic, such as the famous Route 66.
Taxi service varies considerably from one city to another, and is often not available in rural areas at all. In big cities, taxis are readily identifiable and can be found easily. In smaller cities and towns with taxi service, you may need to call a company to request a taxi.
Major international companies have offices at all gateway airports and in most cities.
Nearly all the long-distance trains are operated by Amtrak, which serves more than 500 communities in 46 states and three Canadian provinces over a 35,000km (21,000 mile) route system. Rail is not considered the best way to travel within the USA, as trains can be slow, infrequent and expensive.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
Frequent eating out is a relative novelty for many Americans, particularly in suburban areas, and is just one of many consequences of the popularization of television shows that feature celebrity chefs and a focus on culinary history and popular culture.In large cities, restaurants are mostly modern and very clean, offering a vast range of cuisines, prices and facilities. Restaurants come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from fast-food, self-service and counter service, to drive-thru and table service. There are numerous options for casual and fine dining alike.
There are also many types of bars, cocktail lounges, café-style bars and English-style pubs. Generally speaking, waiter/waitress service costs more than self-service or take-out. Drinking laws are set by the individual states, counties, municipalities and towns; on average, closing time in bars is between midnight and 03h00.
Tipping is widely practised, as service charges are not usually included in the bill. Waiters generally expect 15 to 20% gratuity. Often, service charges are included for larger parties; if the restaurant's policy is not clearly stated on its menu, ask the server. It should be noted that a cover charge is for admission to an establishment, not a tip for service.
Climate and Weather
The overall climate in the United States of America (USA) is temperate, with notable exceptions. Alaska has an Arctic tundra climate, while Hawaii and South Florida have a tropical climate. The Great Plains are dry, flat and grassy, turning into arid desert in the far West. The climate is Mediterranean along the Californian coast.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
It really is casual in America. Outside of the main cities, it is advisable not to be bothered with dressy clothes. However if you plan to visit city restaurants then you may feel more comfortable in smart casual wear.
Clothes in natural fibers will work better in the heat and it is worth popping in a lightweight sweater, cardigan or pashmina wrap for cooler weather or overly fierce air conditioning.
Travel light and buy your toiletries there. Must haves include sunglasses and wear plenty of high factor sunscreen.
If you are planning to visit very hot areas then we would recommend that you pack a shirt with long sleeves and a higher neckline to prevent burning. A sunhat is also very useful in the intense sunshine and our packable one is just perfect for travelling.
The United States has generally good internet access in most tourist destination. When you’re booking accommodation it’s easy enough to scan the room descriptions with increasing numbers of properties offering Wi-Fi.
Electricity and Plug Standards
Electrical sockets in the United States of America are one of two electrical socket types: The 'Type A’ and ‘Type B’. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all types.
Electrical sockets in the United States of America usually supply electricity at 120 volts AC. If you're appliance is is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance isn’t compatible with 120 volts, a voltage converter will be necessary.