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The Ultimate USA Travel Guide

I’m so excited to show off the country I was born and raised in, the USA. 

As the 3rd largest country in the world (source), there is so much diversity across the land and the people.

The guide below covers general travel tips for visiting the USA, but for the best assistance, check out the guides on the specific areas you’re interested in traveling to.

United States of America Placeholder
United States of America

Language

The USA is a diverse country with many languages spoken. While there isn’t an official language in the US, English is by far the most common language spoken.

Spanish is the 2nd most common language, although it tends to be spoken more commonly in areas where there is a high Latinx population, such as California, Florida, and Texas.

Electricity & plugs

Electrical outlets in the US operate on a standard voltage of 120V. To find out if you need a converter and/or adapter, check out REI’s guide on voltage and outlets around the world.

Visa requirements

If you’ll be visiting from outside the US, you may need a visa to enter the country. 

To determine if you need a visa for your visit, use the US Department of State Visa Wizard

Health & safety

Most areas of the US are safe to visit. That said, good health and safety cannot be 100% guaranteed no matter where you travel, so use common sense and take your usual steps to stay safe. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you should let your guard down!

If you are Black, disabled, LGBTQi, or a woman, you may need to take extra precautions over others to stay safe, so please keep that in mind if you fall within any of these groups.

Healthcare is not free in the US, even for emergency situations. 

If you’re coming from outside the US, I highly recommend travel insurance.

In fact, I recommend ALL travelers carry travel insurance as a means of protection, whether it be for medical emergencies or to recoup expenses in the event of a cancellation. 

If you live in the US and have health insurance, double check with your insurance provider to ensure your health insurance will work outside your residential area. 

TIP: In the event of an emergency, dial 911 for assistance. This will connect you with an operator that can dispatch police, firefighters, or ambulance services.

Recent USA blog posts

Not sure where you want to visit in the US? Check out the most recent blog posts for ideas on where to go.

Currency & money

The US Dollar is the official currency in the US and its territories, such as Puerto Rico.

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where you can withdraw cash with an ATM bank card are widely available at banks and stores. 

TIP: You’ll more than likely be charged a fee to use an ATM, unless your bank reimburses fees for using other banks’ ATMs.

Credit cards are widely accepted in the US. In most areas in the US, businesses have the right to require a minimum purchase threshold in order to use a credit card and the right to not accept credit cards at all. 

Taxes

When purchasing goods, you might be charged a sales tax. Depending which state you are in, expect the sales tax to be somewhere between 3-7.5%. Some states limit the items on which a sales tax can be charged or have a limit on which it can be collected.

There are 5 states don’t charge a sales tax:

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon

Tipping

Last but not least, the US has a tipping culture, especially within industries tightly connected to travel.

Cabs & Rideshares: 15-20% is typical when tipping a cab or rideshare driver. For shared services, such as Uber Pool, 10% is sufficient.

Shuttle drivers & Hotel bellhops: I tip $1 per bag, but if I have heavy bags, I add extra.

Restaurants & Bars: When dining out or enjoying drinks at a bar, I leave a tip of 15-20% of the pre-tax total, unless I’m at a fast food restaurant. 

If you’re dining with a large party, restaurants might automatically add a service charge. If that is the case, you do not need to add a tip, unless you want to. 

Hotel room cleaning staff: I usually leave $1 per person, per day on days that the room is serviced. So if 3 people are staying in the room, I’ll leave $3 per day on days in which the room is attended to.

Hair, Nails & Spa Treatments: Tipping 15-20% of the total is standard at salons and spas. 

Transportation

Whether you’re looking for a way to get around your travel destination in the US or how to visit multiple places within the US, check out the tips below on how to get around.

Automobiles & car rentals

The US is highly dependent on automobiles to get around and car rentals are available at almost all airports. In general, you must be 25 to rent a car and have a valid driver’s license. Some companies will allow those 21-24 to rent a car, but with a surcharge added. 

Costco is the best way to rent a car, as they have a price comparison tool and allow you a second driver at no extra cost, regardless of which rental company you select through their site. 

If you do not have a Costco membership, check out Skyscanner. While more known as a flight comparison and booking site, Skyscanner also allows you to compare and book rental cars, too!

Public transportation

Most major cities have public transportation, but not so much in suburban or rural areas. In some cities, the public transportation is severely lacking, so I recommend doing some research on the area you’ll be visiting to see if you can get by on just public transportation BEFORE you go.

Taxi cabs & rideshares

Taxi cabs are common in cities, but not so much in suburban or rural areas. Most high traffic areas in cities will have taxi cabs waiting in a line. 

Mobile apps to hail a cab, such as Curb, are inconsistently available from city to city, as many taxi companies or unions have rejected them. 

Rideshares are super common these days and you might have some luck using them in suburban areas. My favorite rideshare company in the US is Lyft, especially since I can get Delta miles when I use them!

Travel between multiple places

If you’re traveling to multiple places in the US and don’t want to drive, you’ll definitely need to do some research on the best way to travel, as the answer will vary depending on where you are and where you want to go.

Bus and train travel is available in some regions, but is not very popular, so options and routes are limited. Air travel is preferred as it is usually seen as a quicker way to travel. 

To find out the best way to get from point A to point B, check out Rome2Rio.com.

Need more tips for visiting the USA?

Check out these posts for more USA travel guides:

  1. Fall in the USA Travel Guide
  2. Best Beach Vacations in the US
  3. Boston on a Budget: Tips from a Local
  4. Top 10 New Orleans Travel Tips

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