Yellowstone National Park, USA. (dicktay2000)

United States of America


Overview

United States travel essentials, including map of the USA, American holiday info, United States travel advice and articles on travel in the USA

As the third largest country in the world, it’s hard to find a more varied landscape than the United States of America. From the glaciers of Alaska to the deserts of Arizona, the sun-soaked beaches of California, Florida and Hawaii, to the majestic Rocky Mountains, travel in the USA is nothing short of spectacular.

If you’ve got a set of wheels, cruise across the country on the legendary Route 66 and stop off in Amarillo for a traditional steak. Try your hand at luck in the infamous casinos of Las Vegas, visit America’s history at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in North Carolina, or witness the staggering views of the Grand Canyon.

See the geysers of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, and brush shoulders with the stars in Los Angeles. Whatever your scene, you can find it in America – and plenty more besides…

Wanderlust recommends

  1. 24 hours in New York Spend 24 non-stop hours in New York on the A train. It runs all night through Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens
  2. National Parks Make touring the United States' impressive network of National Parks even better with a discount pass. As well as Yosemite and Yellowstone, Arches in Utah and Badlands in South Dakota are underrated parks with stunning landscapes that you would never find elsewhere
  3. Discover the many sides of Hawaii Find the true Hawaii, beyond hibiscus shirts, Elvis with a ukulele, hips in hula skirts and Jack Lord on a hotel balcony cocking a gun
  4. Brush shoulders with the stars Don your sunnies and head to Hollywood Boulevard in LA for some serious star spotting
  5. Road trip Take an epic American-style road-trip journey across Route 66, or whichever Interstate grabs you. America is perfect for road trips; the roads are long, wide, straight, and the landscapes breathtaking. However, avoid the coastal roads of California if you're not keen on driving the cliff sides
  6. Literary tips Follow the trails of the Beat Poets in San Francisco or explore the musical history of Seattle

Wanderlust tips

Learn the lingo. American English may sound the same as our own language, but take note of the few differences – you don’t want to ask for jelly and end up with jam!

Be bear-aware. If you are staying in a national park, especially if you are camping, make sure you are fully clued-up on camping etiquette to avoid an extra tent-mate in the middle of the night: read a bear guide for the area, avoid perfumes and body sprays, don't eat food in your tent and keep all food and cooking equipment in a locked car away from tents. 

I wish I'd known...

Wanderlust web intern Holly Gurr on the one thing she wished she'd known on arrival:

"The tipping system. Although tipping in the USA is not compulsory per say, it is quite rigidly ingrained in social etiquette. Aside from leaving a little something for waiters in restaurants, it is conventional that a $1-2 donation should also be given to doormen, bellhops, cab drivers, coatroom attendants, grocery packers, bar tenders, travel guides, housekeepers, and the like."

Don't be caught out by the weather, says Katherine Price:

“Like many of the uninitiated, I had always thought of California as a hot, sunny state, and so dressed accordingly. That was until we got to San Francisco. When the fogs roll in from the sea, San Francisco can be absolutely freezing cold, windy and damp. Bring a good jacket.”

Further Reading

Travel in United States: vital stats

    • Capital of United States: Washington DC
    • Population of United States: 307 million
    • Languages in United States: English (official)
    • English is the predominant language. Over 12% of the population speak Spanish. Eight states and territories are officially bilingual.
    • Time in United States: There are six main time zones across the US states:
    • Eastern (EST) GMT-5 (EDT) GMT-4
    • Central (CST) GMT-6 (CDT) GMT-5
    • Mountain (MST) GMT-7 (MDT) GMT-6
    • Pacific (PST) GMT-8 (PST) GMT-7
    • Alaskan (AKST) GMT-9 (AKDT) GMT-8
    • Hawaii (HST) GMT-10
    • International dialling code for United States: +1
    • Voltage in United States: 120V 60Hz A&B
    • Visas for United States: Visa information
    • Money in United States: American Dollar (USD). Tipping of 15% is expected by restaurant staff, who do not add a service charge to the bill, and also by taxi drivers.
    • United States travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
    • United States tourist board: USA Tourist

When to go to United States

The best time to visit is entirely dependant on what you want to do. Summer is the brightest time in Northern areas, and the main holiday season stretches from May to August. Ski resorts pick up in the winter, and visiting the country in the spring or autumn periods can avoid the extremes of temperature.

International airports

    • Hartsfield-Jackson International (ATL) is 11km south of Atlanta, Georgia
    • Logan International (BOS) is in Boston, Massachusetts
    • O’Hare International (ORD) is 27km northwest of Chicago, Illinois
    • Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) is 24km from Dallas, Texas
    • Honolulu Airport (HNL) is 5km northwest of Oahu, Hawaii
    • George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) is 32km north of Houston, Texas
    • Los Angeles International (LAX) is 26km from Los Angeles, California
    • Miami Airport (MIA) is 13km northwest of Miama, Florida
    • John F Kennedy (JFK) is 19km from Manhattan, New York
    • Newark Liberty International (EWR) is in Newark, New Jersey
    • San Francisco International (SFO) is 21km south of San Francisco, California
    • Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA) is in SeaTac, Washington
    • Dulles International (IAD) is 40km west of Washington DC 

    Getting around in United States

    For long distance travel across the country, there are thousands of domestic flights a day which, although potentially costly, are a quick way to get from A to B.

    If you're travelling by public transport on the road there are several major bus companies providing cheap, efficient travel; Greyhound buses serve many of the larger towns and cities, and tickets can be booked in advance. The smaller Trailways company can be slightly cheaper and reaches to some remote places not covered by Greyhound.

    Car rental is easily available and is a competitive market in the USA, but most companies won't rent to under 25s and none to under 21s.

    There is a fairly extensive rail network but compared to other transportation this can be both costly and timely – one of the benefits however is it allows you to see the scenery in comfort.

    Localised transport is generally efficient and reliable.

    United States accommodation

    Hotels range from budget to top end prices – price is generally an indicator of quality. There are many hostels available throughout the Northeast, the Northwest, California and the Rocky Mountains, but very few in the Midwest. Most have gender-segregated dorms.

    Most national forests and parks offer cabins or camping; campsites can vary from offering plenty to no facilities.

    United States food & drink

    USA is known for its fast food, but you'll easily find options beyond burgers and fries. Food can vary radically between states, even if they are geographically close.

    In multicultural areas such as New York City, there is a wide range of food to be found from many different cultures. Southern style cooking is popular in Texas, whilst Louisiana plays home to the Cajun style of food.

    Fish and seafood is popular in the coastal mid-Atlantic area, whilst there is a strong Spanish/Mexican influence in the South West. Coffee is very popular, with chains stretched across the country – visit the dawn of mass market coffee at the very first Starbucks in Seattle.