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…
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Wanderlust subscribers now receive a free £50 voucher valid on trips from a great selection of top tour operators
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15 day Rocky Mountaineer rail and Alaska cruise from £2,699 per person including flights, rail, cruise and mixed meal plan. Highlights: Inside Passage, Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau Icefields, Banff
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