United States Guide
Five Things First Time Travellers To The USA Should Know
- Don't forget to tip. In the US, it's customary to leave a tip as it makes up a large percentage of service employees' salaries. A good rule of thumb is to tip 15% to 20% of your bill. Always check that the tip hasn't been automatically added to the bill total before leaving your own gratuity.
- There are strict smoking laws. With different cities having their own set of regulations, it can get tricky for first-time travellers to know the rules around where they can and cannot smoke. If you're unsure where you can smoke, ask a local as states such as California have even banned the habit at beaches and public parks.
- You don't need to be an experienced hiker. The best part about exploring the USA's many national parks is the ease of access. There are many drive-up viewpoints and flat paths for those that want to explore the country's natural beauty without breaking a sweat.
- Driving on the freeway can get confusing. While driving on US highways, you might find that the left or right lane suddenly turns into an unexpected exit ramp. Play it safe and stick to the middle lane. And when in doubt, look up your route ahead of time and rely on a GPS if needed.
- Keep some quarters on you. While almost everything in the US is paid for by card, the exception is parking meters. These machines only take quarters, so keep some loose change on you if you're going to be driving around.
Best Time To Visit the USA
The best time to visit the USA all depends on what you want to see. With a vast geographic spread, the temperatures vary from each region. It could be 30°C in Las Vegas and a few hours away a freezing 10°C at the Grand Canyon.
But in general, the south is warmer and a good option. You'll just need to plan around hurricane season from June to November. If you're travelling north in winter, keep your itinerary flexible. It's not uncommon for roads to close down or flights to be cancelled due to thick fog or snow.
For nature-lovers, the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park is from March to April. You'll have a better chance of catching a glimpse of the bears that call this region home. Autumn is another good option as they make their way to the riverbeds to feast on the migratory salmon.
If you want to see the Northern Lights, head to Alaska in the winter. The weather may be freezing, but the lack of light makes it the perfect time of year to witness this natural phenomenon.
One thing to keep in mind when travelling around the USA is public holidays. Before you arrive, check to see if your holiday falls on any of the bigger celebrations like Independence Day and Thanksgiving. If so, you'll need to book your flights and accommodation well in advance to avoid the rush and lock in better prices.
New York City
New York City has something for everyone.
Architecture admirers will be wowed by the city's soaring skyscrapers; fashionistas can easily spend a full day browsing the designer racks on Fifth Avenue, and art-lovers will love exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
But New York City is also one of America's most expensive cities to visit. You'll need to plan your budget carefully to make sure you get the most out of this bustling metropolis.
Los Angeles is the pulse of America's creativity. Home to Hollywood, countless dreamers flock here to try to make it big on the silver screen.
The result is a melting pot of diverse cultures and innovative creatives that make the City of Angels one of the most interesting places to live and explore.
But there's more to Los Angeles than its star power. It boasts beautiful beaches, hiking trails, museums and near-perfect year-round weather.
In the mood for high stakes gambling and parties that seemingly never end?
Head to Las Vegas!
Visit the MGM Grand and try your luck at the tables; get your retail therapy fix at Caesars Palace and watch some of your favourite singers perform in their Las Vegas residency.
To make sure you keep your spending in check, keep an eye out for bundle deals like dinner and show packages.
New Orleans is a city that has captured the imagination of writers, poets and movie-goers for generations.
Its history, nightlife and infamous voodoo culture attract thousands of visitors to its Mississippi River shores each year.
Plan your trip around the city's most famous festival, Mardi Gras; sample the delicious Creole delicacies and meander through the iconic French Quarter.
Honolulu is Hawaii's cosmopolitan capital city.
Only a short flight from America's mainland, you'll be transported to a whole new world. The best part is that this tropical paradise isn't an exclusive resort. Travellers will find plenty of cheap accommodation options, making Honolulu the perfect island getaway for any budget.
Relax on the famous Waikiki Beach, explore the spellbinding coral reefs and learn about Hawaii's fascinating history and culture.
Top Things to Do in the USA
Statue of Liberty
A stop in New York City wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Statue of Liberty. A symbol of freedom, this 152-ft statue attracts hordes of local and international visitors each year.
There are various ways to see this attraction that will suit any budget. Hop on-board a ferry to get a closer look and choose from the different ticket options. Ground, pedestal and crown all give you different levels of access to the site.
But if you're on a tight budget, you can still see the Statue of Liberty without getting on a boat. Head to the southern tip of Lower Manhattan to an area known as Battery Park. It offers visitors the best viewpoint of the statue from the mainland.
Walt Disney World Resort
The Walt Disney World Resort is the top family attraction in the United States. Since opening its doors in 1971, it's been offering its guests a magical experience of shopping, theatres, fine dining and thrilling rides.
Disney World covers an area of 43-square miles, making it twice the size of Manhattan. It's easy to spend anything from a few days to weeks exploring the resort - if your budget allows.
It's home to four theme parks and more than a dozen hotels. The good news is that you'll find one in your price range, making it easy for anyone to enjoy the magic of Disney.
Las Vegas Strip
Want to travel around the world in minutes? Head to Las Vegas's famous five-mile strip and visit the architectural wonders of Egypt, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, New York City's skyline and a Venetian canal.
You'll also find an array of world-class shows. From singers like Celine Dion performing every night to a variety of comedians and acrobatics, you won't have to look hard to be entertained in Las Vegas.
Foodies will enjoy the bargain-priced buffets and the Michelin-rated restaurants. And of course, there are more than enough casinos to try your hand at winning the jackpot.
With neon signs, megastores, street performers and so much more, Times Square is an institution of American culture.
More than 26 million people visit this five-block intersection each year to attend the many Broadway shows, dine on the fine cuisine and soak up the area's famous bustling energy.
Join the free walking tour with Times Square Alliance. Presented by Walkin' Broadway, you'll go behind the scenes of the area's rich theatre heritage and discover backstage secrets from some of the most popular shows.
While it has lots to offer during the day, make sure you return in the evening for the full Times Square experience.
The Grand Canyon is one of America's most visited attractions. Located by the Colorado River, the canyon carves into the landscape creating some of the most dramatic scenery in the world.
The most popular section to visit is the South Rim. There's a visitors centre with a regular bus service that runs along the Rim in peak season.
The North Rim is also worth a visit if you want a different perspective, however access is limited from November to May due to the snow and winter conditions.
Major International Airports in the USA
- Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport
- O'Hare International Airport
- Los Angeles International Airport
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
- John F. Kennedy International Airport