GMT -10 to -4
US Dollar USD
Mostly English & Spanish
Type A & B
8 to 11 hours
Culture and etiquette
Paying for things
One of the main things tourists get caught out with in America is the sales tax. It varies from state to state but it's worth bearing in mind that the price on the label is often not the full price you'll pay. It can be a nasty shock at the till if you are not prepared for it so it's worth finding out the sales tax in the state you're visiting beforehand so you can account for it as you browse and avoid an awkward exchange at the till.
Tipping is standard practice in the US. Those working in service industry jobs are paid a low wage with the expectation that tips will make up the shortfall. Most of the time 10% is the bare minimum, so where you can afford it and where you've received good service a higher tip is always appreciated.
There's no federal ban on smoking in public in the US (federal means at a country level rather than at a state level) so smoking laws vary state by state. 26 states currently ban smoking in enclosed public places but there are a variety of exceptions so if you're unsure then this article is a good starting place.
In many ways hiring a car in the USA is essential as most places are designed around using a car. In the bigger cities there are public transport networks like the Metro but once you get out of the city a car can become a necessity.
If you do hire a car you can plan some epic road trips like the famous Route 66. Exploring by car or camper is no doubt one of the best ways to see all of America.
Top tips for driving in the USA
- Most interstates and highways are free to drive on but in some states there will be toll roads - these are roads you pay to use and that are generally quicker than the alternative route.
- In the USA you can turn right on a red light. You don't have the right of way - but if it's clear you can turn. Treat it like a UK stop sign and check for oncoming traffic and pedestrians.
- Undertaking is not illegal in the USA - when driving on the highway or interstate in particular be sure to check all your blindspots before changing lane.
- Junctions off of the interstate and highway won't always be on your right - pay attention to the signs, the exit may not be on the side you expect.
- Americans love a 4-way stop (roundabouts haven't caught on everywhere yet!). At a 4-way stop you must stop completely, traffic then proceeds based on who arrived at the junction first.
- If you're driving in winter in snowy areas then it's advisable to use snow chains - these are often available for an extra fee from car hire companies.
- When filling up on petrol (gas) you often have to pay BEFORE you pump - this may be pay at pump or you may have to go inside to authorise payment.
- Americans don't use flashing lights to indicate right of way or to say thank you. If you flash your lights it probably won't be interpreted the way you mean it.
Jabs, visas and other advice
Those holding a British passport need to apply for an ESTA before travelling to the USA - you apply for this online and an application costs $14. There are lots of companies who'll claim to do this for you, avoid them, the process is quick and easy to complete for yourself. You'll need your passport details, contact details and details about where you'll be staying in the US.
For up-to-date advice on jabs, visas and other foreign advice, we recommend following the government's website.
For all emergency services call 911.Top
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Famous for all things big, the USA is jam-packed full of things to see and do. Think big cities, big brands and big cars. Whether national parks, monuments or one of its 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites are more your thing you're guaranteed a memorable trip. Take a look at some of our favourite destinations.