6 Must Read Tips Before Travelling to America
Travelling can be a rewarding experience while supplying a lifetime of great memories. But being in a new city and not knowing your way around can turn a potentially great holiday into a stressful situation. Travelling is so much more than just booking a flight and walking around. It takes careful planning and preparation to ensure you maximise your time and money. So to ensure an easy start to your vacation (local speak for ‘holiday’) consider these practical tips for getting around in the U.S.A.
If you’re up against limited time or simply want to enjoy a relaxing tourist overview of a city then a super way to get around is by going topless…on an open air bus tour that is. We often take the open air hop-on-hop-off tours which are available in most cities as this is a great way to get acquainted with a destination and its must-do attractions. Then, just plot out the rest of your time, visiting the sites of most interest.
Often we discover places that we can skip but more often we discover a whole bunch of new places to add to the list. It’s a reasonably inexpensive way to see a lot in a small amount of time plus it’s safe and easy and the drivers are always a wealth of local knowledge.
Instant access – FREE
With the gift of Wi-fi, the internet can be accessed anywhere. Some hotels still charge a hefty fee to use WI-fI services but why pay when you don’t have to? If your accommodation doesn’t offer free service, then look out for the ‘Free WIFI’ signs wherever you go. You’ll be surprised how often you find it.
A lot of restaurants, bars and cafes offer free internet access and for on-the-go travel writers like us, we’re always looking for ways to stay connected, even if it’s just for that quick Facebook update. Many businesses such as Barnes and Noble bookstores, Starbucks and major shopping malls also offer free Wi-fi.
Map the day like a local
Now that you’ve found your free WI-fI hot spot, it’s time to download Google Maps. In this smart phone world, it’s easy to plan out your day and hit the pavement with directions from your smart phone GPS or map that you can download before setting out.
The best thing about Google Maps is you can pin point where you are and where you’re going and it will give you step by step directions by foot, car or bus. Just follow the blue dot on the map to see exactly where you are.It will tell you if you’ve veered off course. There are countless free touring maps and destination guides you can download anytime. Jump into the App Store and never loose your way again.
Tipping have you confused? Read how to tip when in America
Packing tips – What you need to pack for a long-haul flight to America
LA Airport – Tips for your arrival into LAX Airport
Now travel like a local
You have your map, you have your directions, so now try the public transport options. Taxis are great at certain times of the day but fares can add up very quickly, especially during peak times which may actually prolong your arrival. And let’s face it, we’ve all been on the merry-go-round with local taxi drivers before. So try the local bus, train or ferry pass with the often available day or weekly tourist pass.
These special public transport passes save a lot of time and money and can usually be used interchangeably between bus, subway and sometimes ferry. Not only does it save money but it’s a great way to see how the locals live and get around as well as a way to see the local sites. Ride the historic trams in San Francisco, or travel the subway in New York to get from one end of town to the other or ride the elevated trains in Chicago which offer a bird’s eye view of the streets below.
A tip on tipping
You can read our in-depth article on tipping on our blog which covers all areas of the service industry. While it seems foreign to Australians remember that many service workers survive on minimum wage and depend on tips. Tips are an expected part of your dining experience and are normally 15-20% of the total bill depending on how good the service was. Check your bill though first, because often times when dining with a group of 6 or more people, the tip is normally added to the bill automatically.
Sales taxes vary from state to state and are not included in the listed prices that are shown on price tags, flyers or advertisements. Tax is added at the time of purchase at the counter or register. While you are downloading your App’s, find a currency converter such as XE or Units Plus which normally has a currency calculator amongst other functions included to help.
Would you like fries with that?
And talking of restaurants, there is one thing you are guaranteed of and that’s super sized meals. Americans love their food and prices are generally low and portions usually generous. It’s easy to over indulge and there is certainly no shortage of a great variety of foods to choose from. We recommend sharing a plate (such as appetizer or dessert) and most restaurants will pack any left-overs to take home.
Do you have any other tips to share? Let us know in the comment field below.
About the author: Jason Dutton-Smith is a travel writer who loves aviation and food. Although he specialises in American travel writing, he has travelled the world and enjoys different cultures and meeting the locals.