What You Need to Know for Your First Visit to the U.S.
Are you planning to make your first visit to the U.S.? If so, check out this guest post from Indian travel blogger, Sai Mekala.
“Horrendously strenuous” is how Einstein had explained his first visit to the U.S. He had his reasons in place – worried paparazzi would run after him – but for people like us, mango people, the U.S. is often referred to as the dream destination, a country with multitudes of opportunity and surprises, and pleasantries of first world aplenty.
The landmass occupies most of the North American continent. Industries galore here. Internal backpackers with a huge influx of expats and global travelers that stretch the bounds of the tourism scope everyday.
Here are some of my recommendations for first-time travelers to the U.S. before they pack their bags and start their voyage to the land that houses great cities as well as great mountain ranges.
Buy Travel Insurance
It is always a great idea to get oneself covered and covered well in terms of unforeseen health hazards. Invest for your own well being for it always pay off.
While ObamaCare, the existing government-sponsored health care plan, only applies to residents, travelers are often stranded with huge bills lingering behind, come a mishap. Insurance can save you the trouble, taking good care and support in times of need with absolute tiny premium and good service, much needed at a time of problem.
Invest some time to read through the documents before enrolling with a plan for you are the best judge to decide your needs.
Packing the Right Clothes
Well, I understand the movies of Hollywood ooze the charm of a sunny bright country where colorful linens add to your cool personality.
However, the U.S. is way beyond the bright beaches and pretty towns or the cities with skyscrapers. If the traveler in you is longing for a trip to Alaska near the Arctic to watch the whales make merry or is seeking solace in the panoramic desert of Arizona down south, you need to be wise while packing.
Diverse geographical conditions will require a varied set of clothes. Take a variant or two of your liking but do not over pack.
Plan Your Trail
East Coast or west? The northern stretch of snow-covered land or the southern states of diverse culture? New York or California? Pacific or Atlantic? What is your call? Or have I confused you with choices abound?
The U.S. is a humongous country of 50 states with a range of flora, fauna, experiences, mountains, lakes, rivers, scenic beauty as well as people and cultures. It is quite impossible to cover all of it in the first trip. My suggestion is to take some time to research and make choices, and venture to few states of your liking.
Be polite and gentle to the serviceman and tip them well. A minimum of 15% tipping is the unspoken rule of the land. They surely know to value their labour of love!
No Smoking or Drinking Alcohol in Public
Smoking or drinking is practiced and encouraged only till you are doing it in private or regulated zones. Please obey the rules and do not bring the mess in public. It is abhorred by the locals.
Drive on the Right
Cars in the U.S. drive on the right side of the road, unlike in India where they’re driven on the left. Be advised beforehand for changing gears or taking a turn may be a pain in certain cases. Be alert and avoid any possible incidence.
Serving Portions are Big
Literally they are as huge as it may get. A plate of noodles will suffice a couple of foodies at ease. Order wisely or be prepared to pack the next day’s breakfast if the staff is kind enough. I suggest small orders and if successful in finishing it up, go grab more of the great food that the U.S. has to spoil you with!
Units of Measurement
Yes, even they differ. The U.S. uses imperial units for measuring, so distances are in miles, liquid volumes are in liquid ounces, temperature in Fahrenheit, weights are measured in pounds and so on. A good idea is to revise the school textbook once, maybe? Or that is the joy of learning other’s culture for a wide-eyed traveler!
Respect the Locals
This one is non negotiable, absolutely. No matter the jolly old nature of Uncle Sam, they value privacy with utmost concern. Pay respect to their sentiments. Nonetheless, a genial smile and friendly greeting will always open the door of a great conversation with an American.
Carry Multiple Credit Cards
Due to different banking rules and security systems, it may happen that you will end up with a not-working credit card in hand at the point of sale. To avoid harassment or embarrassment, please carry multiple credit cards with you. One of them should work if the other refuses.
A Car is a Necessity
While in NYC or LA or other big cities, you may have the luxury of public transport, smaller cities or habitats are devoid of the service.
The force of fuel has ensured a car for every American as a mode of transport. While traveling long term, opt for a rental service instead of relying on public transport everywhere, for it does not cover most of the less sparse habitat.
And the road infrastructure is big with some great scenes on some historic routes. Imagine a road that transverses through a scenic floral land, with running horses by your side. A sunset or a sunrise at the edge of the world will leave you bewildered. Maybe looking at a sight like this you will know the true reason for being a nomad.
There is no MRP (Maximum Retail Price) printed on the products. All the prices displayed in retail stores are marked with a price tag before taxes are applied. However in bars and restaurants the price you see includes taxes. Do not forget to pay the tips, though, to ensure smooth service when you return. It is a supporting gesture as well.
The pointers come from the experiences of a person who has discovered the states by his own. Of course, precautions, not listed, are plenty. Feel free to add your advice in the comment section for we learn and grow the most with shared experiences.
After completing his M.B.A in 2012, Sai Mekala, the wizard behind the travel blog Romancing The Planet, was never interested in finding a day job at a desk so instead set out to explore the world. Five years later Sai has become one of the top travel bloggers in India and inspired many Indians to get away from their desk jobs and become digital nomads. Sai blogs about his travel experiences in the U.S.A. on his other blog, A Billion Hectares.
Banner image: Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine (Photo: Brianne Miers); all other images, Creative Commons Zero (CC0)