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United States of America

United States of America

Travel Tips

When you visit the United States of America from another country, you should be aware of some differences.  We still use the old British system of measurement, (the system that the British no longer use).  Everything is measured in inches and feet, miles, gallons and pounds rather than the metric units.  Our electricity is normally 110 volts at 60 cycles rather than the worldwide standard of 220 volts at 50 cycles.  Our television and video recording standard is NTSC rather than the more common PAL standard used in other countries.  Here, we provide you with some travel tips on how to cope with these differences including a size conversion table for clothing.

When driving an auto in the USA, you should bear in mind that each of the 50 states has its own set of laws and regulations concerning driving.  The regulations are all very similar, but there are some subtle differences that you should know.  

Tipping is a common practice in most restaurants, bars and other service establishments.  Waiters and waitresses are paid a substandard wage on the presumption that they will earn additional income from tips.  

USA Transportation Tips

Air Travel is a necessity in the USA

Air Travel is frequently the most practical method of covering the large distances between sights in the USA. It is the fastest, the most convenient and frequently the most economical means of transportation. You can usually purchase an airline ticket from New York to Los Angeles (a distance of 3000 miles or 5000km) for under $400 and sometimes under $300 by taking advantage of special promotions. The trip via airplane takes only 5 hours. Train fare between the same cities costs about $300 to $500 (with limited sleeping accommodations and requires a minimum of 3 to 4 days. The transcontinental bus costs about $225 and requires at least 3 days of incessant travel. You could drive it in about 5 days, but the gasoline and lodging alone will likely cost considerably more than the airfare.

Trains are not a good choice in the US

Trains are not as popular in the USA as they are in many other countries. They are an acceptable choice only for short or medium distance travel in certain areas. In many major cities, commuter trains provide good passenger service from suburban communities to the downtown metropolitan centers. The East Coast corridor from Boston to Washington DC through New York City and Philadelphia is well serviced by the high speed Metroliner. In other parts of the US, train service may be infrequent or even non-existent.

Busses are an economical option

Bus transportation is a great option for urban or suburban transit, but bus service can be very limited in rural areas. The Greyhound Bus line offers inter-city and transcontinental bus service. It can be an inexpensive alternative to other forms of travel if you are willing to put up with the discomfort of long rides with minimum comforts.

Cars are almost a necessity

In many parts of the USA where public transportation is inadequate or non-existent, a car is a practical necessity. In most large cities, the major shopping centers and sports or entertainment facilities are usually located in the suburban communities far from the metropolitan center. Without a vehicle, sightseeing, shopping and touring can be very inconvenient.

Hitchhiking is not permitted in most states

Hitchhiking is illegal in many states. You may occasionally see a person trying to "hitch a ride" along an interstate or at the entry to a toll road, but they are often risking a fine if apprehended by a police patrol.

Bicycles are a good way to see the USA

If you have enough time, you can bicycle across parts of the USA and enjoy the scenery. Just remember that bicycles are not as common in the US as they are in many other countries, so car and truck drivers are not as accustomed to bicyclist on the roads. Be cautious! Bicycles are banned from the freeways and interstate highways, but are permitted on all other roads. Many cities and towns have off-road bicycle paths and trails.

Shopping Tips

Many tourists look for bargains in the US

Many tourists visiting the USA on vacation enjoy shopping for bargains. American whiskey, fashion jeans, children's clothing, plush bath towels and fine bed linens are all popular items for shoppers from other countries. You can find many bargains in the US if you know where to shop and how to take advantage of the competitive sales.

The big shopping malls are in the suburbs

There are still some department stores and downtown shopping areas in most US cities, but the big shopping malls and discount stores are usually located out in the suburban communities. Some of the major outlet centers are located in the countryside miles from the nearest major city. It is best to have an automobile if you want to do any serious bargain shopping.

Department stores offer good quality and high fashion 

Department stores are large establishments that offer a wide selection of merchandise including fashion clothing, house wares, appliances, luggage and jewelry. They normally offer good quality merchandise, well known brands and the latest fashions, but not low quality products at bargain prices. They frequently have seasonal sales with attractive discounts. At such times, you can get high quality or fashion merchandise at bargain prices. In July and August, they have end-of-summer sales. In November, the Thanksgiving Day sale of pre-Christmas merchandise is one of the biggest shopping days of the year. From December 26 through mid-January, they hold big after-Christmas sales. In February, all the winter merchandise goes on sale. In addition, they have many special promotions and clearance sales.

The big department stores are typically parts of national chains, so you can find the same stores in many cities. They normally have a downtown store in a major city with several branch stores in the surrounding suburban shopping malls. Here are the names of some well-known national department stores. Lord & Taylor, Hecht's, Strawbridge's, Kaufman's, Filene's, Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Burdine's, Lazarus, Rich's, Nordstrom's, Sak's, Dayton-Hudson's, Marshall's and Bergdorf-Goodman.

General merchandise stores offer affordable quality

Sears and JCPenny's are two large national chains with stores across the USA. They are similar to department stores but they do not offer high fashion merchandise or prestige brands. Instead, they feature good quality merchandises at affordable prices. They are particularly known for their selection of children's clothing, home appliances, housewares and domestic goods. Sears is famous for its selection of tools and lawn and garden products.

Discount stores sell at low prices

Discount stores sell some good quality merchandise at affordable prices and some lower quality merchandise at very low prices. If you are not looking for the latest fashions, or the famous brands, or the best quality, you can find some very inexpensive merchandise at a discount store. Some national discount chains with stores across the US are K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target and Caldor.

Outlet Malls are a bargain hunter's wonderland

Outlet stores or factory outlets sell high quality merchandise with a well-known brand at discounted prices. They usually offer merchandise with slight manufacturing flaws and remainders from the last season or the previous year. They do not have end-of-season sales like the department stores, as their merchandise is always discounted 20% to 40% below department store prices. If you take advantage of the end-of-season sales at a department store, you can frequently get better bargains. At all other times, the outlet store is the best buy. Outlet malls with many hundreds of top brand name outlet stores like Levi's, Ralph Lauren, Timberland, and Pioneer can be found in most states, and they are often a bargain hunter's wonderland.

State and local sales taxes can be confusing

The US government does not levy a value-added tax on merchandise as governments do in many other countries, but most states and some cities collect a sales tax on all purchases. State taxes usually average 4% to 8%. Some cities add an additional 2%. Remember when you purchase something for $1.00, you may have to pay $1.08. Some states exempt all clothing and food purchases from sales tax. If you buy something big like a car or motorcycle, be sure to specify that it will be exported and you can usually obtain an exemption from the sales tax.

Dining Tips

Cooking in the USA is not just hamburgers, pizza and fast food! Our fast food restaurant chains have been very successful at introducing American style fast food around the world, now people from many lands believe it is what we all eat in the USA. As the melting pot of many different cultures, the US has also become the mixing pot for many different cuisines, and we have a rich variety of foods to choose from.

Fast Food is certainly available all over the USA and is very popular. You will find a wide variety of fast food restaurants serving all sorts of delicacies from American style hamburgers, hot dogs and fried chicken to Italian pizza, Mexican tacos, Greek Gyros and Chinese egg rolls. Some of the fast food can be quite delicious and it is almost always inexpensive. The restaurant chains may lack interesting variety, but you will usually be assured of good service, consistent quality and clean facilities.

American cooking (US cooking) is usually considered to consist of the traditional dishes long popular in the USA. Most were introduced by the early European immigrants but modified to take advantage of the locally available ingredients and to conform to local tastes. Fried chicken, meatloaf, baked potato, corn, baked beans and apple pie would be considered traditional American dishes.

Regional Cooking varies from state to state and is highly influenced by the types of ingredients locally available, as well as the cultural background of the people that settled in the area. New England cooking, native to the northeastern states; was heavily influenced by the cuisine of the original English settlers. Southern cooking has definite African influences. Cajun cooking, from the New Orleans area, is a spicy mixture of Spanish, French and African styles. California cooking is known for the use of fresh fruits and vegetables in interesting combinations with Asian, Mexican and Spanish flavorings.

Ethnic Foods of all sorts are popular everywhere in the US and readily available in most areas. Italian cuisine is popular everywhere, from fast food pizza to gourmet Italian regional cuisine. The same is true of Chinese cuisine. Mexican restaurants are extremely popular in the southwestern and western states and can be found throughout the rest of the states as well. In most cities you will also find restaurants serving Eastern European, Greek, Middle Eastern, Indian, African, South American, Caribbean and numerous other cultural foods.

Healthy Food is very popular in the USA. Everyone seems to be dieting and trying to lose a few pounds. If you prefer low fat, low calorie or vegetarian food, you will have no trouble finding it in the US. Salad bars are very common and many restaurants offer low calorie or low fat items on their menus.

Cheap Eats are readily available. If you are touring the USA on a very tight budget, you can easily feed yourself quite well on less than $10 a day, and if you are willing to do a bit of your own cooking you can get by on even less.

Smoking Tip: Smoking is now banned in all elevators, public buildings, hospitals, busses, trains and airplanes in the US. Restaurants have "smoking" and "non-smoking" tables. Many families do not smoke and prefer that guests do not smoke in their home. Before you light a cigarette, always ask your host or companion if smoking would bother them. 

Drinking Tip: The minimum drinking age is 21 in nearly every state. Laws prohibit anyone under 21 years old from buying, owning or drinking any alcoholic beverage. Bars and nightclubs will not permit anyone younger to enter even if parents accompany them. Restaurants that serve alcohol will allow children to enter and eat but will not serve them any alcoholic beverage.

Best of the USA

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada, is the largest center for adult entertainment in the entire world. It offers gambling, glitzy entertainment and unbelievably extravagant architecture. Giant pyramids of glass, multicolored fantasy castles, replicas of the Eiffel Tower and the New York skyline rise out of the Nevada desert. Even if you don't gamble or party, it is worth seeing this flamboyant display of opulence. In addition, Las Vegas is conveniently located near some of the greatest natural scenery in the southwest including the Grand Canyon Zion and Death Valley. It is only a half-day drive from Los Angeles.

Orlando, Florida

Orlando, Florida, is the largest center for family entertainment in the entire world. It offers Disney World, the largest family amusement complex on this planet, plus Universal Studios, Sea World, Wet and Wild and several other major attractions. Hundreds of smaller amusement and entertainments are located nearby. You can spend weeks in Orlando without seeing it all. In addition, Florida offers wonderful tropical beaches and year-round golf and tennis.

New York City, New York

New York City is the largest metropolitan center in the USA. It is famous for the Statue of Liberty, Empire State building, United Nations, museums, Broadway theaters, restaurants, Times Square, nightlife and shopping. It is a huge vibrant city that never seems to sleep. There are many opportunities for entertainment in its myriad of nightclubs, bars, theaters, and sports arenas. There are lots of cultural attractions in its museums, art galleries and concert halls.

Hawaii

Hawaii is a string of volcanic islands set in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is a tropical paradise with near perfect year-round weather, fantastic beaches with amazing surf and spectacular scenery. This is a favorite honeymoon retreat for many couples. It is an ideal destination for swimming, tanning, surfing, boating, fishing, golf and tropical exploration.

Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles, California, is the second largest city in the USA and the largest metropolitan center on the west coast. It includes many different communities including Hollywood, home of the moviemakers, and Beverly Hills, home of the movie stars. L.A. has a pleasant subtropical climate with many miles of white-sand beaches and the famous "California Surf". It is conveniently located near many scenic attractions like the spectacular coastline of Big Sur, the alpine wilderness of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the austere beauty of the Mojave desert. It is only a half-day drive to Las Vegas, Nevada.

San Francisco, California

San Francisco, California, is the other great city in California. It is smaller than Los Angeles and does not have the warm tropical beaches, but it is much more scenic. Hillside streets lined with Victorian houses overlook a large blue bay surrounded by pastoral mountains. Historic cable cars still ascend the steep streets, and the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge frames its Pacific inlet. The nearby Marin headlands and Muir woods provide scenic diversions. It is less than an hour drive to the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley wine country, and a half-day to beautiful Yosemite National Park.

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona

Canyon National Park in Arizona is one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. It is a mile deep (1,500 meters) and over 15 miles (20 km) wide by 100 miles (150 km) long. The interior of the Canyon is adorned with a vast maze of multicolored mesas, cliffs and promontories punctuated by a labyrinth of smaller canyons and gorges. The ever-changing play of sun and shadow on the multihued rock layers produces a breathtaking display best seen from the visitor's center on the south rim. The only access to the interior of the canyon is by hiking or by riding mules down the precipitous trails.

Yosemite National Park in California

Yosemite National Park in California contains one of the most beautiful alpine valleys ever seen. 2,000-feet high vertical granite cliffs with nearly a dozen cascading waterfalls surround the glacially eroded Yosemite Valley. Outside of the immensely popular valley, this immense park contains groves of giant Sequoia trees, alpine meadows and snow-capped peaks. It is a paradise for rock climbers, backpackers, campers, photographers and tourists.

Alaska

Alaska is the great northern wilderness frontier of the USA. It covers a vast area extending from the rainforests of the Pacific coast to the tundra well beyond the artic circle and along a broad archipelago of volcanic isles. The forests and streams abound with fish and wildlife including the fascinating but dangerous Kodiak bears. Glaciers and snow-capped peaks provide lots of spectacular scenery. Most of Alaska is inaccessible except via small "bush pilot" air taxis or by canoe and hiking. This is a popular destination for hunters, fishermen, photographers and wilderness explorers.

Washington, DC

Washington D.C., the capital of the USA, is a beautiful and interesting city. It is filled with numerous monuments, museums and public parks including the White House, the US Capitol and many other government buildings, There are plenty of interesting things to see in Washington, and most of them are completely free. Washington has a diverse population and a great variety of ethnic restaurants. It is only an hour drive to the port city of Baltimore and a half-day drive to New York City.

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana, is the most European flavored city in the USA. Spanish and French cultures blend with Afro-American and Caribbean influences to form this exotic city at the mouth of the Mississippi River. New Orleans is famous for Jazz music, wild nightlife and its fine Cajun cuisine. Every February, the entire city goes mad for a weeklong carnival celebration known as Mardi Gras. Tourists flock to New Orleans all year round to sample the great food and to enjoy the nightlife.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming has the largest collection of geysers, hot springs and thermal phenomena in the world. This huge National Park is populated with bison, elk, bears and wildlife in great abundance. It has vast expanses of wilderness, but many of the major attractions are easily accessible from the roads, and close encounters with the wildlife are almost guaranteed. Yellowstone is near Grand Teton National Park, the Rocky Mountains and the wide-open spaces of Montana.

 

Information Courtesy Of USA Tourism

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