First-Time Travellers to the US

Do’s and Don’ts for First-Time Travellers to the US 

Wednesday 19th Jun 2024 |

Planning your first trip to the United States can be both exciting and overwhelming. The country’s sheer size and diversity mean there is a lot to consider! 

From navigating visa requirements to choosing your destinations, there’s plenty to keep in mind to ensure your trip goes smoothly. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help make your first US visit memorable. 

Do’s 

1. Plan Your Visa 

You’ll need to secure an appropriate visa before you can set foot in the US. The US offers different types of visas depending on your purpose of visit, such as the B1/B2 tourist visa or the ESTA for citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries. Ensure you apply well in advance, as the process can take time. 

2. Research Destinations 

Whether you’re drawn to the bustling streets of New York City, the sunny beaches of California, or the historic landmarks of Washington, D.C., research what each destination offers and choose what appeals to you. 

3. Book Accommodation in Advance 

Accommodation in the US can fill up quickly, especially in popular tourist destinations. Booking your hotel or Airbnb in advance not only secures your stay but can also offer better rates. Look for places conveniently located near public transportation or major attractions to save time and money. 

4. Use an Online Concierge Service 

An online concierge can be a lifesaver for first-time travellers. These services can assist with everything, from booking tickets to recommending restaurants and activities. This can be particularly useful if you’re planning a packed itinerary and want to make the most of your time. 

5. Familiarise Yourself with Local Customs 

The US has its own set of cultural norms and customs. For instance, tipping is expected in most service industries, typically around 15-20%. Also, greetings are often casual, with a simple “hello” or “hi” being the norm. Familiarising yourself with these customs can help you navigate social interactions more smoothly. 

6. Stay Connected 

Having a reliable means of communication is crucial. E-sim cards are becoming increasingly popular as they tend to be far cheaper than roaming when abroad. To facilitate navigation, all Ocean Florida customers receive a discounted eSIM for use in the USA, priced at half the cost of most UK providers. For $3.60 per day, you get unlimited data, enabling you to use apps online while abroad. Many US cities also have free Wi-Fi hotspots, but it’s always good to have a backup option. 

7. Travel Insurance 

Don’t overlook the importance of travel insurance. The US healthcare system is the most expensive in the world, and having insurance can save you a lot of money if you need medical attention. Travel insurance also covers other potential issues like trip cancellations or lost luggage. 

Don’ts 

1. Don’t Limit Yourself to One Destination 

Why limit yourself to just one location? The US is incredibly diverse, and limiting yourself to just one destination means missing out on a wealth of experiences. 

With this in mind, consider exploring multiple locations in one trip. Popular New York twin centre holidays, for example, include: 

  • New York and Orlando 
  • New York and Las Vegas 
  • New York and San Francisco. 

2. Don’t Overpack 

While bringing everything you might need is tempting, overpacking can be a burden. Pack versatile clothing that you can mix and match, and remember that you can always buy items you need once you’re in the US. Most cities have numerous shopping options where you can get anything from toiletries to clothing. 

3. Don’t Forget About Time Zones 

The US spans 9 time zones, so be mindful of this when planning your travel itinerary. If you’re flying from New York to Los Angeles, for example, you’ll gain three hours. This might affect your travel schedule and plans for the day you arrive. 

4. Don’t Rely Solely on Public Transport 

While cities like New York and San Francisco have extensive public transportation systems, other areas may not be as well-serviced. Renting a car can be a good option if you’re planning to explore more rural areas or national parks. Just remember to familiarise yourself with local driving laws and regulations. 

5. Don’t Ignore Safety Guidelines 

Safety should always be a priority. Be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded tourist areas where pickpocketing can occur. Also, follow local advice regarding weather conditions, particularly if you’re visiting areas prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, or wildfires. 

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help 

Americans are generally friendly and willing to help. If you’re lost or need recommendations, don’t hesitate to ask a local. They can often provide valuable insights that you won’t find in guidebooks. 

7. Don’t Skimp on Budgeting 

The US can be expensive, particularly in major cities. Make sure to budget for all aspects of your trip, including accommodation, food, transportation, and activities. It’s always better to overestimate your expenses to avoid any financial stress during your travels. 

Travelling to the US for the first time is an exciting adventure. By following these do’s and don’ts, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip. Remember to plan ahead, stay informed, and make the most of the diverse experiences the US has to offer. 

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