USA Travel Guide

By Admin | Last Updated August 31, 2019

The United States of America is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the east, Pacific Ocean in the west, Canada in the north and Mexico in the south. The state of Hawaii is in the Pacific Ocean and Alaska is bordered by Canada in the east and Russia in the west. The third most populous country, USA is one of the world’s most popular countries for tourists. According to World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) data, the US received 75.6 million tourists in 2017, making it the world’s second most visited country. France topped the list with 82.6 million visitors and Spain was ranked 3rd.

There is almost everything in the United States for a tourist. You will find big cities like New York, Chicago, Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Some of the best theme parks in the world. Miles and miles of wilderness in the beautiful nature parks. Stunning long drives. Some of the best museums. Beautiful beaches, colorful festivals and yummy food. The United States is a melting pot of cultures.

It’s a big country, so you will need several return visits to see it fully and truly understand the country.

Tipping culture in the US encourages tipping of 15% to 20% of the bill. You should carry dollar bills for convenience.

USA – Quick Facts

  1. English is the official language
  2. USA is the third largest country, Russia and Canada rank #1 and #2 
  3. World’s largest economy according to nominal GDP
  4. Amongst the world’s 17 mega diverse nations
  5. World’s oldest surviving federation
  6. USA is a founding member of the United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank
  7. The pentagon is the world’s largest office building by area
  8. American football is the most popular sport here. 
  9. Las Vegas is the gambling capital of the world.
  10. USA owns 33% of total world wealth
  11. World’s oldest Chinatown is in San Francisco
  12. Sitka in Alaska is the largest city in terms of area. But Sitka has one of the lowest populations. New York is the largest in terms of population.
  13. The USA passport is highly valued. 116 countries can be visited without a visa. Visa on arrival is offered in 44 other countries. 
  14. Independence Day is celebrated on 4th of July.

Top 15 Reasons To Visit The US

  1. National Parks – From the Yellowstone to the Yosemite and more, all of them are natural havens.
  2. Top Museums – Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History – New York, National WWII Museum – New Orleans, Smithsonian – Washington, Museum of Science and Industry – Chicago and many more.
  3. New York City – The bustling metropolis and one of the most happening and important cities in the world.
  4. Las Vegas – The casino, gambling and entertainment capital of the world.
  5. Colorado – The diverse landscape of river canyons, notably the Grand Canyon, snowcapped Rocky Mountains and an arid desert. It is also called the Napa Valley of Beer.
  6. Beaches – Miami to Maui and everything in between, beaches in the US are sandy and perfect for sun bathing. 
  7. Hollywood – Where some of the world’s best and most popular movies are made.
  8. Theme Parks – Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Florida – Orlando, Disneyland – California, Cedar Point – Ohio, Knoebels – Pennsylvania, Busch Gardens – Virginia, Dollywood – Tennessee and more.
  9. Driving Holidays – Big country with many long and beautiful drives.
  10. Hiking Holidays – Denali National Park, Glacier National Park, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Zion National Park, Arches National Park.
  11. Food - Barbeque, steaks, sandwiches and plenty more.
  12. Culture – With people living from all countries, USA is the melting pot of culture.
  13. Musicals – New York Broadway hosts entertaining musicals which are a must-watch.
  14. Mardi Gras – Colors of the carnival in New Orleans.
  15. Live Volcanoes – Mt. Hood – Oregon, Lassen Peak – California, Mt. Rainier – Washington, Three Sisters – Oregon, Yellowstone Caldera – Wyoming, Mt. Shasta – California.

USA Visa

  • B1 Visa – This is for a business visit, to attend conferences and for research work. With this visa, you cannot work on a business or receive payment.
  • B2 Visa – The tourist visa for people on a vacation or to meet family. You can travel anywhere with this.

Qualifications

  • Declare that your stay will be for a pre-determined time period. 
  • Have enough money for your upkeep.
  • Declare that once the purpose is over, you will return.

The processing time is quick. You can get a visa for up to 6 months. You cannot visit neighboring countries of Mexico and Canada.

Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

People from 38 countries and territories are eligible for travel without visa for up to 90 days – 

Australia, Andorra, Austria, Brunei, Belgium, Czech Republic, Chile, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Malta, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, San Marino, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Taiwan.

Customs

The duty rate is determined by a percentage on the total purchase amount. Some rules and exemptions are:

  • If the purchase from duty free shop exceeds personal allowance then it will be charged.
  • Family living together can make a joint declaration to get a flat rate.
  • Resident returning travelers and outside travelers can get tobacco, provided it doesn't exceed the personal exemptions. Excesses are charged at a flat 4% rate.
  • 33.8 fl. oz. of alcoholic drinks are allowed if the state laws allow it, you are above 21 years and intend to use it for personal use.
  • You can bring back 1 litre alcoholic beverage, duty free, for personal use.
  • Furniture, paintings, carpets, stereos, tableware, linen (and other furnishings), professional books, instruments and implements are duty free on conditions.

Airport Tax

U.S. International Departure and Arrival Tax

  • $13.40 – From the US to any city within 225 miles of buffer zone. Also, for international transport that ends in the US. It applies to traveling between Hawaii and Alaska to foreign countries, including Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam and the US Virgin Islands.
  • $4.50 – For airport improvements as part of Passenger Facilities Charges (PFCs).
  • $5.00 – Federal Security Segment Tax

Health & Immunizations

Vaccines required – 

Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Polio, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib), Meningococcal disease, Rotavirus, Varicella, Seasonal influenza and Pneumococcal disease.

What To See In The USA

USA is a large ground to cover so let's break it down by directions: 

  • Northern USA
  • Western USA
  • Eastern USA
  • Southern USA

Top 8 Places To Visit In Northern USA

Visit the north for big cities, huge waterfalls, national parks and more.

  1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial – Iconic landmark featuring features Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
  2. Chicago – For ice skating in the Millennium Park, going shopping along the Magnificent Mile or sightseeing at Lincoln Park Zoo.
  3. Niagara Falls – One of the biggest and tallest waterfalls in the world. Ride the elevator towards the base of the fall and prepare to jump on the mist. Take a boat trip.
  4. Badlands National Park – To see bighorn sheep's, bison and prairie dogs.
  5. Minnesota – Azure blue lakes to vivid green forests. The originating point of the Mississippi River.
  6. Glacier National Park – For alpine meadows and glacial lakes, mountain goats, wolverines and other animals, trekking.
  7. Yellowstone National Park – For bears, bison and wolves, the waterfalls, canyons, glacial rocky spires and geothermal hot volcanic pools.
  8. Seattle – For the Space Needle and the tallest climbing indoor wall in the world.

Top 14 Places To Visit In Western USA

There is everything in the west from waterfalls, wildlife, national parks, hiking, biking trails, beaches, fossil beds, colored hills, Badlands and rock formations.

  1. Zabriskie Point – Vast and sprawling at the Death Valley National Park.
  2. Horsetail Fall – Waterfall that looks like firewall when the sun rays hit it during sunset only for two weeks in February.
  3. Kanarra Creek – Very good for hiking, picturesque location.
  4. Painted Hills – For painted hills of various colors, fossil beds of camels, rhinoceros and horses. 
  5. Moaning Cave – Echoes that ring throughout the cave.
  6. The Subway – Emerald tinted waters, canyons, boulders and dinosaur tracks.
  7. Black Canyon of the Gunnison – In Colorado, one of the steepest descents.
  8. Theodore Roosevelt National Park – For Badlands, wildlife, golden eagles, feral horses, elks.
  9. Paint Mines – Sand coated spires, hoodoo clusters, deer, falcons, mule, and coyotes.
  10. Hidden Lake – In North Cascades National Park of Washington, hiking, scenic views.
  11. Garden of the Gods – In Colorado, bright orange of the landmark contrasts with the regular surrounding terrain. Scenic. 
  12. Valley of Fire – For Mars like terrain, rock formations, fire wave. 
  13. Bodega Head – For whale watching, secluded beaches and friendly seals. 
  14. The Window – Views of the Texan skyline in the middle of nowhere.

US West Coast 12 days itinerary: San Francisco – 4 nights with day trip to the Yosemite National Park, Las Vegas – 4 nights with day trips to the Death Valley National Park , Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon , Los Angeles – 4 nights.

Top 12 Places to Visit in Eastern USA

Eastern USA is a treasure chest of beaches, Broadway shows, iconic locations, harbors, historical sites, safaris, horse riding, nightlife and national parks.

  1. Baltimore – Harbor area concerts, parades, food, museums, wineries, Fells Point.
  2. Roanoke – Hiking vacations, fall season and the Carvins Cove Natural Reserve.
  3. Fort Lauderdale – Natural sights, beaches and unique culture.
  4. Washington, D.C – The capital city, Lincoln Memorial, Supreme Court, and the White House.
  5. Miami – For its nightlife, architecture, art deco, Cuban restaurants and salsa dancing.
  6. New York City – Times Square, Broadway shows, Lady Liberty, Empire State building and Central park.
  7. Portland – 19th century buildings, Portland Museum of Art and the oldest lighthouse.
  8. Salem – The dark history sites, Old Burying Point Cemetery, Witch Trial Memorial.
  9. White Mountains – For scenic landscape, horseback rides, tubing, moose safaris, kayaking and hiking.
  10. Acadia National Park – Hiking trails, beach and harbor.
  11. Boston – The Freedom trail, Beacon Hill, Plymouth Rock, Charles River Esplanade.
  12. Savannah – For its southern charm, mansions, horse drawn carriages, antique stores, food.

US East Coast 2 weeks itinerary: New York City – 3 nights, Niagara Falls – 1 night, Philadelphia – 1 night, Boston – 1 night, Washington D.C – 2 nights, Chicago – 2 nights, Orlando – 2 nights, Miami – 2 nights.

Top 15 Places to Visit in Southern USA

Southern USA is famous for its food, hospitality, nightlife, forest trails, museums, historic sites, horse racing, colonial homes, hiking, biking, Derby, theme parks and music.

  1. Asheville – Historical architecture, music, arts, mountains, hiking, biking and beautiful scenery.
  2. Baton Rouge – Historic buildings, museums, food.
  3. Charleston – For historic buildings and beautiful landscape.
  4. Charlottesville – For monuments, mansions, national park and mountain.
  5. Gulf Islands – National park, islands, fishing, kayaking, boating.
  6. Montgomery – Museums and monuments of the civil rights movement.
  7. Lexington – Horse racing, horse carriage rides, history.
  8. Louisville – For the Kentucky Derby and hot sandwich. 
  9. Memphis – Elvis Presley's home and exhibits.
  10. Ozarks – For its natural and rural landscape, canoeing, swimming and hiking.
  11. Miami – Cuban food, beaches and thriving nightlife.
  12. Nashville – For its music scene.
  13. Orlando – Theme parks.
  14. Savannah – For historic homes and cobblestone streets, fresh seafood and music festivals.
  15. Atlanta – Monuments and museums for Martin Luther King Jr and the Coca Cola museum.

Highlights Of The USA

Yosemite National Park The great outdoors feature attractions like the Tuolumne Meadows, Half Dome, Valley View, El Capitan, Nevada Fall, Cathedral Peak, Lembert Dome, Tunnel View, Vernal Fall, Glacier Point, Yosemite Falls and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.
New York City The city that never sleeps with iconic sites like the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Empire State Building, The Met, MOMA, Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Centre, Central Park, Theatre and Broadway District, and the Grand Central Terminal.
Las Vegas The Sin City! The Freemont Street, The Strip, Bellagio's Gallery of Fine Arts, Mob Museum, Red Rock Canyon, take Helicopter rides over Grand Canyon, go for Indoor Skydiving and the themed luxury hotels.
Hawaii A cluster of islands, Hawaii has the Hanauma Bay, Waikiki Beach, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Waimea canyon, Pearl Harbor memorial.
Washington DC Capital of The United States is full of history depicted through museums and landmarks. The Lincoln Memorial, The Washington Monument, National Gallery of Art, National Museum of American History, National Air and Space Museum, National Zoological Park, Cherry Tree Walk and the Washington National Cathedral.
Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist boat ride. The White Water Walk and Cave of the Winds! Escape the crowds at the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden, Niagara Glen Natural Reserve, Old Fort Niagara and the Niagara Skyfall.
New Orleans The birthplace of jazz has a lot to offer. Visit the party district Bourbon Street, historic French Quarters, Jackson Square, New Orleans Museum of Art, The cabildo and more. Mardi Gras!
Volcanoes There are many active volcanoes in US but the Mount St. Helens in Washington, at Bogoslof Island, Mount Cleveland, Kanaga Volcano, Pavlof Volcano; all in Alaska should be on your watch list.
National Parks Visit the Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, Zion National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Arches National Park, Olympic National Park and the Grand Teton National Park.
Theme Parks Disneyland. There is also the Six Flags Great Adventure, Kings Island, Hersheypark, SeaWorld, Universal Studios, Epcot and Magic Kingdom which are all worth visiting with family or friends.
Rivers There are many beautiful rivers rushing along their way and beautiful to watch. The Black Warrior River, Colorado River, Chuitna River, Congaree River, Connecticut River, Edisto River, East Rosebud Creek, and the Green-Duwamish River.

Best Time To Visit The US

USA is one of the largest countries in the world and so its climate differs from one region to the other. But Spring and Autumn are the objectively best times to travel. Keep in mind that hurricanes and tornadoes are common so be aware of public announcements while traveling.

The Southwest Climate

It is hot and burning. Cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Palm Springs and Yuma in Arizona sees the temperatures go as high as 38°C and above during the summer. In the winter, it comes down to 10°C to 15°C. June is a dry month here, with chances of localized thunderstorms followed by flash flooding.

Gulf Coast-South Atlantic, Lower Mississippi Valley States

The South Atlantic areas and The Gulf have a humid and subtropical climate. It is punctuated with hot summers and mild winters. Coastal areas like New Orleans, Savannah, Houston and Charleston have summer highs of 21°C to 24°C, but in the interior areas like Central Texas, it can reach up to 32°C. Winters here have a range of 4°C to 16°C. There is precipitation in the winter and thunderstorms in the summer.

Southern Plains, Middle East Coast, Lower Midwest States

Cities like Springfield, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Richmond, and New York City! The winters range from 2°C to 10°C and in the summer, the temperature is between 27°C and 32°C. In the lower Midwest, tornadoes and thunderstorms are common during April to June. The air temperature can drop or rise suddenly.

Northern Great Plains, Great Lakes, New England, North-Central States

Cities of Minneapolis, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, Nebraska, Omaha, Fargo, South and North Dakota! It has a humid continental type of climate. There are 4 seasons here. Summers are warm to really hot with temperatures of 21°C to 27°C. Winters are cold to snow filled and range from -12°C to -1°C. Expect precipitation.

The Pacific Northwest

Oceanic climate! These states are cool and wet during autumn, spring and winter in November and December. In July and August, it is dry and between 21°C to 26°C and even to 15°C. The winter temperature is between 5°C and 9°C, but it can sometimes go down to -1°C.

How To Visit USA On A Budget

Travel Light Travel light and avoid paying extra for luggage. If possible, fit your clothes and personal items on a carry-on along with a backpack. It will also ensure that your luggage isn’t lost in transit.
Live Like a Local Go for street food, visit the local markets, try to cook if possible, take public transport and ask the locals for cheap and good places.
Save on Food Carry snacks like fruits, sandwiches and biscuits. Eat outside the hotel as much as you can. Hotel meals usually cost more. Try the street food.
Save on Sightseeing Get a discount coupon for attractions and transport, like for instance, train passes. Save on travel by walking or biking instead of taking a cab.
Renting a Cab Take mass transport. But if you have to rent a car, then compare prices before booking and make sure that you understand the rates/pricing system.
Discounts Find coupons, discounts, and free passes. There are many cheap buffets, free drinks, cheap rides.

How Many Days Should You Stay In The US?

The total area of the Unites States is 9.834 million km². There is a lot to see in the country. If you are visiting the US for the first time, you should plan a trip for about 2 to 3 weeks at least to see the major attractions.

Target the five major cities – New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. Try to include Las Vegas and Arizona if you can. Many first time visitors also pick either the East Coast or the West Coast for two weeks. This is a good idea. This way you can see more of each side of the country.

It may take months and several return trips to see the whole country really well. Returning travelers will appreciate the culture and food more.