What to Prepare and What to Do Before Your USA Trip
So you want to visit the good ole ‘U S of A’, eh? Maybe you’ve watched some Hollywood movies and want to experience all the bright lights & high profile celebrities for yourself. Or perhaps you’re a fan of rock and roll, the blues, country music, or just good music in general and want to soak up the sounds for yourself.
Perhaps you like the thought of big eatin’, or vast stretches of road for iconic road trips, or you can’t wait to visit the national parks- whatever your reasons for going, America is certainly a fascinating land to explore.
While the USA has a plethora of attractions and beautiful scenery to offer any tourist, a trip to the States comes with its fair share of dangers, risks, and requirements. It’s not particularly difficult or dangerous statistically to visit America, but there are a few essential preparations to be made before you travel.
The purpose of this article is to highlight those things that you’ll need to get done before travelling to America; these will be crucial in ensuring you’re all set when you land on US soil!
Apply for ESTA (Unless You’re in a VWP country)
Those who haven’t traveled to the USA before may not even know what the ESTA actually is. If you’re traveling from a country that isn’t part of the VWP (Visa Waiver Program) then you’ll have to apply for ESTA – the Electronic System for Travel Authorization.
Visitors from the UK may travel to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program as long as the purposes of travel are not to study for credit, get or take up employment, take up permanent residence or to work as foreign information media (press, journalists, radio and film workers, etc).
Filling out the ESTA online application is a fairly easy process. If approved, you’ll be authorised to spend up to 90 days in America at once without a visa. Your ESTA will remain valid for 2 years upon approval and is valid for entering the country multiple times within that 2 year period.
Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is absolutely essential when traveling to the USA; healthcare is extremely expensive and being treated without insurance can (and does) leave people in huge debt. Ensure that you purchase sufficient travel insurance to cover your whole trip (including travel time) as well as any sporting activities that you may undertake.
Understand Tipping Etiquette
Tipping is part and parcel of the American culture and it is expected in cafes and restaurants (15-20% of the bill) as well as other service industries such as taxis (10%) and hotel concierge staff ($1-2 per bag).
Keep dollar notes on hand so that you don’t get caught out- tipping is important as the minimum wage is low in the USA and many people rely on tips to make a living.
Make Sure You Have a Valid Passport
This should be fairly obvious, but people can and do forget about their passports while they are going through the visa or VWP process. In order to enter America you will need a valid passport for the duration of your stay only (if you are from the UK)- as per the US Embassy guidelines. If you are another nationality you made need another 6 months validity on your passport so check the rules for your own country with the US Embassy.
Be Safety Aware
As with any large city worldwide, if you are visiting the likes of New York, Chicago or Los Angeles you should be aware of your safety when out and about. Ensure that you keep your valuables hidden and secure (don’t keep wallets in your back pocket of your jeans, for example) and avoid poorly lit areas at nighttime.
Specially designed safety luggage such as slash-proof bags and wallets with RFID blocking, as well as portable safes, can help to keep your belongings safe and secure as you explore the USA.
I hope you found this quick guide helpful- ensure that you make all the necessary preparations for a memorable trip in the USA!