Looking to travel to the US but not sure if you need a visa? Fear not, reader! Learn about the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (or ESTA for short) and see how you could be exploring the United States’ hot spots with ease.

Traveling to the United States was always something I wanted to do. Ever since I was little, I envisioned myself setting foot in New York City, pretending I was the kid from Home Alone. After years of day dreaming, I finally learned that I could travel the US without a visa, which changed EVERYTHING.

After months of preparation and meticulous planning, my route was all mapped out. I was set to land in New York City and would spend the next 90 days making my way around the country. Whether I was staying in hostels or couch surfing, travelling by plane or train, I was certain that this trip would be the greatest adventure of my life.

How to travel the US without a visa

Some of you may be thinking, “How was it possible for you to travel the US without a visa?” Well, let me explain. The United States has a program under the Visa Waiver Program called ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) which allows citizens of 38 countries to travel the US for 90 days without a visa (providing of course that your main purpose of the visit is tourist or business related).

ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorisation was created by the US Department of Homeland Security to pre-screen visitors before they arrive to the US, thereby eliminating the need for a visa.

If you’re hoping to travel the US without a visa, you can complete the ESTA application on the official ESTA site

After seeing various cities throughout my excursion in the US, I’ll let you in on some of my top three favorite spots. 

New York City

After landing in New York City, I was certain that I was going to love it.

First of all, there is SO much to do. Feeling tired and want to get away from the hustle and bustle? Visit Coney Island. Want to get away from the city completely? Take a bus to New Jersey. Want to go shopping? NYC is one of the fashion capitals of the world. Want amazing food? There are over 24,000 places to eat. Want to meet people from all over the world? NYC is one of the most diverse cities in the world. Want to find unique and quirky bars? You best believe New York City has them. 100% recommend.

I specifically remember watching the sunset from Brooklyn Bridge with the majestic skyline behind it. It was quite possibly one of the best thing I’ve ever seen. If you’re ever in the area, here is a great list of things to do in NYC.

Yosemite National Park

Although the US is home to 58 incredible national parks, I originally didn’t plan on travelling to any of them during my trip. I anticipated that I would prefer to visit the bigger, staple cities. The fact that I went to Yosemite was purely a coincidence. I found a bus tour from San Francisco to Los Angeles with a night stop in Yosemite, so I thought, “why not?”

About a three to four hour car ride from San Francisco, Yosemite National Park is a nature lover’s dream. There are lakes, mountains, wildlife and even beaches. The temperature can soar to a whopping 35 C in the peak of summer, but can often plummet at night to below freezing. Definitely a must see.

If you’re ever in the states and are hoping see explore its famous national parks, Yosemite is a great place to start.

Chicago

Ah yes, the Midwest’s greatest gem. Located on the edge of Lake Michigan, Chicago is home to a large, dynamic population. Speckled with museums, restaurants, art galleries, beaches and theaters, Chicago can satisfy any travelers’ hobbies. Best of all, Chicago is home to deep dish pizza.

Now, listen closely, this is important…

LouMalnati’s. My mouth is watering just typing their name. Their deep dish pizza is to die for. Picture this: as you lift the decadent slice of pizza to your mouth, the cheese hangs on for dear life as you pull away from the plate. That first bite feels as if you’ve entered the Matrix and you’ve taken the blue pill. Unreal. If you’re ever in the area, here’s a great list of things to do in Chicago.

Traveling is amazing (that’s a given), but it’s even better when you don’t have to worry about the paper work that gets you there. If the United States is next up on your travel bucket list, double check to see if you’re eligible to go without a visa. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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    About Josh Obson