USA Travel Guide
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
USA travel is unique, and if you’re trying to explore the whole country you’ll realize why the road trip is a staple in the American student’s experience. Except for a few dense cities, America is very much a car culture, and the country is spread far and wide. There is an old saying that’s very telling, saying "In Europe 100 miles is a long way, In the US 100 years is a long time.” The USA is a young country, but a big one, and driving long distances is something Americans don’t even blink at.
In the US there are some of the most famous cities in the world, and some of the most beautiful natural wonders that can be found on Earth, so if your heart is in the city or the country there is plenty to see and do. Use this travel guide and some USA travel tips to visit some of the best places to visit in America for college students.
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5 Things to Know Before You Visit the USA
English being the international language of trade has hurt the US in a strange way; very few people know any other languages. In other parts of the world, it’s very common to know multiple languages, but in America most people only know English. A distant second language spoken in the US is Spanish, and that’s mostly found in big urban areas. We suspect if you’re reading this, you know English pretty well, so don’t sweat it.
Currency & Tipping
The US dollar ($) is currently about €0.90 euro, ¥6 yuan, and ₹67 rupee. Credit cards are widely accepted across the USA.. ATMs are easy to find here, found often at convenience stores and gas stations, but often charge you a service fee. Tipping is customary in the US for many things, like cabs and especially sit-down food service. A general rule is that you pay between 15-20% of your total bill to the waiter, and remember that they rely on tips for their wages.
A lot of American cuisine is brought in from all over the world, but the one thing that it does share is that it’s often to-go and usually comes in bigger portions than expected. The to-go model is built into meals like breakfast and lunch, with dinner being a more sit-down experience at restaurants. Across the board, meal portions are huge, so if you’re a tiny eater you might want to consider splitting an order with a friend. American cuisine is as wildly diverse as its population. Immigrants brought favorite foods with them to the US, and many stuck as favorite dishes.
The US is massive, but unlike Europe or Asia, there’s only one type of socket you need to worry about. The USA is pretty uniform across the entire thing when it comes to that, so one adapter will be all you need. Free Wi-Fi in the US is pretty much only in chain fast food places and coffee shops, so remember that if you want to check e-mail or something without using up data. You’ll probably be doing a lot of driving if you’re outside a major city, too; plan to use a GPS app.
Over the last few decades, smoking has been pushed out of most indoor places like restaurants and bars. If you’re a smoker, be aware that you’ll have to, most likely, take it outside. America is also a huge sports culture, but not too many people follow “football” there. Instead, they’re devoted to American football, basketball, hockey or their old past time baseball. In terms of conversation, people you have just met usually will talk about anything except religion and politics, and it is seen as a bit awkward to bring up controversial topics with people not close to you personally.
Tourism in the USA
When is the best time to visit the USA?
The best time to visit the USA is hard to pin down, because America is a vast place with a ton of different climates. You’ll be just fine visiting Texas in January, but you might have a hard time visiting a snow-bound Maine then. At the same time, spending your summer break doing things in Seattle will be comfortable, while summer in New Orleans would be brutally hot and muggy. Where you’re going in the US matters a lot about when you should go, but in general the summer will be travel-worries free. It might be hot and humid in the southern half of the states, but there will be no cancelled flights or icy roads for you to tackle.
Is it safe to travel to the USA?
Despite what you might hear, tourists and students in the USA are very safe. If you feel uneasy about a situation, however, don’t be afraid to contact the police here. Almost all of them will be willing to help you find where you are going, give you advice on the area you’re in, and take steps to keep you safe. In terms of weather, there are small chances of hurricanes on coastal locations, earthquakes on the west coast, tornados in the American south, or heavy snowstorms in the northern states, but these things are very infrequent and reported on widely. Stay aware and engaged by listening to news and weather reports.
- Emergency (Ambulance, Fire and Police): Dial 911
- It’s also a good idea to find the phone number of your country's embassy and keep it with you.
Places to Visit in the USA
Have we told you that the USA is a huge country? On your US visit, you’re going to really have that fact sink in. Here are some incredible places to visit, scattered across the continent from coast to coast.
The Grand Canyon
If we’re talking about places to visit in the US, we have to talk about the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Carved a mile deep by the Colorado River, the canyon is a natural wonder. Tours can take you hiking or rafting, but just going to take in the sight will be worth it.
The Statue of Liberty
In New York City, there is no more iconic sight than the Statue of Liberty jutting out of New York Harbor, torch held high. Take a ferry out to Liberty Island so you can take the stairs to the top of the statue and look out over the NYC skyline.
The Vegas Strip
Vegas is truly a party city. Casinos might be the main attraction, but the night clubs, restaurants and shows here are world class. Not to mention the roller coasters on top of buildings, and ziplines that take you above the street.
Redwood National Forest
Nature and Star Wars fans alike can love this park. Hike through “Endor” and see the Sequoia trees, one of the biggest tree species on the planet. Horseback riding, mountain biking and kayaking are all popular here too.
Walt Disney World
The reputation as the Happiest Place on Earth is a well-deserved one in this city-sized theme park in Orlando, Florida. Disney World is actually four parks, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
Smithsonian National Museums
The Smithsonian Museums are where America keeps its most treasured artifacts. Visit the Air and Space museum for a trip through flight technology featuring real aircrafts, or visit the Museum of Natural History to explore the secrets of the natural world.
Cities to See in the USA
During your visit, US cities will be the headquarters to your various American adventures. You might get a flight to New York City, or Los Angeles, and there are so many cities to explore in every direction. Each has its own style and culture, and are truly unique. Here are a few cities we love, but honorable mentions to Portland, Boston, Austin, and New Orleans.
New York City
The five boroughs calls to every traveler across the globe. Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island are all cities to themselves, but together they make up the largest city in the US, and one of the largest cities in the world. In film and literature set in the city that never sleeps, NYC is often considered the “fifth character.”
The jewel of the left coast, Los Angeles is home to Hollywood and every would-be actor in America. Tons of TV and film studios call LA home, and this makes it a city full of great art, great food, and it just so happens to have the perfect beach climate. Check out the Hollywood sign or the Chinese Theater with it’s famous handprints outside it.
The third biggest city in America, the “windy city” is a bustling metropolis on the shore of Lake Michigan. Famous for jazz music, big names like Nat King Cole came up in the 1940s, and the tradition continues today. Chicago also has a big improv comedy scene, and comedians like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler got their start there.
The capitol of the US holds a lot of adventure for any visitor. There are tours of the White House, home of the President of the United States. Or, on a nice day, stroll down the National Mall, a park that runs from the Capitol building to the Lincoln memorial, a massive statue of the US president. There are a ton of things to do.
Home of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and cable cars, the City by the Bay is a traveler’s paradise. It’s home to one of the oldest and grandest Chinatown districts in the country, and is also home to Fisherman’s Wharf, chocked full of incredible seafood and shopping. San Fran’s counterculture roots has given it a burgeoning art and music scene.
USA Blog Posts
Best USA Hiking Trails
Hundreds of miles of hiking trails exist entirely within these national parks. Out of all the trails, there are a couple that really stand out as the best.
Top US Music Fests
Yes, this summer is full of festivals, concerts, and new music all around the world. Here’s a short list of some of the most famous and adventurous ones.
Roadtripping Across the USA
The Legend of the Road Trip The legend of the road trip is something that calls to Americans. It’s something about the freedom to come and go as you please, deviate from your planned course on a whim, and kind of just drive wherever the road takes you. You can build your own road trip, and bounce between tourist traps, national parks, and cities, or take one of the three drives below.
Historic Route 66 Possibly the best known highway in the USA, Historic Route 66 has garnered a reputation for being a heroic effort for a road trip. It cuts diagonally across the bulk of the US, starting in Chicago and ending in sunny Los Angeles. This route is a kitschy wonderland, with tourist stops and motels proclaiming loudly and proudly that they are, in fact, on the legendary highway Route 66.
Pacific Coast Highway If you love the sun and the sea, this is the road trip for you. Starting at the mexican border, and never leaving the Pacific ocean’s side, the Pacific Coast Highway runs north until it meets Canada. This takes you through desert and forest, mountain and valley, while never leaving the ocean’s side. Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and San Diego are all cities along this route, too.
Highway US-50 This road runs from the Atlantic to the Pacific, straight across the middle of the United States, earning it the nickname “The Backbone of America.” It gives you a picture of small-town life in the USA, following the path that the settlers did, from Maryland which was founded before the US was a country, all the way across to San Francisco, which was settled during the “gold rush.”