The United States is full of opportunities and exciting experiences for visitors. Reputed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, the U.S. has the largest economy in the world and is home to world-class cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. Whether you're headed for the hustle and bustle of New York City or the laid-back beaches of Hawaii, here's what you need to know before you head to the U.S.A.
- Currency: The U.S. Dollar (USD—see exchange rates )
- Must-See Landmark: The Statue of Liberty
- Must-Try Food: A Hamburger
- Most Common Language: English
- Emergency Services Telephone Number: 911
There are 50 states in the U.S. Once a visitor enters the country with the proper identification they are able to travel freely between all U.S. states. Officials may require that documentation be shown again to travel to Hawaii and Alaska as they are separated from the 48 contiguous states by Canada and the Pacific Ocean. While documentation is not required to travel within the U.S., it is always a good idea to have copies of your passport, visa and ID while traveling.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Travel Insurance Plans for the United States
With a wide range of plans on the market, it may be difficult to select a plan. To find the plan that's best for you, first assess the condition of your health then take a look at your travel plans. From there, you can compare plans side by side with our compare tool. For travelers with pre-existing conditions, senior travelers and those looking for more complete coverage, a comprehensive plan is the best option. If you are looking for basic coverage at an affordable price, a limited plan may be the way to go.
Visas and Documentation
If you are a U.S. citizen, all you need to enter the country is your passport. If you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda visiting the United States for tourism or vacation reasons, you also do not need a visa and only need your passport.
If you are from any other country or planning to work or study while in the United States, then you must enter with a visa and your passport. The type of visa you need may vary depending on what country you come from and what you plan to do while in the U.S. Exchange Visitor Visa J is designed for certain teachers, professors, summer work travelers and other programs, and is the only U.S. visa that requires applicants to secure travel medical insurance for their stay in the United States. However, travel insurance is a good idea for anyone entering the U.S.
For more information on visa and immigration requirements, check out expert visitor and immigration resource, Path2USA. We also recommend purchasing medical insurance that will cover you while you are in the United States, as medical costs are unusually high in the U.S.
Weather and What to Pack
The weather in the United States varies greatly by location and season. Generally speaking, east coast states north of the Carolinas, mid-western states and mountain areas are cold enough to freeze in the winters. The southern and western states are usually warmer. Depending on where you go in the U.S. and what you plan on doing while there, what you choose to wear and pack may be very different.
No matter where your travels take you, its a good idea to pack sunscreen and at least one light jacket.
Etiquette and Cultural Norms
Americans smile often at each other and it is usually considered polite to smile if someone smiles at you. Greetings are often informal and accompanied by a wave or firm handshake.
It is not considered acceptable for women to be topless at the pool or beach. Nudity is also not allowed, even small children must wear bathing suits.
Americans generally like their personal space. Try not to stand too close to others. A good rule of thumb is to leave a two-to-three-foot space around others in public, even when standing in line. Americans, like the British also place importance in waiting in orderly lines. It is considered very rude to jump forward in a line or try to get in front of others who have been waiting for longer.
Holding up the middle finger by itself is considered insulting and vulgar.
- New York City, New York: Widely considered to be one of the culture capitals of the world, NYC has many exciting things to do and see. The Statue of Liberty, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ellis Island, Empire State Building and Broadway theater district are all popular attractions.
- Los Angeles, California: Los Angeles is a hub of entertainment and style on the southern west coast of the U.S. Visit famous landmarks such as the Hollywood sign, walk of fame and the Chinese Theater.
- Chicago, Illinois: The transportation capital of the U.S., Chicago is diverse and has wildly different weather at different times of the year, so be sure to check the weather report before you go. Don't miss Wrigley Field, Navy Pier, The Art Institute of Chicago or The Magnificent Mile.
- San Francisco, California: Heart of the tech industry and close to Silicon Valley, San Francisco is full of great seafood, tech companies and steep hills. Some key attractions include Coit Tower, Nob Hill, Lombard Street and The Golden Gate Bridge.
- Honolulu, Hawaii: The largest city in the Hawaiian islands, Honolulu has premium shopping spots in addition to beautiful beaches and luxurious resorts. The WWII memorial at Pearl Harbor is also nearby on the island.
Health & Safety Tips
When traveling through the United States, it is a good idea to be aware of cultural norms in the regions in which you are traveling. Different states and cities can have very different ways of dressing, speaking and interacting.
Some cities will have areas where it is unsafe to walk after dark, particularly if you are a woman. Be sure to research the area where you are traveling, in order to learn if there are areas to be avoided. It is more common for Americans to carry guns in the Southern states and rural areas. If someone seems particularly hot-headed or upset, it is best not to provoke them in case they have a gun.
Medical expenses in the United States are extremely high compared to other nations. If you are staying for an extended period of time or are over the age of 60, you are at a higher risk of injury and illness. Therefore, even if it is not legally required, medical insurance that will cover you while you are in the United States is important.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend the following vaccinations for the United States: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningitis, polio, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia and influenza. Rabies is also recommended if you are likely to come into contact with wild animals.