Are you visiting the U.S.? How will you get from city to city or state to state? There are many things to consider. Follow these tips on how to travel around the U.S.
Are you touring large cities or smaller towns?
Do you want to follow a schedule or go at your own pace?
Are you comfortable driving in new places?
Have you budgeted for things like parking and insurance?
If you are visiting smaller towns, a rental car can be a good option. You will get to drive at your own pace and stop when you want to. It’s a great way to see the country and gives you a lot of freedom to explore.
Driving can be difficult in larger cities; especially urban centers like Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles. You could encounter heavy traffic, fast drivers, and unfamiliar laws. You also have to consider the price of parking. Download an app like Parking Panda to find the best garage prices. Places like Washington, D.C. and New York City have high-priced garages ($20-30). Cars are valet parked in Los Angeles, which can add up (don’t forget to tip).
Choosing the Right Car
Economy cars are always the best option if you don’t have too many passengers. Unlike in Europe, most rentals are automatics. Minivans are easy to drive and helpful if you are traveling with your family and have a lot of luggage. Then again, a convertible would be fun if you are driving along the California coast!
How to Drive in the U.S.
Every state has different driving laws. If you are nervous, look at them before you go. They are all published online. Many states allow you to turn right on red unless there is a sign. However, in Maryland, you can also turn left on red if it is a one-way street (unless there is a sign). In California, you can only use an electronic wireless communication device that is mounted to windshield, dashboard, or center console. Also, note that traffic lights in many states are on the far side of the intersection (not next to you).
Here Are Some Good Rules to Follow Wherever You Drive:
Drive on the right side of the road.
Don’t text or talk on the telephone.
Don’t drink and drive.
Wear a seat belt at all times.
Move over if you see sirens.
Give bicycles a 4-foot clearance.
Stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
In most states, you pump your gas (unless you drive through New Jersey!). If you are using cash, pay inside first. Tell them your pump number and say something like, “twenty on pump five, please.” Pay at the pump if you are using a credit card. If you go to full service, you can say, “Fill it up, please.”
If You Break Down
Make sure you know what to do if your car breaks down or gets a flat tire. They rental company should give you a telephone number to call. Don’t stop at a garage and ask for help before you contact the agency. They most likely have their own procedures. Pull to the side of the road or into a gas station. If you don’t have roaming, ask to use a telephone. Our teachers at Camino English can help you prepare for a situation like this!
If You Get Pulled Over
You have the right to wait until you find a well-lit and safe place before you stop. If you are on a quiet country road, pull over to the side, open your window slightly. Always keep your hands on the steering wheel until the police officer gives you instructions. Never get out. The first thing he will say is, “License and registration, please.” That’s when you can reach for your wallet, purse, or the glove box to find the papers. If you were speeding, he may ask if you know how fast you were going. If he thinks you were drinking, he might ask you to “step out of the vehicle” for a sobriety test. If there are other passengers with you, they should stay in the car.
Other Questions to Consider
Compare companies before committing. Find out how old do you have to be to drive. Will they allow more than one person to operate the vehicle? Do you need an international license? How much do they charge for insurance? Do they charge for a GPS (something you will need)?
Rather than drive, consider taking the Amtrak train. If you don’t want to pay to visit each city or town, sign up for one of the many train tours throughout the states. Overall, trains can cost more money than European ones but will get you most places while saving on the rental car and parking.
Another transportation option is BoltBus, Megabus, Greyhound, or Peter Pan buses. They can be cheaper than the train or rental car. Once in the city, you can use Google to find your destination, and take a subway, bus, taxi, or Uber.
As you can see, there are many choices available to get from one destination to another. Renting a car to visit smaller towns or cities is one option, and using trains or buses to visit larger cities is another. Either way, do your research before leaving, and you will save time and aggravation.