Travel tips: U.S. travel tips

Not all English-speaking countries have the same customs, norms, and values. These tips will help you prepare for your trip to the U.S.

Travel tips: U.S. travel tips

Tips for traveling to the United States

Traveling is a fun and exciting adventure. It can also be stressful if you don’t know what to expect. Here are some U.S. travel tips to help make your vacation go smoothly.

1. Transportation

Public transportation is everywhere in big cities. But, if you’re visiting small towns, it’s much more difficult to get around. Consider renting a car, but make sure you pay attention to the traffic signals. They are usually located across the intersection. Uber is a good alternative whether you are in a big city or a small town.

2. Personal space

If you take a bus or subway, be mindful of people’s personal space. In Spain, it’s not uncommon to be shoulder to shoulder with the person next to you. You may also get pushed by an elderly person. Don’t do this in the U.S.! Even on a crowded metro, Americans will have some space between them.

3. Don’t stare

People in some European countries are curious and don’t think twice about staring at others. This is a no-no in the States. It’s considered aggressive, and someone may ask, “Can I help you?” or “What are you looking at?” Make sure you look people in the eye when you greet them.

4. Smile

People in the U.S. smile a lot. Someone may even tell you to smile! This can be uncomfortable for some people, but it’s the American way! It’s considered friendly and polite as is saying “please” and “thank you.” People in the U.S. are generally very friendly.

5. General greetings

If you visit a shop or supermarket, the cashier will very likely ask how you are doing. She doesn’t really want to know. It’s an informal way of saying “hello.” The answer to this question is “good, thanks.” However, if you are eating at a restaurant, the server may have a conversation with you.

6. Smoking

Many places will not allow you to smoke anywhere on their property. Many hotels and even some cities are smoke-free. You may get an angry look from someone if you light up. If you smoke, be aware of those around you and try to stay out of their way. This may be a good time to invest in a vape.

7. Perfume

Europeans love wearing perfume. It’s not as common in the U.S. In fact, some may cover their nose or move away because they do not like strong smells. Remember, a little goes a long way.

8. Mealtime

Americans usually eat breakfast around 8 a.m., lunch around noon, and dinner (the largest meal) around 6 p.m. with many restaurants closing at 10:00 p.m. Also, the portion sizes are almost double those in European restaurants, but meals will be over much quicker (one hour). The more tables a restaurant serves, the more money they make.

9. Tipping

Many service workers will expect a tip including: taxi drivers, valets, hotel concierge, hotel room service, hair dressers. Consider download an app like Tipulator, Tap Tip, or Tip Check to help you out. 

Restaurant servers rely on tips for their wages so they will be very attentive. You will be asked if you like your meal, and your server will refill your drink before you finish the one you have. Your check will include tax, and you are expected to tip 15% on the cost of the food and beverages. Most people leave 18-20%. Tip jars or cups are everywhere from yogurt stands to coffee shops. You don’t have to give them extra money, but it’s nice to drop some change in the jar.

Restaurant server's arm holding two plates of food
Tip your server!

10. Coffee

You can buy coffee at local small independent coffee shops or chains like Starbucks. Many Americans get theirs at gas stations or convenience stores. Unlike Europe, bars do not usually serve coffee, and if they do, it’s horrible. Keep in mind that sizes will be much larger than you expect!

11. Supermarkets

Dining out in the U.S. can be very expensive. A dinner salad could cost $12 or more! Restaurants don’t like it when you share a main course and sometimes charge extra. Consider buying a few meals a day from a supermarket. You can get yogurt, fruit, salad, and sandwiches for much less money.

12. Shopping

Do you love Tommy Hilfiger? Ralph Lauren? Michael Kors? These and other designers are much cheaper in the U.S. If you want a bargain, look for a T.J. Maxx or Marshalls store. They offer last year’s fashion for much less money. If you think about it, traditional (or classic) clothes don’t go out of style. You may find a Ralph Lauren coat for $60! Another place to look for affordable clothes is outlet centers. It’s worth it to travel with one or two outfits and buy clothes while in the U.S.!

Two women carrying shopping bags
Shop til you drop but watch out for tax!

13. Taxes

When shopping or dining out, the price at the check-out isn’t the same as the price on the tag. That’s because, in the U.S., the taxes are added at the end. The amount differs depending on the state. It can range from no clothing sales tax (Pennsylvania) to 7.25% (California).

14. Wifi

Wifi is not as available in the States as it is in Europe because most people have data. You can find it in Starbucks, Walmart, Target, Dunkin Donuts or other such places. If you’re traveling through NYC, there are wifi spots on the sidewalks with charging ports.

The good and bad part of the U.S. is that there are so many different cultures in one country. Follow these general tips and you will be able to focus on all the sights you can see! Have you booked your trip? Get ready with our airport blog. You can also get some trip ideas with our East Coast and Washington D.C. blogs.

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