11 things you may not have known about travelling to the USA

The good ‘old USA. Our neighbour to our far right is one of the most influential and important countries in the world, but how much do we really know about America? This huge continent is home to some of the world’s most populated cities, and interesting sights.

It is also the land of the free, home to supersize, and created Hollywood and the celebrity.

Here are some things you may not have known or thought about before your holiday to the US of A.

1. Everything’s open 24/7!

Well, almost everything! In most major cities in America, you’ll find many shops and stores open past your bedtime. This is especially true in New York, which is known for being the city that never sleeps – you can find all types of food and activities around the clock.

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2. Their national parks are so beautiful

When you think of the US what do you immediately think of? Food? Skyscrapers? Beer? Well, you might not have known but this big country is home to some of the earth’s most incredible national parks. Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is home to hot springs that make rainbow holes in the ground; Zion National Park has huge rock formations; and Mammoth Cave National Park… which has, you guessed it, mammoth caves.

3. Americans are actually very friendly

And they talk really loudly! Americans love Aussies and are very welcoming everywhere you go. Be sure to talk a bit slowly as Australians tend to talk very fast and with a lot of slang! They will work hard for your tip and will provide the best customer service you’ve ever had.

4. There’s more to it than just Hawaii, New York and LA

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Many tourists flock to the main tourist spots but places such as Seattle, Nashville, Missoula, Denver and Santa Fe are all must-sees filled with fascinating landmarks and history.

5. You’ll pay more than the listed price

Unlike in Australia, the price tags you see won’t include sales tax. It varies from state to state, with the typical rate around between 4 and 6 per cent when you get to the counter. Make sure you factor this in!

6. Don’t make jokes in the airport

The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) do not take jokes about anything lightly. Make sure you don’t talk about bombs, or even use your phone whilst in the line for customs.

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7. Make sure you apply for an ESTA

Most Australians don’t need a specific visa to travel to the US for holiday or business trips lasting less than 90 days. However, you still do need to apply online via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization for electronic approval prior to your trip.

The process can be done entirely online, and it costs $US14. Make sure you apply for an ESTA well in advance of your trip because if you arrive at the airport and don’t have an ESTA (or a visa), you won’t be able to board your flight.

8. Gun culture is rife

It’s scary to think about but American gun culture is real, so you may be confronted when you see guns on holsters or more in-your-face than you’re used to. With that said, you shouldn’t be overly concerned. There are places, especially in large cities where gun crime is very real but 9 times out of 10 you’ll never encounter a regular citizen with a gun.

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9. You really need good travel insurance

In Australia, we are blessed with universal health care that means if we get sick, we don’t have to pay to go to hospital. Unfortunately, in America, this is not the case. Healthcare costs are huge in the US and can ruin your holiday and savings if you fall ill without correct insurance.

10. 911 is really the number for Emergency Services

If you have an emergency or need the police, pick up any phone and dial 911. A dispatcher will answer on the other end and send the help you need very quickly. Alternatively, dial 112 from your mobile phone.

11. They prefer plastic over paper

Credit cards and bank cards are the preferred mode of payment in most places in the US, which is a bit different to Australia. There are even some places that won’t accept cash payments. You’ll need a credit card to check into a hotel, and when you rent a car. But, you’ll also want to be careful when using your card to withdraw cash because many ATM’s charge a fee as well as foreign conversion fees.

Have you been to the US?