A first timer guide to USA

In this section, I wish to address the questions that an individual would have when he decides to visit the United States of America. This will walk you through the questions of how to book the ticket, where to land in the USA, how to navigate within the USA etc.,

The article is categorized in three broad sub divisions:

1) The USA at a glance
2) Things you should know before booking the ticket
3) Things you should know before you land into the USA

The USA at a Glance:

Geographical LocationNorth America
No. of states50
No. of time Zones6
CurrencyUS Dollar
Currency symbol$
Tax for shoppingYes, with exceptions of few states
TipsYes, for all services. 10-20% is the thumb rule
Child-friendlyYes, car seat is a must. 
Stroller friendly tourist location
Handicapped friendlyYes, most places have wheelchair accessibility
Visit with a toddlerYes
Senior citizen friendly Yes
Pubs and drinksEntry age 21+

Electricity: It is set at 110 Volts and 60 cycles. The USA uses two pin sockets, you can easily find universal adapters in the airport. Most of the hotels like Holiday Inn etc. have USB charging ports to the television.

Best time to Visit: The USA is a great place to visit around the year, but depends on what type of activity you are looking forward to.

Winter Sport / Winter adventureNovember - February
Site seeing / National ParkJune - October
Cherry BlossomsMarch
Fall colors, okay with cold slightly climate with cheaper tickets.September, October

Little more details for readers planning for winter travel:

Airports in the Northern USA, Eg: New York, are subject to experience more flight delay, cancellation due to rough weather than the airports in the Southern USA, Eg: Los Angeles.

Things you should know before booking the ticket:

1) Geographical spread and time zone
2) Commuting within the city/to other cities 

First, let's cover these points one after the other 

Geographical spread and Time Zone:

Just to give you an idea please take a glance at the tables below:

Geographical spread:

The below table depicts the time taken to travel between place:

Time was taken, approximatelyDriveFly - nonstop
East coast to west coast 1d 17h6h
East coast North to South22h2h
West coast North to South15h2h

Time Zone:

Time zone Hawaii Time Alaska Time Pacific Time Mountain Time Central Time Eastern Time
Current time Friday
 12:18 PM
 2:18 PM
 3:18 PM
 4:18 PM
 5:18 PM
 6:18 PM
Major airports in this time zoneHonoluluAnchorageLos AngelesDenverChicagoNew York

So first biggest challenge will be the distance between your points of interest and time zone.

However, this can be addressed with booking an "Open Jaw ticket" or sometimes called multi-stop ticket. For example, flying from your home country into the USA to the east coast and flying back to your home country from the west coast.

Commuting within the city/to other cities:

Unlike other touristic locations, the cities within the USA, are not well connected with public transport.  Exceptions are  New York, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco. If you book your hotels outside city center commuting can get tricky and expensive.  Driving will be the best option to commute to other places other than these major cities. Again, you should be able to rent and drive a car. The rental rates and insurance can be steep. See driving tips below.

Having the USA is a safe and cheap place for road trips. People are mostly very discipline on the roads. If one id not comfortable with driving the US can be a challenge. 

However, this can be addressed by booking hotels in the city center, choosing national parks that have airport connectivity/bus connectivity, preferring to explore the coasts with public transport option being the first timer.

Tips if you choose to drive:

Know driving license requirement: Requirement for Foreign nationals driving in the USA differs from state to state check the official website for details https://www.usa.gov/motor-vehicle-services
Insurance: It's must for all for everyone to have one. Check with your home company insurance provider for international coverage or purchase one with the rental company.

Things you should know before you land into the USA:

Apps to download: 

Gasbuddy app, this will give you a list of cheap locations in your location.
Google maps, download offline maps.
Yelp, this will help you find restaurants, groceries, laundry and other essentials.
Google translator, if you want assistance in English

Note about the culture: 

It's normal for people to greet you make eye contact. If you travel from Asia this might be something new.
Americans stand in line and wait for their turn of service.
Do not keep high expectation with airport food.
If you get stuck somewhere feel free to seek help from people. Americans are helpful.
Americans are used to personalized things. (i.e) in restaurants, they order their own plate of meal. In a few restaurants and fine dines they do not allow sharing, and a tip of 20% is expected.
People cross roads only in a pedestrian crossing and when the signal green, with a handful, go exception in cities.
The city centers, offices, most touristic attractions are located is called as "downtown".
Tap water is provided in all restaurants, tap water is considered healthy for drinking.
Traditional American food consists of pancake, Peanut butter club sandwich, Bacon, steak, pulled pork, beef sandwich, chicken wings. Food is generally on the sweeter side and cheesy. If you do not like too much cheese request for a medium cheese order.
Like rest of the world vegan and vegetarian food is prevalent even in the US, you can find restaurants in all major to medium cities

The first palace you land in the USA will be the Airport lets talk a little about the security, custom and immigration. 

The custom and security process need to be completed in the first port of entry into the USA from the country of the visit.

Please visit the official website https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors for more county-specific entry requirements and details. Ensure to read the list of items allowed to be carried along during your travel.

The immigration officers are friendly will verify your documents, ask a few questions put your bag for additions screening and stamp your entry into the states

Hand/carry on baggage rules:

For the size of carry-on baggage and dimensions, visit the concerned airline website.

For items allowed in the carry-on baggage, ensure to visit the website of Transportation Security Administration website here https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring  for details rules of items that can go into your carry-on baggage.

Remember : 
You are allowed to carry liquid in your carry on luggage only maximum of 100ml in a see through zip lock cover.
At the security checkpoint, all items are subject to screening. You should remove your jacket, shoes and put them for scanning as well.

This page is live ensure, to visit for more updates and tips


  1. Thanks for your tips! I'm planning to go to the US this Summer :D

  2. I´d love to visit the USA one day! Thanks for your tips!

  3. A very useful article.... a must read for the first timers in USA.... keep posting with more such knowledgeable articles

  4. That's a comprehensive guide for the first timers. Great!

  5. This is definitely through! I love the culture norm section. especially on tipping because many places around the world do not tip nearly as much as we do. The things about lines, and eye contact were great as well; never would have thought to include them. No one really every talks about US culture norms when travelling so that was fun to see.

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