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Prepare your trip to the USA

Ten essential points to check 

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Ten essential points to check out before you leave

Before setting off on a trip to the USA – especially for a first-time discovery of the country – it is essential to prepare your departure well, to know where you're going, and to be aware of the difficulties which can arise – even for the best prepared and the most informed travelers.

    You may have a travel agency that will take care of everything... at least everything related to the trip, stay or journey. But there are aspects of any trip that are rarely handled by a travel agency. An agency is unlikely to help you get personally prepared for your trip to the USA, or to check the terms of your mobile phone contract. See section 3 below:  knowledge.

Here are the ten essential points that must be checked before you set off on a trip to the United States of America

1. Documents. You will need ....

  1.  A valid passport. Check this out well in advance... at least six months before you plan to travel.
  2.  A visa or - for most tourists - an ESTA certificate (visa waiver). For who needs what, see Visa / ESTA information
  3. Travel insurance covering your for accidents, civil liability, sickness and repatriation. This is not essential, but the risks of traveling without insurance are enormous.
  4. If you plan to drive in the USA, a driving license and possibly an IDP (international driving permit). Normally people holding a driving license from a European Union country or Canada do not need an IDP, which is a document containing the essential details of your national license in English; but some states in the USA recommend having one. Some car rental outlets also require foreign visitors to have one.
  5. 2. Reservations. You should have ....

  6. Airline tickets: Tourists entering the USA by plane or boat must be in possession of a return ticket, or a ticket on to another destination for those transiting via the USA.
  7. Accommodation. It is recommended to book at least a first night in a hotel, in order to have a place to stay in the USA when you arrive. Unless you are staying with private hosts, for example with family, you can even book all your accommodation in advance, to avoid upsets. For those taking a road trip and planning to stay at random hotels or motels, booking ahead may be difficult, but can always be done on a day to day basis.. Everything can be booked online, for example on the online accommodation portals Booking.com or Hotels.com
  8. Car rental. Visitors are strongly recommended to book any car rental in the USA in advance. Advance booking allows you to compare offers and choose the type of car you want, and pay in euros, pounds, dollars or another currency. If you do not book in advance, you may have less choice, less offers, and may even be forced to rent a higher category car, incurring an extra expense.  Driving in the USA
       Trains. If you plan to use long distance rail services in the USA, check out travel by rail first.
  9. 3. Knowledge

  10. Using your phone: Do you know what your phone can / can't do in other countries? Before traveling to the USA it is essential to check the limitations of your mobile phone contract. Does your contract allow you to receive and send calls or text messages when you are in the USA? If so, is this limited, or without limit? And is your internet broadband use capped? Many contracts have extra roaming charges for any use of the telephone outside the user's home country or outside the EU. So don't wait until you're in the USA before thinking about it! By then the unpleasant surprises may have already started.
  11. Travel guides  It goes without saying that you will enjoy a trip more if you know beforehand what there is to do and see. There are numerous guides on paper or online. Among the most reputed guides are Fodor's, Lonely Planet or Rough Guides – for example the Rough Guide to the 100 best places in the USA
  12. American life and mentalities.You've seen American life in the movies and on TV; but how much do you really know about American mentalities? The USA is different. Americans are not a form of British people who live on the other side of the Atlantic, and speak English with a particular accent. The average American (if he exists) does not have the same cultural background, nor the same values, nor the same priorities as a Brit, or a European, or an Australian. His views of the world and of life have been shaped in the American tradition, based on American values ​​and the culture of the USA. Knowing what American fast food outlets are like is a step towards understanding the USA - but even in restaurants, visitors from other countries can find themselves disconcerted.
         If you are not an English speaker, but read English well, you may like A Background to modern America - 22 texts with glossaries and exercises, profiling some of the key people, events and places have helped to shape the collective memory of today's USA . Available in Paperback or as a Kindle ebook..
        If you are a native English speaker, or speak the language fluently, there are countless books that can help you understand what the USA is all about, and how it got there. From John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath (fiction) or Wallace Stegner's Beyond the 100th Meridian (non-fiction) to Bill Bryson's Lost Continent or Bartlett and Steel's Pulitzer prize-winning America: What went wrong? there are so many books that can help both Americans and people from other countries understand what America is really all about.
In addition to the ten points above, don't forget to look into the other basic questions that need to be asked before going on a long journey anywhere in the world, such as .... How hot or cold is it likely to be? What are the weight limits applied by the airline(s) you use for cabin baggage and hold luggage? And if you have pills to take on a regular basis, make sure that you put in enough of each in your bags to see you through to the end of your stay.  Etc. etc.

Have a good trip !

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Health care for visitors and tourists to the USA

People visiting the USA as a tourist, even those with US citizenship, are very strongly advised to take out a travel health insurance policy to cover their stay/s in the USA. Medical costs in the USA can be very high, and even a simple visit to a doctor can cost typically between $100 and $200, and a day in hospital may well cost over $3,000.

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