Planning a trip to the United States? Get ready to meet some unique challenges!
The US is one of the most visited countries in the world and it’s no surprise that its tourism industry generates billions of dollars every year. There are plenty of reasons why people choose to visit America, including its friendly nature, beautiful landscapes, diverse culture, and rich history.
But if you’re planning on visiting the United States with your family or friends, there will be times when you might encounter difficulties. This guide will help you prepare before you go, so that you can enjoy your stay as much as possible.
Here are some of the top tips for travelling to the USA. Remember, though, this information is only intended as guidance; we cannot guarantee your safety, nor can we provide any legal advice.
Before you travel to the USA, make sure you have an ESTA visa if you plan to enter the country through a land border crossing (unless you are transiting). An ESTA visa is a special type of non-immigrant visa issued by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for citizens from 38 countries around the world. It allows them to travel to the USA for up to 90 days without obtaining a tourist visa.
You do not need to apply for an ESTA visa if you fly into the USA. However, if you are transiting through Canada or Mexico, you must get an ESTA visa before entering the country from those points of entry. To check whether you require an ESTA visa for your next trip, please use our quick online checker tool below.
If you plan on staying more than 90 days in the US, you may need to apply for a B1/B2 visa, which is granted by the US Embassy or Consulate based on certain criteria.
You should also check whether the ESTA visa waiver program applies to you – if it does, then you won’t need to apply for the ESTA visa. You can find out more about the ESTA and other visas here.
It is important to note that, regardless of whether you want to travel to the USA via a land border crossing or air travel, you will still need to have an ESTA visa if you wish to enter the country from another country (e.g., Canada, Mexico, etc.).
In addition, if you plan on applying for an ESTA visa in advance, you should avoid traveling until you receive confirmation that your application has been approved. The sooner you apply, the better chance you have of getting approval.
For more information on the ESTA visa waiver program, read our article on how to get an ESTA visa.
Carrying Cash and Credit Cards
When travelling to the USA, remember to carry cash and credit cards wherever possible. You don’t want to run out of money while you’re away, especially if you’re visiting many expensive destinations. In addition, it’s always wise to keep your credit card details safe, even during transit, as well as at home.
It’s also worth noting that it’s illegal to bring large amounts of currency (over $10,000 per person) into the US from abroad.
If you are going on holiday to the USA with your family or friends, consider taking out a pre-paid debit card. This way, you will never have to worry about running out of money while you’re away, and you can spend your vacation relaxing and enjoying yourself.
Staying Healthy When Travelling Abroad
One of the most important things to remember when travelling to the US is to keep healthy. If you are planning on spending a considerable amount of time outdoors, make sure you dress appropriately. In addition, try to eat healthily and drink enough water.
As mentioned above, the weather in the US is notoriously hot and humid. If you are prone to heatstroke or dehydration, try to wear light clothing and drink lots of water.
Make sure you take medication regularly when travelling to the USA. For example, make sure you take all of your regular medicine with you, and that you store it safely in case you forget something. Also, take care not to forget your prescription glasses, contact lenses, or hearing aids.
Lastly, make sure you know where the nearest medical facilities are located. If you get injured, you will need to look after yourself, so don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. Most accommodation providers will have emergency numbers listed in their rooms, and you can also ring local hospitals and clinics directly to seek medical treatment.
Getting a US Driver’s License
To drive in the US, you must first obtain a driver’s license. As soon as you arrive in the country, head to the nearest DMV office where you can apply for a temporary license. Make sure you apply at least two weeks prior to your departure date, because the process is very long and tedious.
Once you have received your temporary license, you must take it back to the DMV office within 30 days of receiving it. You can renew your temporary license again once you return to the US. Make sure you bring your passport and proof of ID along with you when you go to the DMV.
If you intend to drive across state lines, you must apply for a new temporary license for each state. You must also carry proof of insurance when driving a motor vehicle, such as your own car insurance policy or a rental contract. Finally, make sure you have a valid International Driving Permit if you are not yet 21 years old.
For more information on what documents you will need when travelling to the US, see our guide on driving abroad.
Visas for Children
If you have children travelling with you, make sure they have passports and birth certificates ready. They will need to complete an I-20 form before they depart from their home country. This form needs to be completed before arriving in the US.
This means that your children will need to have their I-20 forms stamped by both the airline and immigration authorities upon arrival. Your children will also need to present their passports, birth certificates, and I-20 forms upon being admitted into the country.
Also, make sure you carry the following documentation when travelling with your child:
Proof of vaccination against measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, tetanus, polio, and diphtheria
- Birth certificate
- Immunization records
- Passport photos
- Medical reports
Photocopies of any documents showing the child’s name, address, parents’ names, citizenship, nationality, date of birth, and place of birth
We recommend that you also register your children with the American Automobile Association (AAA) ahead of time, just in case you lose your wallet or backpack. AAA membership is free, but you must sign up before leaving your home country.
Passports and Passport Expirations
There are several different types of passports that you might want to consider depending on your situation. Here are some useful facts to know about all of the different types of passports available:
US passports – These passports are the most common type of official document used by Americans. They are made of paper, have six pages, and are valid for 10 years.
Canadian passports – Canadians can use either a standard passport or a “multinational passport”. A multinational passport is designed specifically for Canadian nationals who live outside of North America.
European Union passports – EU passports come in three different designs. EU passports are known as “green passports” because they feature the European flag on the cover page. These passports are valid for five years, are made of plastic, and contain 10 pages.
Australian passports – Australian passports are called “blue passports”, and are valid for 10 years. They are made of plastic, contain 10 pages, and are valid for 5 years.
New Zealand passports – New Zealand passports are valid for 10 years and are made of polycarbonate plastic. New Zealand passports are blue, green, red, or orange in color.
South African passport – South African passports are made of durable polycarbonate plastic and are valid for 10 years. South African passports are blue, green, yellow, pink, or orange in color.
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