The US is one of the most popular holiday destinations worldwide and one of the most important countries in the world that you could possibly go to see.
So it’s no surprise that it’s high up on many people’s bucket list of places to visit.
The US is also incredibly varied, which means you have to prepare and plan a trip in advance.
In this post, we are going to make planning a trip to America a lot easier by taking a look at the most important things you need to know before visiting the US.
The tipping culture
One of the most spoken about (and least understood) aspects of American life is that it has a strong tipping culture.
Whilst a lot of countries do have some kind of tipping in place for a variety of circumstances, the American way of tipping is arguably one of the strictest out there.
If you don’t tip in the US, it is seen as incredibly rude and unforgivable, even if the service you received was below par.
You will be expected to tip for any kind of service you receive in the US, from being in a restaurant to having your hair cut, so it’s important to always carry cash.
In most cases, you should expect to tip around 15 percent of the total pre-tip bill at a restaurant. In fact, this is a good figure to go by most of the time in other settings too.
You can find out more about tipping in the US here, but the main point is to make sure that you don’t forget to do it.
Where have all the taxis gone?
Another thing that might come as a surprise to someone visiting the US for the first time is that there aren’t many licensed taxis around.
This is because the vast majority of them are operating under the guise of Uber and Lyft. These are taxi-booking apps for your smartphone and it is usually cheaper than an old-style taxi that you might be used to.
It’s a good idea to download these apps before you head over to the states and familiarise yourself with them so you can get a taxi wherever you are in the US.
The food servings are huge
It can almost sound like a cliche, but it’s true: the food servings in the US are large. Especially compared to many European countries and other parts of the world.
Many a tourist before you has been caught out by the size of a side dish, so it’s something that you should prepare for as best as you can.
Don’t go thinking that you can get away with just eating a salad either. You will find that even salads are huge and come with more sides that you might not have ordered.
Of course, for the foodies out there, this is great news and the US is one of the world’s top destinations for food. But it is much easier if you know what you are getting into in advance.
You might need an ESTA
As with most countries, the US has particular legal rules for entering and leaving the country.
The most important thing that you need to know about is the ESTA – an electronic system for travel authorisation. This is mandatory for travellers visiting the US by sea and air, for tourism or business, and for trips under 90 days.
However, bear in mind that you need to check whether you are coming from a country covered under the Visa Waiver Program. Otherwise, you might not be able to get your ESTA signed off.
Research and sort out the ESTA long before you travel to avoid the trouble. Take a look at https://official-esta.co.uk to find out more about the ESTA and all you need to know.
Tax is added on afterwards
Whenever you are buying goods or services, you have to bear in mind that tax is always going to be added on afterwards.
A lot of other countries simply include tax in the advertised price, but in the US it is added onto the bill at the end.
As such, you will often get to the till in a store or receive your bill at a restaurant to find it is higher than you thought. Make sure you are calculating for tax, otherwise you might get caught out.