United States Travel Guides
The US has hundreds of international airports. Therefore, please see individual city guides for more specific information.
New York City is served by John F. Kennedy International (JFK), LaGuardia International (LGA) and Newark International (EWR).
Los Angeles is served by Los Angeles International (LAX). San Francisco is served by San Francisco International (SFO).
Other popular cities are Atlanta, served by Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL), Chicago O'Hare International (ORD), Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW), Las Vegas McCarran International (LAS), and Miami International (MIA).
Transport to and from the airports is usually by taxi, express train or Airport Shuttle Bus. All major car rental companies are represented at most, if not all international airports.
International rail connections are possible between the US, Canada and Mexico. The US-Canadian network includes connections between New York–Montréal, Chicago–Toronto and Seattle–Vancouver services. The Mexican rail networks connect at Yuma, El Paso and Del Rio, with limited scheduled passenger services. For further information, contact Amtrak (www.amtrak.com).
There are many crossing points from Canada to the USA. The major road routes are New York to Montréal/Ottawa, Detroit to Toronto/Hamilton, Minneapolis to Winnipeg and Seattle to Vancouver/Edmonton/Calgary. There are road links to Mexican destinations from El Paso, San Diego, Tucson and San Antonio. Greyhound Bus serves many destinations in Canada and some destinations in Mexico (www.greyhound.com).
The popular ports are Port of Anchorage (Alaska), Honolulu (Hawaii), Port of New Orleans, New York, New Jersey and Tampa (Florida) Port Authorities. Numerous cruise lines sail from ports worldwide to both the east and west coasts of the US. Contact a travel agent for fares and details.
Travel throughout the country is easy with buses, trains and planes all readily available. Budget deals and promotions are normally easy to find. Of particular value are the Greyhound bus and Amtrak rail services. Car Rental is also widely available at all major airports and many other locations.
Every city is served by at least one airport; larger cities have multiple airports. Strong competition between airlines has resulted in a wide difference between fares. Categories of fares are first-class, business class, economy, excursion and discount. Night flights are generally cheaper, known as “red-eye” flights.
Money-saving schemes for overseas visitors offer discounts on internal flights with the Visit USA (VUSA) Airpass, offered by the principal US airlines (often in conjunction with British Airways) and can be purchased in advance. Delta Airlines offers a similar scheme branded as Discover America.
These passes are offered as a minimum of three and a maximum of 10 coupons entitling the passenger to that number of flights within the USA at a discounted fare. A number of restrictions usually apply.
Nearly all the long-distance trains are operated by Amtrak, which serves more than 500 communities covering 35,000 kilometres. However, rail is not considered the best or fastest way to travel within the USA, as trains can be slow and infrequent, as well as expensive. Air travel is often more economical.
The more popular and reliable rail services exist between Boston, New York and Washington. The ‘Acela Express’ high-speed rail service along these routes is capable of travelling up to 240kph (150mph), reducing the regular train travel time by 30-90 minutes, depending on the route.
Other routes from Washington DC run south to Miami and New Orleans, and from Boston, New York or Washington, DC to Chicago. From Chicago, daily services cross the country to Seattle, Portland, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans and San Antonio (via Fort Worth).
Connections also exist between Los Angeles and San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, San Francisco and Bakersfield, San Francisco and Seattle (via Portland), San Antonio and Oklahoma City, New Orleans and Atlanta, and Kansas City and St Louis, amongst others.
A coast-to-coast train service is provided between Jacksonville and Los Angeles via Tucson, El Paso, San Antonio, Houston and New Orleans.
Visit the Amtrak website for more details: www.amtrak.com. US travel agents can also obtain information on Amtrak train services.
Nearly all trains have coach seating and air conditioning, with a variety of sleeping accommodation available for a supplemental charge. All long-distance trains have waiter-staffed, seated dining facilities. Cafe cars on shorter trips provide snacks and beverages that guests can take back to their seats.
The USA Rail Pass is specifically designed for international travellers from outside the USA or Canada and offers good value. Passes are valid for 15 or 30 days of unlimited travel either on a national or regional basis.
Greyhound Bus is the main national coach carrier and covers the whole of the USA. This 24-hour service is supplemented by over 11,000 other tour lines, covering the country with reasonably priced and regular services. Some Greyhound services are available to Canada and Mexico. There are express bus services between major cities. Air conditioning, toilets and reclining seats are available on all buses. Meals are not provided, however, food and non-alcoholic drinks may be consumed on board and there are regular meal stops on longer routes. Visit www.greyhound.com for more information.
Greyhound offers a range of Discovery Pass programs, valid for 4 to 60 days in the USA and/or Canada, which can be purchased by US, Canadian and overseas travellers.
The International Ameripass is 10 to 15 percent cheaper than the domestic version, but must be purchased outside the USA and Canada. The Ameripass, gives four, seven, 10, 15, 21, 30, 45 or 60 days unlimited travel throughout the USA and some points within Mexico. Passes are validated at the ticket counter at the beginning of the trip and identification must be shown. Individual tickets are not necessary. The pass is valid for a continuous period starting from validation. Unlimited stops are allowed.
Driving is a fabulous way to see the USA, although the distances between cities can be enormous, for example the distance between San Francisco and New York City is 4716km. This is a great way to see the country, providing you have plenty of time and a good map to get yourself off the main highways. A realistic evaluation of travel times should be made to avoid over-strenuous itineraries. For example, allow no less than 2 weeks if you plan to drive between San Francisco and New York.
Driving conditions are excellent and the road system reaches every town. Petrol (gas) is cheaper than in Europe. The American Automobile Association (AAA); (www.aaa.com) offers excellent touring services, maps and travel advice and emergency road assistance to affiliate auto club members.
Major international companies have offices at all airports and in most cities. There are excellent discounts available for foreign visitors. A drop-off charge will be added if the car is returned in a different city from the one in which it was hired. Credit-card deposits are generally required. Minimum ages for hirers vary according to the rental company, but generally require the driver to be at least 25 years of age.
Documentation and insurance: An International Driving Permit is recommended; although it is not legally required (it is often very useful as an additional proof of identity). A full national driving license is accepted for up to one year. All travellers intending to hire or drive vehicles in the USA are strongly advised to ensure that the insurance policy covers their total requirements, covering all drivers and passengers against injury or accidental death. A yellow ‘non-resident, interstate liability insurance card’, which acts as evidence of financial responsibility, is available through motor insurance agents. Additional Collision Damage Waiver covering the car itself is also strongly recommended; in some states this extra insurance is included in hire rates by law.
Traffic drives on the right. The speed limit is usually 55mph (89kph) on motorways, but varies from State to State. Speed limits are clearly indicated along highways and are strictly enforced, with heavy fines imposed. Note that it is illegal to pass a school bus that has stopped to unload its passengers and all vehicles must stop until the bus has moved back into the traffic stream. It is illegal for drivers not to have their licenses immediately on hand. If stopped, do not attempt to pay a driving fine on the spot (unless it is demanded), as it may be interpreted as an attempt to bribe, which is illegal. Note: There are extremely tough laws against drinking and driving throughout the USA. These laws are strictly enforced.
There are numerous underground train systems operating in major cities including New York, Washington, DC, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. Many others are being planned or built. There are also several tramway and trolleybus systems, including the wonderful antique trams (cable cars) found in San Francisco.
There are extensive water communications both along the coastline and along the major rivers and lakes. The Ohio River carries more water traffic than any other inland waterway in the world. Tour ships and passenger and freight lines crisscross all the Great Lakes from ports in Duluth, Sault Sainte Marie, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, Rochester, Cleveland and Toronto.