Like any holiday to a foreign country, there are various things that you need to consider before travelling. Many people embark on cheap holidays to Las Vegas and holidays to other destinations in the US without considering certain things before leaving. This guide will help you prepare for your trip.
Visa Waiver Program
Surely getting into a country is simple, you turn up to the airport and fly to your destination! It’s not quite that simple when travelling to the US. The US government has set up a Visa Waiver Program that allows residents from 36 countries to enter the US for business or tourism for up to 90 days without the need for a visa. This means that prior to travel, tourists have to gain authorisation through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTRA. This simply involves filling out information about yourself and your travel plans. Providing everything is in order, this only takes a couple of minutes to be authorised. Although a quick process, it is recommended that it is completed well before you aim to travel.
Many people think that buying things in America is the same as in Britain; you just convert back to Sterling and work out if it is a good deal. However, there are other things to consider, such as sales tax. Many items you will see in shops will not have the sales tax included in the price; this will be added once you get to the till. The tax can vary according to which state you are in, so if you are moving between states on your holiday you should find out the rates before purchasing anything substantial.
In Europe, we are used to tipping for certain things at around 10% of the value, but in the States, they tip for a lot more things and at a higher percentage. Waiting staff are often paid less than in the UK and supplement their wage with tips. Americans understand this and tip around 15% for good service and 20% if it is excellent. If you tip 10% while on your travels this will likely be seen as a sign that the service was bad and you may be confronted. Not tipping at all is usually only an option if service has been terrible. This system means that you find staff are often very accommodating and will make your visit to their establishment enjoyable.
Differences Between States
Like sales tax, the laws can vary in each state. It is sometimes easier to think of the United States as a continent comprising of different countries in regards to laws, customs and even the weather. The place is so large that at the same time you can have bright sunshine in one state and in another, torrential rain. If you know which states you will be visiting, it is a good idea to brush up on each one before you set off.
Thanks to American TV and movies, we are very accustomed to the slang and the various things Americans say differently to us. However, to avoid any problems or embarrassment it is probably best to look up some before you leave. For example, it is common for Brits to call cigarettes ‘fags’, but in the US this is an extremely offensive term and probably best to avoid!