We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again. Before your trip to the United States, you must have all the paperwork in order. Visas, passports, permits and ID documents – all of these are vital if you do not want to spend your US trip in an interrogation room at JFK International. Also, make sure to review your insurance coverage before you go, as the health care system in the United States is awful for those who are uninsured.
Another important thing to remember when traveling through the United States is the tips. As you may know, the system is completely different when it comes to tips, often it is precisely the main income for the staff as salaries in the service professions are very low. So a cup of coffee may seem cheap (and it should be, given how American coffee often tastes), but you should expect to put at least 15% tips on the bill. Sometimes the tip is included from the beginning, this is then stated (service charge) and generally corresponds to 15 – 20%.
The third thing we want to remind you is that you should always be careful to follow the law. Laws and penalties can differ greatly from state to state depending on what kind of crime you commit, so to avoid studying penalty scales, it is probably easiest to simply be a law-abiding citizen while in the United States.
How and where you can live depends mainly on two things: the standard you have and the opportunity to pay for you, and where in the US you intend to travel. In the big cities, of course, hotels dominate, and just like in the world of film, it is possible to get everything from a five-star luxury hotel to a less hospitable hole in the wall.
Outside the cities, in smaller communities, the bed and breakfast option dominates. It is a nice and often quite personal form of accommodation where the host or the hosts make sure that you get some breakfast in the morning before you go on exploration trips. If you go on a road trip, you should of course also take the opportunity to spend a night at a motel. Just make sure it does not belong to anyone named Bates…
Food and drinks
If there is one thing the United States is known for, it is undoubtedly its food and drink. Or should we say its abundance of food and drink? More than one in two Americans is overweight, and most people who spend more than a week in the United States come home a little rounder on their stomachs than when they left. The portions are simply gigantic, and how often do you actually choose vegetables over honey-fried marshmallows?
Even so, owning one is still beyond the reach of the average person. In the northern parts of the country, seafood is a large part of the menu, and in the southeast we find the world-famous Cajun cuisine with mixtures of American, French and Caribbean spices. Of course, you should drink your cup of coffee at Starbucks, eat at a real American McDonalds and try a corndog at a baseball game. But also take the time to try to find the slightly finer and tastier parts of American cuisine.
Nightlife and entertainment
Of course, the United States has everything and a little more, whether you are looking for a vibrant nightlife or more family-related entertainment. Famous party cities include New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Miami. The party never ends here, but keep in mind that the age limits for both entry and alcohol are much higher in many states, than here at home in Sweden. Check out what applies if you are under 25, and you will avoid unpleasant surprises.
If you have family and children with you, then of course Disneyland is a given stop on the journey through the USA. Also take the chance to stop at one of the large amusement parks that are often found on the outskirts of many cities – not infrequently they are larger than both Gröna Lund and Liseberg together. See also if you can plan a country fair, rodeo or other activity. These can be just as fun for adults as for children.
Of course, since the United States is one of the world’s largest countries, there are a wealth of attractions. In fact, it is virtually impossible to catch up with them all on one trip, experienced backpackers usually talk about dividing the country into three parts (east, west and south), and then giving each part at least two trips to catch up. all.
Classics like Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty in New York and the Hollywood sign are of course the most famous, but those who are looking for something more exotic and different have the opportunity to see both the world’s largest ball of yarn, as well as the world’s largest boot, in the USA! Those who prefer animals and nature have, of course, the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon and the Florida Everglades to look forward to.
As with food and drink, American shopping is known for an abundance – but also for a large part affordable or at least cheap products. Many English people actually go to New York just to shop, and American fashion is usually what sets the trend for the rest of the western world.
If shopping is your thing, you should make sure to go to, or plan stops in, some of the big cities. New York is of course fashion-mecca, but good shopping is also available in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Washington DC to name a few. If you travel in times where the dollar is weak against the krona, you can also find branded goods at much lower prices than at home in Sweden. Of course, this does not only apply to clothes – cars, electronics and kitchen aids are popular imports.
If you are more interested in the phenomenon in general, we can really recommend a visit to one of the many “mega malls” that exist in most suburbs. Our Swedish malls really do not have much to get more there…