Getting Around the USA
It is nearly 2,800 miles from New York to San Diego - that's over twice the distance from London to Kiev. The United States is massive and, if you want to see lots of cities, you're going to have to plan well and allow lots of time. If time is limited, it’s much better to visit fewer places for longer. Be realistic and think about your itinerary - how much time you have, where you can get work, when you have to be there, how much money you've got and, of course, where you want to go!
Organised Schemes and Tours
One option is to take a tour with a company like Trek America. For over 30 years, Trek America has been tempting travellers away from the "package" holiday approach and into the world of active and exciting small group adventure holidays. To find out more visit www.trekamerica.co.uk.
Coach travel is a good way of reaching those places that train and planes can't get to. The bus network is pretty comprehensive and easy to use. Greyhound Buses go all over the USA and offer good value for money with their passes, particularly if you book in advance.
Amtrak is the national train service and links 500 communities in 46 states (but doesn’t include Alaska, Hawaii, South Dakota and Wyoming). You can get up to date travel information and make reservations directly at their website, www.amtrak.com. Some highly recommended routes are...
- The Coast Starlight. One of Amtrak's most scenic trips. There’s often a bit of a party atmosphere, starting in the lounge car and spreading through the train as it travels between Seattle and Los Angeles. You see snow-covered mountains, forest valleys and long stretches of the Pacific shoreline. Dreamy!
- The California Zephyr. Takes two days and nights to travel between Chicago and San Francisco, crossing farmland, prairie, deserts, rivers and the Rocky Mountains. A mere 2,420 mile journey.
- The Southwest Chief. Amtrak's fastest trip from Chicago to the Pacific - 2,230 miles through eight states, passing wheat fields, ranches, missions, pueblos, mountains and deserts.
- The Sunset Limited. The only way to travel from coast to coast on a single train. After going north from Orlando to Jacksonville in Florida the train heads west into two sunsets.
The major domestic airlines in the US cover pretty much most of the major cities, but it's also worth keeping an eye open for good deal with some of the budget airlines - bear in mind as well that flights are generally cheaper in the middle of the week.
As a visitor you can drive in the United States if you have a UK valid drivers full license. However, if you are entering as a temporary resident you need to get a driving license from the appropriate state authority when you arrive.
Driving laws vary from state to state. Speed limits are measured in miles per hour like the UK but make sure you check the road signs, as speed limits can vary a lot. As a general rule you could follow this...
- Freeways - 75mph
- Urban stretches - 70mph
- Dual carriageways - 65mph
- Outside built-up areas - 50-65mph
- Built-up areas - 25-35mph
Speed limits are strictly enforced in many states, especially the highly populated eastern areas.
It is important to note that speed and drink driving limits are lower than in the UK. Also, most car hire firms insist that you need to have held a full license for at least one year. The minimum age for hiring a car is 21, although it can be as high as 25, and there is often an additional charge for drivers who are under 25.