What you need to know before your trip to America

Taking a trip to the United States of America

Many people have a list of places they would like to visit in their lifetimes, some want to see different cultures, others are after specific locations or views and still more want to see as many countries as possible. What ever the reason you can be sure that on every single list there will be something that means travelling to the United States.

America is a massive place and has a large number of unique experiences, views and cultures to see and explore. It is so large that there is no way to see it all in one go and that is just the part of America known as the U.S. if you consider America in it's entirety with both the North and South American regions it becomes even more incredible. This then is our small guide for taking a trip to North America or more specifically the United States of America (USA).

Statue of liberty

How to enjoy your all American holiday

If you are planning a trip stateside, you may not realise quite how different it can be and if you don't want the embarrassment of sticking out in an awkward way there are a few things you may want to bare in mind.

  • Tipping - This is an important aspect that many in the UK and Europe won't truly understand. Tipping in the US is basically required, without it the people providing any service will not be paid enough to live on. 18-20% is standard and should be added to anything. For simple services that don't have a traditional paid amount $1 to $5 is generally accepted for standard service, so a bartender could expect a tip of $1 per drink or a bell-hop $2 for the first bag and $1 per additional bag. If the service was very good increase that as much as you like, if it was very bad lower the tip to 10-15%. Some people believe if the service was very bad then leave the tip off. That is up to you but don't be surprised if they get irate.
  • Displayed costs - Tax is rarely shown when costs are displayed so expect to pay more than the price displayed. You could work it out before hand but it varies so much by state and item type that it is usually best to just accept that it will be a bit more than shown, the taxes are lower than we have here anyway and most items are cheaper anyway.
  • Great prices - Even though it's hard to work out the final price, with tax and tips to add, leave space in your luggage to bring things home. Everything is so much cheaper in the US of A that many will go out with practically nothing and buy a whole new wardrobe to bring home with them, all stuffed into a new bag they also bought while there.
Mount rushmore
  • Friendly - Americans are known to be friendly and loud while abroad and they are no different while at home. Expect to have strangers talk to you, tell you stories and just be generally friendly especially in the southern states. Use these talks as a great opportunity to find great places to eat, drink and see, all while potentially making a great connection with new people.
  • Distances - The united states of america is a big place, even a single state can take hours to drive through so don't expect to be able to get anywhere quickly and definitely don't try to plan several big famous locations within one short trip. If you try you will only end up seeing the inside of a car or a lot of planes for your holiday, leaving you disappointed and feeling like you wasted a trip. With such a large amount of space the only way to get anywhere locally is by car. Public transport outside of a few cities is generally terrible if not impossible and nearly everyone living there owns a car. There are many options for renting out a car yourself (petrol or "Gas" is cheap) or if you are particularly adventurous you may try the bus stations. If you can't or won't drive the best option is to go for an all inclusive package holiday that has transport already built in.
  • Zip code issues - If driving petrol stations have pay at pump facilities, but as you'll need to enter a zip code for security reasons, they're useless to anyone with a non-US credit card. Expect to have to go in and pre-pay. There's a similar obstacle when buying New York Subway tickets but a few foreign visitors have found that tapping in 99999 as a zip-code will work when using an overseas card.
Las Vegas sign
  • Food and drink - Portion sizes are much bigger in America with a U.S. medium being closer to our large portions so don't be afraid to ask for a "doggy bag" just say "Could you wrap this for me, please" and they will happily do so (don't forget to tip). Cheese is a more generic bland affair that many meals use copiously and be aware that sweets and chocolate have a very different taste. Alcohol can only be bought or drunk by those over 21 years of age as there is a Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) of 21. Do not expect to get a good cup of tea in America as they don't drink it, coffee is instead the hot drink of choice and is available in many varieties.
  • Time zones - Check the time zones of the places you are going and make sure connections actually connect as times are often listed as local time which differs across the U.S.A. this is especially important if you are booking everything yourself and plan on taking linking flights. Even many Americans can get caught out by this when travelling around and through some areas of the states as they can differ by time of year due to daylight savings time being observed in some areas but not others on top of time zone changes.

Medical travel insurance for the USA

The U.S. is almost always one of the most expensive policies to take out as the cost of dealing with anything that goes wrong is so high. This is due to the American use of insurance for so many things, the culture means that you have to pay out big when there is an issue and if you don't pay out you don't get aid. The most important element of travel insurance to America is always going to be the medical cover. Everything to do with health in the united states is very expensive from ambulance rides and treatment to repatriation if it's needed to get you home, all of it costs a lot. With medical cover these exorbitant costs are covered by your insurance so make sure your medical section is valid by adding all of your pre-existing conditions.

Other than medical you may find cancellation an important aspect with the potentially high costs of flights and travel if you have to cancel you don't want it to be a complete loss. For the same reason you may want to include travel disruption to help deal with any issues with travelling especially when travelling to northern areas of America in winter. Otherwise you will want to check the areas relevant to your type of trip. If you are going skiing include winter sports, if you are going for golfing include that, you may like to check our other guides for some ideas and tips for these areas.

As ever we at medical travel insurance can aid you in finding travel insurance for your American trip just click here to go and get a quote. Don't forget to add the options you want such as winter sports or travel disruption to get the cover you want or need.

In need of assistance?

Our medical travel insurance team are ready to provide you with assistance regarding your quote. If you would prefer to talk to an advisor to receive a quote or have a query please contact our UK based customer service team. Find out details on our contact us page.

Sand and clear blue water