Horseback riding in USA

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Equestrian tours in USA

 United States of America
    Source: World Travel Guide

From the soaring skyscrapers of New York City to the dramatic mesas of Arizona, the United States of America is a place of staggering beauty and extraordinary diversity. Nothing prepares you for your first glimpse of Manhattan's iconic skyline, the yawning expanses of the Grand Canyon or the neon-lit excesses of Las Vegas, just some of the country's many highlights.

You could easily spend a lifetime in the US and still feel like you've just scratched the surface. It's epic on every scale. After all, this is a place where you can watch the thunderous spectacle of Niagara Falls, trek through the soaring Black Hills of South Dakota and cruise along California's glorious Pacific Coast; where you can ski at Lake Tahoe, go cattle ranching in the Midwest and imbibe live jazz in New Orleans. The options, it seems, are endless.

The USA's manmade landscapes are nearly as spectacular as the natural ones. New York City boasts some of the most impressive skyscrapers on the planet (think Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Centre), although the skylines of Seattle, Chicago, LA and Vegas are no less recognizable.

The American people are similarly diverse; from the colorful Cubans of the southeast to the gun-slinging wranglers of Texas and hardy Inuits of Alaska, the country is a melting pot of cultures. Generations of immigrants have shaped the national identity in everything from food and language to music and manners.

International Trade Administration, Office of Travel & Tourism Industries

US Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20230, USA
Tel: (202) 482 0140.

Travel Industry Association of America

1100 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 450, Washington, DC 20005, USA
Tel: (202) 408 8422.

Embassy of the United States of America in the UK

24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE, UK
Tel: (020) 7499 9000.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 0830-1730.
Consulates in: Belfast and Edinburgh.
Tel: (020) 7894 0563 (24 hour visa information line: UK only: identical information is available on the embassy website at no cost) or 09042 450100: calls cost £1.20 per minute ( operator-assisted visa information).


General Information


North America.


The USA is divided into six time zones:
Eastern Standard Time: GMT - 5 (GMT - 4 from second Sunday in March to first Sunday in November).
Central Standard Time: GMT - 6 (GMT - 5 from second Sunday in March to first Sunday in November).
Mountain Standard Time: GMT - 7 (GMT - 6 from second Sunday in March to first Sunday in November. Arizona does not observe DST).
Pacific Standard Time: GMT - 8 (GMT - 7 from second Sunday in March to first Sunday in November).
Alaska: GMT - 9 (GMT - 8 from second Sunday in March to first Sunday in November).
Hawaii: GMT - 10.


9,826,630 sq km (3,794,083 sq miles).


301 million (official estimate 2007).

Population Density

32.5 per sq km.


Washington, DC. Population: 581,530 (2006). Over 25 other cities have a population larger than that of Washington, DC. New York is the largest city, with a population of 8.3 million (2006). Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio and San Diego had populations ranging from 1.2 - 3.8 million in 2005.


Covering a large part of the North American continent, the USA shares borders with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south and has coasts on the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The State of Alaska, in the northwest corner of the continent, is separated from the rest of the USA by Canada, and Hawaii lies in the central Pacific Ocean. The third-largest country in the world (after the Russian Federation and Canada), the USA has an enormous diversity of geographical features. The climate ranges from subtropical to Arctic, with a corresponding breadth of flora and fauna. For a more detailed description of each region's geographical characteristics, see the individual state sections.


Federal Republic since 1789. Gained independence from the UK in 1776. The USA has 50 States and the District of Columbia (as in ‘Washington, DC'), which lies between Maryland and Virginia.

Head of State

President Barack Obama since 2009.

Recent History

National security in general is a major issue for the USA. President George W Bush secured a second term at the presidential election in November 2004 while the Republicans tightened their grip on the Senate, kept control of the House of Representatives, and also presided over the possibility of further changes in the Supreme Court. Mid-term election results in November 2006 represented a turnaround of public opinion as the Democrats gained the majority in the Senate and House of Representatives.

The election of November 2008 saw a record turnout and victory to Democrat candidate Barack Obama. He took over from George W Bush as president in January 2009.


English, with significant Spanish-speaking minorties (10.7%).


Protestant majority (52%) with Roman Catholic, Mormon, Jewish and many ethnic minorities.


110 volts AC, 60Hz. Plugs are of the flat two-pin type. European electrical appliances not fitted with dual-voltage capabilities will require a plug adaptor, which is best purchased before arrival in the USA.

Social Conventions

Americans are renowned for their openness and friendliness to visitors. The wide variety of national origins and the USA's relatively short history has resulted in numerous cultural and traditional customs living alongside each other. In large cities, people of the same ethnic background often live within defined communities. Shaking hands is the usual form of greeting. A relaxed and informal atmosphere is usually the norm. As long as the fundamental rules of courtesy are observed, there need be no fear of offending anyone of any background. Gifts are appreciated if one is invited to a private home. As a rule, dress is casual. High-end restaurants, hotels and clubs may require more formal attire. Smoking is increasingly unpopular in the US; it is essential to ask permission before lighting up. Smoking is not allowed on city transport and restricted or forbidden in public buildings in most states. There will be a posted notice where no smoking is requested. An increasing number of states (including California and New York) have banned smoking altogether in bars, restaurants and many public places.


Passport Required?









Other EU


Visa Required?









Other EU


Return Ticket Required?









Other EU



To enter the United States of America, a passport valid for the duration of stay is required by nationals in the chart above.

Passport note

All travelers entering the USA under the Visa Waiver Program require an e-passport with an embedded electronic chip. Any traveler not in possession of an e-passport will require a valid USA entry visa..

Visitors to the USA travelling under the Visa Waiver Program must obtain authorization from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), a fully automated, electronic system for screening passengers before they begin travel to the USA, if arriving by air or sea. It is recommended that applications are made at least 72 hours prior to travel but you may apply at any time prior to travel. Airlines must deny check-in to passengers without valid ESTA. Apply online ( There is a US$14 fee.
An ESTA is valid for two years, so if you've applied for one previously, ensure it's still valid.

When applying for ESTA-authorization and entering the passport number, the number 0 must not be replaced by letter O as this can lead to problems upon entering the USA. The granting of an ESTA does not guarantee entry to the USA.
Canadian citizens do not require an ESTA, but permanent residents of Canada who are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program must obtain one.
All persons, including US citizens, travelling by air, land, or sea between the USA and Canada, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda are required to present a valid passport, or other approved document, when entering or re-entering the USA.


Not required by nationals referred to in the chart above for stays of up to 90 days except: 

1. Nationals of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania, who do require a visa as they are not included in the Visa Waiver Program.

Countries are occasionally added to the Visa Waiver Program; check the US Department of State's website for recent additions (

Visa Note

Nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries who have visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 2011 are not eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program and must apply for a US visa.

All passengers using US airports for transit purposes are required to obtain a transit visa. This does not affect qualified travellers travelling visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program.
To qualify for visa-free travel under the Visa Waiver Program, nationals must travel on a valid passport, for holiday, transit or business purposes only and for a stay not exceeding 90 days.

Holders of UK passports with the endorsement British Subject, British Dependent Territories Citizen, British Protected Person, British Overseas Citizen or British National (Overseas) Citizen do not qualify for the Visa Waiver Program. A passport which states holder has right of abode or indefinite leave to remain in the UK does not qualify for visa-free travel.
A visa does not expire with the expiry of the holder's passport. An unexpired, endorsed visa in an expired passport may be presented for entry into the USA, as long as the visa itself has not been cancelled, is undamaged, is less than 10 years old and is presented with a valid non-expired passport, provided that both passports are for the same nationality.
Nationals of countries not referred to in the chart above are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements. 

Types of Visa and Cost

Tourist, Business, Transit and Student: US$160.


Visas may be used for travel to the USA until the date it expires as long as presented with a valid passport. Some visas are valid for multiple entries. The length of stay in the USA is determined by US immigration officials at the time of entry.

Applications to:
Embassy or consulate. All visitors requiring a visa must attend an interview at the nearest US consulate/ embassy.

Working Days Required

Varies widely- check with embassy/ consulate for current processing times. At the US Embassy in the UK, there is an eight day wait for appointments and visa processing takes three working days. You can also check processing times online at




US Dollar (US$) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of US$100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are in denominations of US$1, and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 cents.

Currency Exchange

Hotels do not, as a rule, exchange currency and only a few major banks will exchange foreign currency, so it is advisable to arrive with US Dollars, or exchange foreign currency at the airport upon arrival.

Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs

Most major credit cards are accepted throughout the USA, including American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa. Visitors are advised to carry at least one major credit card, as it is common to request prepayment or a credit card imprint for hotel rooms and car hire, even when final payment is not by credit card. Be sure to check with your card issuer for current surcharge rates imposed for use of the card outside your home county. You should also inform your issuer that you are traveling for a specified period so your card is not flagged or temporarily suspended.

Bank-issued debit cards are accepted at many businesses in the US; however, using them to pay for many travel-related expenses, such as car hire and hotel rooms, often incurs a surcharge, deposit or a hold on your account.

ATMs are widely available across the country.

Traveller's Cheques

Widely accepted in US Dollar cheques; Pound Sterling traveller's cheques are not acceptable and few banks will change these. Change is issued in US Dollars. One or two items of identification (passport, credit card, driving license) will be required.

Banking Hours

Variable, but generally Mon-Fri 0900-1700.



Special Precautions



Hepatitis A










Yellow Fever


Inoculation regulations can change at short notice. Please take medical advice in the case of doubt.

Other Risks

The US is generally considered a safe destination for world visitors. Occasional outbreaks of disease, such as West Nile Virus (a mosquito-borne illness), H1N1, and the plagues have occurred in recent years, however. Frequent hand-washing and general practices of good hygiene are encouraged to protect oneself against all types of illness. There have been rare cases of rabies, but special precautions are not necessary.

Another concern with regards to safety is the ubiquity of firearms, which remains a contentious issue in the United States. Terrorism also poses a small risk, although city, state, and federal agencies have stringent anti-terrorism practices in place.

Health Care

Medical insurance that provides medical coverage is strongly advised for visitors to the US. Only emergency cases are treated without prior payment and treatment will often be refused without evidence of insurance or a deposit. All receipts must be kept in order to make a claim. Medical care in the United States tends to be quite expensive, especially for emergency treatment provided in hospital settings, paid for out of pocket. 

Medical facilities are generally of a high standard, and most major cities have specialty hospitals and clinic to treat specific illnesses. Clinics and hospitals are run by both public and private entities and are highly regulated by local, state, and federal agencies. Health care tends toward the traditional, medical-oriented model of care conventionally practiced in the West, and care is provided by doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, depending on both the setting and the procedure.

Many medications available over the counter in other countries require a prescription in the US. Visitors from outside the US are advised to bring an adequate supply of prescription medication for their entire stay. It can be difficult to get medication that was prescribed abroad in the US. Visitors may also want to bring the contact information for their home physician should they need to consult with them whilst abroad. 

Those visiting the USA for long periods with school-age children should be aware that school entry requirements include proof of immunisation against diphtheria, measles, poliomyelitis and rubella throughout the USA, and schools in many States also require immunization against tetanus, pertussis and mumps.

HIV-positive visitors are no longer required to obtain or present a waiver of inadmissibility, under the so-called 'HIV Final Rule' of 2009.


Getting There

Getting There by Air

The principal US airlines operating international services are: American Airlines (AA) (website:, Delta Air (website:, and United Airlines (website: From the UK, British Airways ( and Virgin Atlantic ( also offer multiple routes to the USA.

Flight Times

From London to Miami is 9 hours 45 minutes, to New York is 8 hours, to San Francisco is 11 hours, to Seattle is 9 hours 45 minutes and to Washington DC is 8 hours.


Return flights to Europe from the east coast of the USA take approximately 30 to 40 minutes less than outward westbound flights, and from the west coast of the USA approximately 60 minutes less. Visitors arriving in the USA via international airports may be subject to serious delays. A stringent new security system, which requires all visitors with visas to be photographed and fingerprinted upon entry, was put into operation in January 2004, as part of US anti-terrorism measures. Experts warn that this heightened state of alert could prevail for the next few years.

Air Passes

Star Alliance member airlines (, which includes Air Canada and United, offer a Star Alliance North America Airpass for travel on the continent.
Oneworld alliance offer the Visit North America Pass ( with the ability to book between two and ten flights between over 240 destinations throughout North America, Central America, and the Caribbean using the services of American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, LAN, Qantas and their affiliates.

Main Airports

The busiest airports in the USA include Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) (website:, Chicago O'Hare International (ORD) (website:, Los Angeles International (LAX) (website:, Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) (website:, and Las Vegas McCarran International (LAS) (website: For further details, consult the individual State sections.

Departure Tax None.


Getting There by Water

Main ports: Port of Anchorage (website:, Honolulu, State of Hawaii, Harbor Division (website:, Port of New Orleans (website:, New York, The Port Authority on NY & NJ (website:, Port of Miami (website:, and Tampa Port Authority (website: You can find a complete list of US ports on the Customs and Border Protection website (

Note: Alaskan ports may have seasonal arrivals only, and do not operate year-round for passenger arrivals.

Ferries from Canada to USA operate on both coasts. Some of these ferries are passenger-only; others offer vehicle transport service as well. As with land crossing and train travel, ferries are not ideal options for those on a tight schedule.

Getting There by Rail

Rail travel in the United State is not as well-developed as it is in Europe, and is not a popular way to travel, as service is typically slow and often inconvenient.

Amtrak (tel: 1800 872 7245; website: is the only commercial rtailway inn the US providing passenfers travel services across the country. The US and Mexican rail networks connect at Yuma, El Paso and Del Rio, with limited scheduled passenger services. There are several connections with the Canadian network, including New York–Montréal, Chicago–Toronto and Seattle–Vancouver services. Amtrak offers USA rail passes in 15-, 30-, and 45-day increments.

Getting There by Road

In general, roadways in the USA are safe and well-maintained. The USA has a well-developed interstate system linking states; odd numbered interstates run north to south and even-numbered interstates run east to west. Many states, including Florida and New Jersey, have 'turnpikes' that impose tolls on portions of their roadways.

Getting Around

Getting Around by Air

The USA may be crossed within five hours from east to west and within two hours from north to south. Strong competition between airlines has resulted in a wide difference between fares. Categories of fares include first-class, economy, excursion and discount. Night flights are generally cheaper.
Cheap fares: Money-saving schemes for overseas visitors include 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 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; price is based on the number of flight segments. A number of restrictions usually apply, including: (a) the pass must be booked in conjunction with a round-trip flight to the USA (although this can, in some cases, be on a different carrier); (b) tickets must be purchased outside North America and are not available to US, Canadian and some Caribbean residents; (c) tickets must often be purchased before a specified time (eg 21 days in advance); (d) the traveller must utilise the first coupon within a specified time period (usually within 60 days of arrival in the USA) and use all the coupons within 180 days of arrival. Agents are advised to contact the offices of individual airlines once a basic itinerary has been organised, as terms may vary.
Note: Baggage allowance is often determined by number and size in addition to weight.

Getting Around by Water

There are extensive water communications both along the coastline and along the great 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.

Getting Around by Rail

Nearly all the long-distance trains are operated by Amtrak, which serves more than 500 communities in 45 States over a 35,000km (22,000 mile) route system. Even so, 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. Some services, however, are popular and reliable. Services along the northeast corridor exist between Boston, New York and Washington. The ‘Acela Express’ high-speed rail service along the northeast corridor is capable of travelling up to 240kph (150mph), reducing the current three-hour trip between Washington, DC and New York by 30 minutes and the New York to Boston journey from four hours 30 minutes to three hours. 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 radiate 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. Prices and timetables are subject to change without notice.
A variety of State and municipal bodies operate short-distance and commuter rail lines around various urban centres, many connected to stops on the Amtrak lines. Amtrak also operates a Thruway bus service, which connects to some cities and towns not on the Amtrak grid. A number of independent companies offer short routes, often in scenic locations, onboard vintage trains. These routes are often a good idea for travellers wishing to reach wilderness locations that are off the beaten track.
Amtrak contact details: For up-to-date information, contact Amtrak (tel: (800) 872 7245 (toll-free in USA); website:; in the UK, contact Leisurail (tel: (0800) 698 7545 or (0870) 750 0222). US travel agents can also obtain information on Amtrak train services, schedules and travel packages through the Western Folder Distribution Company Travel Information Network by entering their ARC number online (website: Facilities and 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.
Tour packages: Amtrak offers a variety of tour packages throughout the USA flexible to any budget. Full details are provided in the Amtrak Travel Planner, which is widely available. A great deal of the USA’s beautiful scenery and historical sites can only be viewed by train. Passenger trains continue to attract a discerning and ever-increasing clientele. Indeed, rail travel in the USA – as in many other countries – has undergone a considerable revival in recent years, and the trend continues. It is therefore advisable for passengers to reserve well in advance, as some routes are often booked out.
Cheap fares: The USA Rail Pass is specifically designed for international travellers from outside the USA or Canada and offers 15 or 30 days of unlimited travel either on a national or regional basis.
The National USA Rail Pass offers travel on the whole Amtrak network in the USA and Canada (excluding Auto Train, Metroliner and Acela Express between Boston, New York and Washington). It costs US$440 (US$295 off-peak) per person for 15 days and US$550 (US$385 off-peak) for 30 days. The peak season is from 28 May to 1 September and off-peak fares are in effect for the remainder of the year. Children under 2 years of age travel free and those aged 2 to 15 pay half the adult fare.
The following Regional USA Rail Passes are also available: The Northeast Rail Pass is valid on trains from Newport News (Virginia) north to Boston (Massachusetts), Burlington (Vermont) and Montréal (Canada), west from Philadelphia to Harrisburg (both Pennsylvania), west from New York City to Niagara Falls (New York State), and all stations in between; the East Rail Pass covers the region east of Chicago (Illinois) and New Orleans (Louisiana) up to Montréal; the West Rail Pass covers the region west of Chicago to Seattle (Washington State), Portland (Oregon), San Francisco and Los Angeles (both California); the Far West Rail Pass covers the region from Denver (Colorado) to Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles; and the Coastal Rail Pass covers the west coast and from Seattle to San Diego (California). Prices for these passes vary between US$205 for the 15-day Northeast Rail Pass and US$405 for the 30-day West Rail Pass (with a 20 to 30 per cent reduction during off-peak season). The Northeast Rail Pass also provides the option of purchasing a 5-day pass for US$149 during the peak and off-peak seasons. Passes can be purchased prior to travel to the USA or at Amtrak stations, upon presentation of a valid passport issued outside Canada or the USA. Passports and passes must be presented for the issuance of rail tickets. The passes cover coach-class travel tickets and seat reservations on Amtrak passenger services. However, rail passes act as a form of payment for seats only – to guarantee a seat on a specific train, a reservation must be made well in advance; cancellation fees may apply. Travellers should contact Amtrak (tel: (800) 872 7245) to find out whether reservations are required on specific journeys they wish to make. For journeys where reservations are required, train times should be reconfirmed 24 hours prior to departure. Travellers planning to travel during peak times should make reservations well in advance. Further information on prices and timetables is available from Amtrak (for contact details, see above). A list of international sales representatives can be found online (website:

Getting Around by Road

Driving is a marvellous way to see the USA, although the distances between cities can be enormous (eg 4716km (2930 miles) between San Francisco and New York City). A realistic evaluation of travel times should be made to avoid over-strenuous itineraries. Driving conditions are excellent and the road system reaches every town. Petrol (gas) is cheaper than in Europe. AAA (American Automobile Association; website: offers touring services, maps and travel advice to affiliate auto club members. Some AAA clubs offer referrals to companies for vehicle insurance policies, which are compulsory in all States, even for hire cars. AAA basic benefits are offered as a courtesy to affiliate auto club members who present their valid membership card (eg AA membership for the UK) while visiting in the USA. For further information, Americans should contact their local AAA club office (listed in the local telephone directory), while visitors to the USA should contact their own national association for information on the AAA before departure. Bus: Greyhound 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 drink (non-alcoholic) may be consumed on board and there are regular meal stops on longer routes. Unlimited stopovers are allowed for unrestricted fares. Reservations are not accepted (although may be required if connecting to another carrier) and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis; passengers are advised to arrive at the terminal approximately one hour before the scheduled departure. For information on fares and schedules, contact Greyhound (tel: (800) 231 2222 (toll-free in USA) or (214) 849 8100 (international callers); website:
Cheap fares: Greyhound offers a range of Discovery Pass programmes, 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 per cent cheaper than the domestic version, but must be purchased outside the USA and Canada. The Ameripass, which gives seven, 10, 15, 21, 30, 45 or 60 days unlimited travel throughout the USA and some points within Mexico, costs US$229-609 for domestic purchasers (US$219-559 for international). A four-day pass is also available for US$165, but only to overseas visitors. 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 (depending on which pass is purchased) starting from validation. Unlimited stops are allowed.
Discounted fares are available for children aged 2 to 12 years, passengers over 62 years old and students enrolled in undergraduate or postgraduate study. A variety of regional discounts are also available.
For further details, contact Greyhound on one of their Discovery Pass numbers (tel: (888) 454 7277 (if purchased in the USA) or (888) 661 8747 (if purchased in Canada) or (402) 330 8552 or 330 8584 (if purchased overseas)).
Car hire: Major international companies have offices at all gateway airports and in most cities. There are excellent discounts available for foreign visitors. US$160 per week is an acceptable budget rate and drivers should make sure that free unlimited mileage is included. A drop-off charge will most likely be added if the car is deposited in a different city from the one in which it was hired. Credit-card deposits and inclusive rates are generally required. As a guide to car sizes, an ‘Economy’ or ‘Compact’ refers to a car the size of a standard European car, while a ‘Standard’ refers to a car nearly the size of a limousine. Minimum ages for hirers vary according to the rental company, pick-up point and method of payment. Agents are advised to contact the individual companies for information on drivers under 25 years of age.
Those looking to hire a car in the USA can save money through fly-drive deals and by booking a car in advance (obtaining written confirmation of the price is recommended).
Drive away: Auto Driveaway provides a service enabling the traveller to drive cars to and from a given point, only paying the price of petrol. A deposit is often required and time and mileage limits are set for delivery, which leaves very little time for sightseeing (there are heavy financial penalties for those who exceed the limits). Drivers should also check the car beforehand, so as not to incur any unnecessary repair costs. Some companies allow the driver to finish the journey in Canada. Details are published under Automobile & Truck Transporting in the US Yellow Pages. For further information, contact Auto Driveaway (tel: (312) 341 1900; website:
The hire of self-drive campers or motorhomes, which are called ‘recreational vehicles’ or RVs in the USA, is easy and provides a good means of getting around. For more information contact The Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (tel: (480) 464 7300; website:
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 licence is accepted for up to one year. All travellers intending to hire or drive cars or motorhomes 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 regulations: 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 (using indicators and warning lights) and all vehicles must stop until the bus has moved back into the traffic stream. It is illegal for drivers not to have their licences immediately to 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. Note: There are extremely tough laws against drinking and driving throughout the USA. These laws are strictly enforced.

Getting Around Towns and Cities

Some US cities now have good public transport services following a ‘transit renaissance’ after the energy crises of the 1970s. There are numerous underground train systems in operation in major cities including New York (subway), Washington, DC (metro), Boston (‘T’), Chicago (train) and San Francisco (BART – Bay Area Rapid Transit); others are being planned or built. There are also several tramway and trolleybus systems, including the much-loved antique trams found in San Francisco.
Note: Many of the underground train systems are dangerous during off-peak hours (the New York subway, in particular, has acquired an almost gothic reputation for violence, although this has been much exaggerated), but they offer cheap, quick and efficient travel during the working day, particularly in New York, Boston and Chicago. Travel by any other means during the day is likely to be slow and arduous.




Full IDD is available. Country code: 1. For emergency police, fire or medical services in major cities, dial 911. The following area codes denote toll-free (freephone) numbers: 800, 855, 866, 877 and 888. Telephone numbers with the prefix 900 are usually expensive.

Mobile Telephone

Most foreign mobile telephones, unless tri-band, do not work in the USA and charges are high. Most visitors choose to hire a mobile telephone.


There are Internet cafes in most urban areas. Many of the international airports offer Internet access too.


There are numerous post offices throughout the States. Stamps can also be bought at stamp machines in hotels and shops and at ATMs, at an extra cost. Airmail to Europe takes up to one week. Post office hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1700 (24 hours at main offices in larger cities).




The most influential papers are the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Washington Post. Owing to the high degree of self-government of each State, newspapers tend to be region specific, although recent economic pressures have resulted in large-scale mergers. Even so, the USA publishes more newspapers than any other country, and has perhaps the bulkiest Sunday newspapers in the world, particularly the Sunday edition of The New York Times.


The top television networks are ABC (American Broadcasting Corp), CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System), CNN (Cable News Network), FOX (Fox Television Network), and NBC (National Broadcasting Corp).


Among the national radio networks are ABC Radio Networks, American Radio Network (operated by CBS), National Public Radio and Westwood One (operated by CBS).

Embassies and tourist offices

Embassy of the United States of America in the UK
Telephone: (020) 7499 9000 or 0904 245 0100. Website: Opening times: Mon-Fri 0830-1730 (Only applicants with visa appointments admitted).Consulates in: Belfast and Edinburgh.


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