San Francisco Bridge in the USA
United States of America (USA), is composed of 50 different States. Each State has got its own Uniqueness and it differs from State to State. Traveling across the country without a car can be quite a trouble. There are not many public means of transport available. Typically, people go to a particular state/city and if they have lots of extra time, they will opt to go for a bus ride to another state. It does take a lot of time. If there is limited time, tourists would usually stay within that city/state.
I have been on a road trip traveling from one end of America to another. We started from Florida, going up the coast to New York. After completing our Sightseeing in New York City, we went to Colorado and completed our trip in San Francisco! We took a total of 2 months and it was just me and my little Sister!
We were definitely very surprised when our Mom agreed to let us travel from State to State with our small convertible car! It has been the best experience ever. We learned the most basic thing ever: Being Independent. We were both in our early 20s when we did this trip. There have been instances where we felt scared. However, we managed to stand strong and support each other all the way till the end of our Road trip.
Below are some of the best tips and information we have gathered after traveling in America for such a long time:
Living in States for about a year in total has allowed me to experience the different cultures and many things I would have never expected. This was before my road trip with my little Sister! I have visited many states in America and these are some tips you should know before going to the States!
The picture above is a shot taken at The Great Sand Dunes National Park. Look at the beautiful picturesque scenery of the mountains. However, the only way to travel around this area is by car. Hence, the only way to travel around here is by renting/purchasing your own car or by tour bus.
Obtaining your driving license is the easy part. However, driving in a foreign country can be a totally different experience, especially for us Singaporeans! In Singapore, most vehicles are right-hand drive due to cars driving on the left side. However, in the states, most vehicles are left-hand drive. Hence, when I first arrived in the States, it took me a rather long time to adjust to the left-hand drive. On top of that, I had only attained my license less than a year ago and had limited driving experience.
Driving in the States was a real challenge for me. Therefore, I would like to give as many tips as possible to help those of you in a similar plight!
They can be anywhere and you can get caught if you go beyond the State’s speed limit. Be sure to check the speed limit and keep a look out for these state troopers. The colour and type of Jeep that they use differ from state to state. Be vigilant.
Never hit 100miles/hr. If you do and get caught, the police will send you to jail for that. Somebody will have to pay USD 200 to bail you out and on top of that, you will need to pay for speeding fees as well. Be careful.
Rules and regulations differ from country to country. When I was in Singapore, vehicles drove on the left side. However, when I was in the states, they drove on the right side. I get confused at times especially when making turns. In the states, there are no clear and distinct arrows showing you which side to turn to. Just know that you should always be on the right side.
Another thing to note is that typically when the traffic signs are red, no cars are allowed to turn to the upcoming junction, but in the states, it is generally allowed except for certain city areas such as New York and San Francisco.
This is crucial. At times, we tend to assume that there is nobody going up or down the mountain and therefore hit the accelarator. However, in these places, some people get mixed up with the direction that they need to be traveling on. If one is not careful or vigilant, they may end being on the opposite side of the road!
Offline Google Maps is essential especially when you are in the mountains. We were in South Carolina and got lost in the mountains. Unfortunately for us, we did not have the offline map, therefofe we continued driving till we hit the border of North and South Carolina. It was in the middle of the mountains, hence we had no choice but to make a dangerous U-turn to go back down the mountain. An offline map would have saved us the trouble and danger of getting lost.
Therefore I would highly recommend you to download Waze from your phone. It is definitely available in the USA but sadly not in Europe. Waze has helped us numerous times, from allowing us to track police or hazard objects along the journey. This will prevent you from getting a citation or speeding fine. However, do note that Waze is dependent on information from drivers in the community, you can join the community and inform drivers of hazards around you. Therefore, do not be entirely reliant on Waze and continue to remain vigilant.
Although I am a fan of Pizza, eating anything for many days consecutively will definitely make me sick. Yes, that’s right. It is not only in the USA, I went to Italy and had pizza & pasta for 2 weeks straight. When I came back to Singapore, I did not eat pastries, pizza or pasta for a long time.
If you are too used to your own local food like me, I would recommend bringing your own food. I remember the very first time I visited the States unprepared. I did not think about the food and what I was going to eat. When I arrived here, I was craving for my home delights but it could not be found anywhere. I tried the different spices from Walmart but it just didn’t suit my taste buds. Western food was fine for a short time but it just wasn’t feasible long term.
Of course, it’s not feasible to bring food over. Hence I recommend that you bring your own spices. If you have a house or apartment which provides you with a kitchen, it would be absolutely perfect for you to prepare a home-cooked meal. However, for my sister and I, we were constantly traveling around and attending events. Hence, we brought an electric cooker along with us during our travels. It was so much more convenient! We were able to cook rice and our favorite soup without an issue! We just had to throw all of our different ingredients into our Electric cooker and set it to cook for about 10 to 30 mins! We saved a lot of money doing this as well.
The variety of food in the States is rather limited with the exception of places like New York City, San Francisco, and Washington. All the Chinese restaurants were serving the same food. The Chinese food was also mainly suited to the taste of the Americans. It was sweet with thick gravy. The food simply did not suit our taste buds.
There are a few Grocery chain stores in the USA: Walmart, Publix, and Target. I prefer shopping at Walmart as some of their food prices can be ready cheap and affordable. Sometimes, I go to an Indian Grocery supermarket to buy fresh Vegetables and Tomatoes. I find that their Vegetables are way cheaper than Walmart! As it can be quite tough finding these shops in different cities and District. Try Searching it up in your vicinity and compare the prices!
Free Refills are usually available in most Restaurants! Even water are provided free at times, just Ask!
It was easy for me as I had my own personal car. However, most of you will probably be in the US for a short time, hence I would definitely recommend you obtain your driving license first and rent a car in the States!
In Singapore, Public transport is very efficient. Getting around was very convenient with trains and buses. However, in the USA, there were not many bus stops or even trains around. I remember the very first time I was in Dallas, I had no car and my only mode of transportation was UBER. Each ride was so expensive. I had to go from one place to another which was less than 1km and they charged me USD 5 for that. It literally burnt a hole in my pocket.
On another occasion in Florida, I had to carry all of my groceries from the store back to my house. It was a long walk. To add to the misery, many places in America have no streetlamps installed. It was late at night and I had no choice but to walk back with my phone flashlight.
If you have a driving license, I would definitely recommend that you rent a car. However, if you are under 21, no car rental company will rent you a car. That was my problem when I first landed in the States. If you are under 25, they will charge you an extra USD 28-35 per day. Be careful on the road and remember the cost of not adhering to the rules. I feel pressurized when I rent a car from rental companies as I was unsure of what is going to happen. It can be a real hassle at times. Hence, i would normally buy insurance to protect myself in the event of an accident.
Public Transport is available in some places, especially in New York City. It is so convenient. Taking a subway only costs about USD 2.50 for each ride no matter where you go too. There are also buses that are conveniently located. CitiBikes are also available for a whole day’s rental. It is more convenient in the cities. If you have a whole day to the City, it would be a good idea to hit a ride on the BIG BUS! Paying about USD 20 -30 (depending on the city), you have unlimited rides all around!
However, I can’t help but share our experience in San Francisco with you.
On one of the days, we decided to try taking the Public transport. When we were heading to San Francisco City, we got lost in the train station and got on a train and had no idea where it was bringing us to. Secondly, when we were heading home, we went to the bus stop at about 7 pm. Guess what, the MUNI bus came only at about 8 pm.
We were so fed up and tired but had no choice. We went to the Train Station to catch our train to El Cerrito (a town near the city center) and had to wait for another 20 minutes. Upon changing trains, we had to wait again because the trains were facing some delays. All in all, it was a bad experience with San Francisco Public Transport.
Just a suggestion, drive there if possible. It will save you a lot of time. Even though there is a traffic jam on San Francisco roads, it wouldn’t take you as long as what the Public Transport did to us. We only arrived home at 0930pm. It took us 2.5 hours when it should only be an hour or less by car.
The bad side of driving your car in San Francisco is the frequency of break-ins, especially in the Main city area. There have been a lot of cases where cars were broken in and valuables were stolen. Parking can be quite expensive as well in the city areas. We typically park in the meters or you can always visit the city after 4 or 5 pm, they typically have discounted prices in some garages.
Shopping is the best in the States. I am not an avid shopper because shopping in Singapore is really expensive. However, in the states, I was able to find the best deals (branded goods) at a much lower price.
I enjoyed myself so much knowing that I managed to get the best deals! We went shopping at the Premium Outlets in San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, Orlando and many more! Not only did we shop for ourselves, we also shopped for our entire family and some relatives! We bought 16 pairs of shoes from known brands like Adidas, Converse, Nike, Naturalist, Nine West and many more, it was insane!
Accommodation is easily found in America. As you are cruising down the highway from one state to another, you will find many Highway exits available. Just as you exit out of the Highway, there will be 3-8 Hotels/Motels available for you to choose from. You can stay in one of their rooms for as low as USD 40 – USD 60 per night! We have found many good deals like this especially when we were traveling from Florida to New York City! Of course, don’t expect these hotels to be at its cleanest. They are average hotels which are decent. We typically search for hotels along the way, read the reviews and book it before heading there. It was much easier to navigate our way there than to search for hotels in the evening.
Sadly, we only came to find out about Camping after Kansas. By this time, we have already covered half of America but this method helped us save a lot of money. National Parks charges tent for about USD 20 per night. (Prices varies for each State, do check them before booking) and Campervans at a higher rate. USD 20 per night was a good deal for us. Though the toilets need to be shared and there isn’t Wifi at times, the experience was spectacular. It was very comfortable as each campsite provided you with a good amount of space and privacy.
Do note that some campsites are fully booked way before time. Eg. We tried to book a campsite at San Francisco but it was fully occupied. That was really disappointing as the Campsite was facing San Francisco’s beautiful city view.
A fee is required every single time you enter a National Park. Prices differ from Park to Park. If you are intending to visit multiple parks in a period of one year, it is recommended for you to take up the National Park Annual Pass. Click here for more Details. It costs about $80 and you can go into any National Parks in the USA. After 4 visits to the National Park, you would have already covered $80.
Fret not if you have already purchased tickets to other National Parks and would like to take up the Annual Pass after that! The officer would be kind enough to help you sort your card out in proper and you would only need to pay the balance. (After deducting the amount you have paid to enter into the other National Parks) Valid Receipts would be needed if this were to happen.
In city areas, there would be city tourism cards where you can visit a large number of attractions, have bus transport available, all of these in 1 Price. Click here to find out more! We have used this amazing deal several times in New York, San Francisco, and Orlando! It has helped us save a lot of money in the USA.
I can’t wait to go back shopping and looking out for new deals again! We will definitely be writing on the different places to shop in the USA! Look out for that by clicking here!
Hope this gives you a brief idea of what to expect in the USA as a first-time Traveller! Let me know if you want to know more about other things!
To your Happiness and Success!
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