5 Things You Should Know Before You Travel to the USA

5 Things You Should Know Before You Travel to the USA - New York Statue of Liberty

The USA is clearly a fascinating place to visit, with so much to see and experience. No wonder that it already ranks as one of the most visited countries in the world!

At the same time, a wise traveller is a well-prepared one who knows what to expect in the place he or she is travelling to. Accordingly, in this article, we share 5 things we reckon you really should know before you travel to the USA.

Size, Spread, and Diversity

The USA is truly a LARGE country, fourth-largest by land area and third-largest by population. This gives it a size and scale which is both unprecedented as well as overwhelming, especially for many first-time visitors.

To give you a perspective, a New York to Los Angeles (East Coast to West Coast) flight would take you about 6 hours, more than what it takes to travel between many countries!

Besides the size and scale of the country, it is its ethnic and regional diversity which also leaves a lot of visitors in awe. For instance, being a true “melting pot” of sorts, you will find people from practically all regions, races, linguistic and religious backgrounds in the country.

Further, the constitution of the United States offers complete freedom to its citizens to practice their respective faiths without any qualms.

Tipping is Pervasive

This is an aspect you really should know about the USA before you travel there; tipping is very common and easily accepted practically every place where you avail a service, be it a restaurant, a salon, a spa, a car wash, and so on.

Not only that, this tipping is expected to be significant, unlike a lot of places where tips are either non-existent, discretionary, and if at all present, then in really insignificant sums.

In the USA, often tips can be as much as 15 to 20 percent of the bill. So, let’s say you have dined in a restaurant for $25; you could be expected to add on $5 as the tip for serving staff!

Plastic Payments are the Most Popular!

In the USA, plastic payments, viz. payments made with your credit or debit card, are the most popular, easily overruling cash payments. In fact, there are quite a few places that won’t accept cash payments at all! So as a traveler to the US, you are advised to be well prepared for plastic payments. This includes small sums too!

Note about Visa-Free Travel to the United States

If you are either a citizen or an eligible national from among the list of Visa Waiver program countries, then you could be eligible for an ESTA visa. This essentially allows you to travel to the United States on the basis of a travel authorization alone, instead of a standard visa which most folks need to apply for and obtain, before travelling to the United States.

Additional requirements for an ESTA visa include:

  • Not having a US visitor visa at the moment
  • A travel duration which is up to or less than 90 days
  • The purpose of your visit to the United States is either tourism/pleasure or work/business

Besides applying for an ESTA visa yourself, you could have a third party entity apply on your behalf for an individual person like you or even a group of persons.

Once applied, you can crosscheck to confirm your ESTA application status although a response is typically received practically immediately after applying.

English is the Predominant Language

Notwithstanding the fact that the US has folks from all over the world living within its boundaries, over the years, it has adopted a common lingua franca which is English. Practically any part of the United States you head to, chances are very good that English is the language that will reign supreme.

Therefore, if you consider yourself extremely limited in your English language skills [but you wouldn’t be reading this here in that case, would you?! ;-)] – perhaps you are applying on behalf of someone else who’s particularly challenged in English, then it is advised that you do undergo some basic brushing up.

Health Insurance is an ABSOLUTE MUST!

We simply could not stress enough about the importance of adequate health insurance cover, before travelling to the United States. Healthcare in the United States, although extremely high quality, is also mind numbingly expensive and follows rules to the “t”.

For instance, you can’t just walk into a pharmacy and seek medication; most cases will require a doctor’s prescription. And unsurprisingly, that doctor’s appointment alone could end up costing you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars!

That is the reason it is strongly recommended that you always have adequate health insurance cover on you, BEFORE you leave for the United States.


These are some really basic things which you definitely should know before you travel to the United States.

Again, (if we could not stress enough!), do check your eligibility for an ESTA visa and once applied, your ESTA application status.

South Florida Caribbean News

The Team provides news and information for the Caribbean-American community in South Florida and beyond.

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