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United States of America Travel Guide and Travel Information

 United States of America Travel Guide and Travel Information

Key Facts:


9,826,675 sq km (3,794,100 sq miles).


318.9 million (2014).

Population density: 

32.4 per sq km.


Washington, DC.


Federal republic.

Head of state: 

President Barack Obama since 2009.

Head of government: 

President Barack Obama since 2009.


120 volts AC, 60Hz. Plugs have two flat pins with or without a third round grounding pin.

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 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 recognisable.

The American people are similarly diverse; from the colourful 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.

Once derided for being boring, the resurgent capital, Washington D.C, boasts hip new bars, chic boutiques and a burgeoning culinary scene, which are welcome diversions in this theatre of politics. In spring, the city turns pink with cherry blossom – the legacy of a peace offering sent by Japan.

The glorious East Coast retreat of Cape Cod is also not to be missed. Looking around this exquisite peninsula it’s easy to see why the founding fathers, who stepped off the Mayflower here, chose to make this extraordinary land their home. "God bless America," they sang. And God blessed her indeed.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 19 October 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your property against petty crime. Don’t leave passports in rental cars, especially in the boot, as there have been a high number of thefts by gangs targeting the vehicles of those who appear to be tourists.

Violent crime, including gun crime, rarely involves tourists, but you should take care when travelling in unfamiliar areas. Crime associated with the illegal drugs trade is a major issue in Mexican states bordering Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. Some foreign nationals have been among the victims of crime in the border regions, but there is no evidence to suggest they have been targeted because of their nationality. Research your destination before travelling, be vigilant, and follow the advice of local authorities.

Road travel

If you’re planning to drive in the United States, check the driving rules in the state(s) you’ll be visiting. Provisional licenses aren’t accepted. International Driving Permits are generally not required in the US but it is helpful to carry one, and they’re only valid in conjunction with a full UK driving licence. The United States doesn’t issue International Driving Permits to foreign visitors, so you’ll need to obtain this document before you travel. Check requirements with your vehicle rental company.

In 2012 there were 33,561 road deaths in the United States (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 10.7 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2012.

US traffic laws can vary from state to state. Speed and drink driving limits, as well as information on disabled permits, can be found through the individual state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Most car rental companies offer electronic toll fee payment facilities which will allow you to automatically pay for your toll fees. These toll fee payment facilities must be hired for the duration of your rental and will allow you to use the electronic lanes on toll roads. Be sure to discuss with your rental car company their policy on toll fees.

Check the weather conditions before embarking on a long journey, particularly in mountainous and isolated areas where there is increased likelihood of snowfall, or in dry desert areas where you may need extra water and petrol stations could be scarce. Do not sleep in your car by the roadside or in rest areas and avoid leaving any items on display in your car. Try to stay on main roads and use well-lit car parks. If you’re hit from behind while driving, indicate to the other driver to follow you to a public place and call 911 for the police.

Petrol stations that do not display the price of fuel usually charge considerably more than the national average for a gallon of fuel. They’re often found close to tourist destinations and airports, and notoriously near to Orlando International Airport.

Air travel

Before you travel, check the security measures you’re likely to face at the airport on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA website. The TSA has a helpline number to help passengers with disabilities and medical conditions before they fly.

Don’t make flippant remarks about bombs or terrorism, especially when passing through US airports.

All travellers arriving from Ebola affected areas in West Africa (Guinea, Liberia and
Sierra Leone) must arrive at one of the following 5 airports in order to undergo health screening: Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) Washington DC, O’Hare International Airport (ORD) Chicago, John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) New York, Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) New York, or Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) Atlanta. For more information see the US Department of Homeland Security website.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has issued security directives to all US and international air carriers with inbound flights to the US. If you’re travelling from or through nations that are considered state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest you will need to go through enhanced screening. For a list of the countries affected visit the TSA website.