DO AND DON’T WHILE YOU TRAVEL TO THE UNITED STATES
Travel safety tips everyone should know
- Don’t Carry Large Amounts of Cash
Use credit cards or withdraw small amounts of cash. Avoid carrying large sums.
- Don’t Engage in Public Intoxication
Drinking in public is often restricted. Consume alcohol responsibly, especially in public spaces.
- Avoid Public Disturbance
Refrain from loud or disruptive behavior in public areas.
- Don’t Touch Strangers
Americans value personal space; avoid physical contact with strangers. Americans really like their personal space, almost as if they have a protective bubble around them. If you get too close to an American, it makes them very uncomfortable. Make sure to leave a bit of space around you, and don’t crowd (or touch) the Americans.
- Don’t Joke About Security
Avoid making jokes about security threats, especially in airports or public transportation.
- Don’t Forget Tipping Etiquette:
Failing to leave a tip or providing an insufficient tip may be perceived as impolite. In addition to the sales tax, it is customary to include an extra 15-20% for gratuity when settling your restaurant bill, particularly at establishments with table service. This practice acknowledges that service wages are typically lower than the minimum wage. (Note that tipping is not obligatory at fast-food or counter-service establishments.) For larger dining groups, the gratuity might be automatically included in the bill. When purchasing rounds of drinks at the bar, it is advisable to tip a few dollars; this gesture ensures attentive service during subsequent rounds.
- Avoid Staring:
Refrain from prolonged staring, especially at strangers. It may be perceived as intrusive.
- Don’t Assume Homogeneity:
The U.S. is diverse, and customs may vary across regions. Don’t assume a one-size-fits-all approach.
- Don’t Overstay Your Visa:
Adhere to the terms of your visa and leave the country before its expiration.
- Avoid Cultural Insensitivity:
Be mindful of cultural and religious sensitivities. Avoid making insensitive comments or gestures.
- Don’t Count on Public Transportation in rural area
In many parts of the world, it’s easy to get around without a private car. That’s not so in the U.S. and you can’t count on public transportation to see a lot of the country. The bigger cities like New York and Chicago have pretty good train and bus systems for getting around within the city and neighboring suburbs, but once you get out into the countryside and smaller towns, the options for public transportation are not good, and sometimes unsafe.
- Don’t Underestimate the Size of the U.S.
Consider the Continental United States as expansive as Continental Europe; it covers vast distances. Much like you wouldn’t plan a road trip from Lisbon to Paris to Tallinn to Sofia in a short period, attempting to travel from New York to Miami to Los Angeles in just two weeks may be overly ambitious. If you have a limited timeframe, it’s more advisable to select a specific region of the U.S., such as New England, the Southwest, or the Southeast, and allocate more time to thoroughly explore and appreciate one region.Some examples of distance in the United States:Chicago to Los Angeles: 2077 miles/3342 kmNew York to Orlando: 1080 miles/1738 kmMiami to Las Vegas: 2566 miles/4129 km
- Don’t Forget About Sales Tax
The price you see on goods in the U.S. is not the final price you will pay. Most of the states in the U.S. add a sales tax to the price when you pay. Some cities add their own sales tax on top of the state tax. And then some goods, like food, are taxed differently than other goods, or not at all. There are currently five states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon)with no sales tax. If these states are on your itinerary, plan to do your souvenir shopping here!
- Don’t Get Freaked Out by Attentive Service & Free Stuff
Given the prevalent tipping culture, service in the United States may appear exceptionally attentive to those from other countries. Nevertheless, the overall demeanor of people in the U.S. tends to be friendly and helpful, reflecting a cultural norm. Additionally, anticipate complimentary offerings at restaurants, typically preceding the meal, such as bread or chips with salsa, depending on the establishment. It is customary for tap water (not bottled) to be provided automatically at your table without the need to request it.
- Don’t Smoke (Cigarettes) in the U.S.
Cigarettes have become very taboo in the U.S. and people will look at you like you are trying to kill their baby if you smoke around them.What’s funny is, people don’t seem to mind at all about marijuana smoking these days, but cigarettes are totally verboten. If you do smoke, make sure you find a place where you are allowed. (It will vary by state, but there’s usually a prescribed distance from entryways that you can smoke) Most hotels, restaurants and indoor public spaces are smoke-free in the U.S.
- Don’t Try to Buy Alcohol Unless You are 21 Years Old
Age limits on alcohol (21) and cigarettes (18) are pretty strict in the U.S. and you won’t be able to buy them without showing the proper I.D.Make sure you have an ID with your birth date. Even if you are in your 30’s, you may be asked to show I.D. Don’t get mad at the person requesting your ID, as they could lose their job if they don’t follow the proper procedures.
- Don’t Bother With the Metric System
The United States exclusively employs the imperial system, utilizing measurements in miles, pounds, and gallons. It’s essential to note that the metric system is not widely familiar among the U.S. population. Consequently, it’s advisable to be prepared to convert distances or quantities using the baseline provided below.
1 Gallon = 3.78 Liters
1 Foot = 30 cm
1 Yard = 0.9 meters
1 Mile = 1.61 km
1 Pound = 0.45 kg
12 ounces = 355 ml
- Don’t Talk Gun Control or Politics
There are a few topics that will most certainly end in arguments,so it’s best not to bring them up. Gun Control and Politics are very polarizing topics, so stick to safer topics such as weather, sports or travel.
- Don’t Assume All Americans are the Same
The United States is exceptionally diverse both geographically and culturally, lacking a singular “typical American” identity, just as there is no uniform European archetype. The nation encompasses a myriad of cultures and landscapes, evident in distinct regional variations in cuisine, language, and mannerisms. Traveling across the country provides the opportunity to witness these pronounced differences. If feasible, consider visiting multiple regions to fully appreciate and be pleasantly surprised by the diverse facets of the U.S.
- Don’t Say the U.S. Has No Culture
The accusation that the U.S. lacks culture is an unfounded assumption. Numerous cultural centers exist throughout the country. For instance, New Orleans boasts a distinctive Cajun culture with French origins, while New England is characterized by a rich and historic cultural heritage, featuring some of the oldest buildings in the U.S. The Southwest provides an excellent opportunity to delve into Native American culture. Despite being a relatively “new” country, the United States offers a wealth of cultural experiences waiting to be explored.
- Don’t Think “How are You” is Actually a Question
Americans frequently inquire “how are you” and often proceed without waiting for a response. If you are asked this question and the person doesn’t pause for an answer, there’s no need to feel concerned. In the U.S., it functions more as a greeting than a genuine question, akin to the casual use of “ça va?” in French—it’s a passing salutation rather than an invitation to initiate a conversation.
- Don’t Expect Free Extras at Fancy Hotels
In the U.S. the more expensive hotels usually have fewer free amenities. Things like WiFi and breakfast are usually not included in your luxury resorts. The mid-range hotels will offer more freebies, like continental breakfast, free parking and sometimes airport shuttles. Watch out for hidden resort fees, which are becoming very common at higher-end hotels and resorts in the U.S.
- Don’t Miss the Local Cuisine
Every region in the United States boasts distinctive cuisine that merits exploration. In New England, the focus is on seafood, showcasing delectable dishes like lobsters and clams. The Southern region stands out for some of the finest U.S. cuisine, featuring delights such as fried chicken, mac ‘n’ cheese, grits, and BBQ. Instead of opting for chain restaurants, seek recommendations at your hotel to discover the best local food offerings. Locally owned establishments tend to provide superior service compared to chains, often being family-owned.
- Don’t Get Sick
Healthcare costs in the U.S. are exorbitant. Being a visitor from another country doesn’t exempt you from being pursued for payment. It is crucial to have traveler’s insurance that adequately covers medical expenses in the U.S. Even seemingly minor incidents, such as a broken ankle, can result in substantial expenses reaching thousands of dollars. Exercise caution and ensure you are adequately prepared!
- Don’t Argue That There are More Than 50 States
For some reason, people outside the U.S. tend to argue that the U.S. has 52 states. It’s not true. There are 48 continental United States, plus Alaska and Hawaii. (Washington D.C. is a federal district, and Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory)
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry
Avoid becoming a conspicuous target for robbery by refraining from wearing expensive and flashy jewelry, especially when venturing into crowded areas. It is advisable to leave such valuables at home for enhanced safety during your travels.
- Illegal purchase or souvenir or historic artefacts, substance abuse
Do not purchase of souvenirs containing threatened flora and fauna species, any illegally obtained historic/archaeological artefacts, drugs or illegal substances, and abide by local and international laws in place to prevent this.”
- Drink responsibly
Undoubtedly, one of the paramount safety considerations for travelers involves responsible drinking. While many individuals relish experiencing the local nightlife during their travels—an entirely enjoyable pursuit—it becomes imperative, especially in unfamiliar surroundings, to exercise heightened responsibility when consuming alcohol.Being away from the familiarity of home increases the likelihood of getting disoriented or finding oneself in precarious neighborhoods. Displaying obvious signs of inebriation renders one vulnerable to potential scams, robbery, or more serious risks. For female travelers, adhering to the golden rule of public drinking is crucial: vigilantly monitoring your drink at all times enhances personal safety.
- Be smart about your money
Exercise prudence with your finances while traveling. Common advice from reputable travel safety resources emphasizes the risks associated with carrying substantial amounts of cash. Instead, consider establishing an account with an international bank or credit card company, enabling the use of local ATMs. If compelled to withdraw a significant sum, securely store the majority in your accommodations and only carry the necessary amount for the day.When utilizing ATMs, opt for those affiliated with banks, as they are less likely to have been tampered with by potential scammers. Distribute your money across multiple locations—both cash and credit cards—ensuring that the loss of one stash doesn’t leave you entirely without funds. This strategic approach enhances the security of your financial resources during your travels.
- Be aware of popular scams
Conduct thorough research on the destination you plan to visit to stay informed about local scams. Scams can vary, from the use of RFID scanners to tactics involving children to evoke sympathy. Being familiar with these scams beforehand will reduce the likelihood of falling victim to them.
- Know the phone number for emergency services
Prior to your arrival at your destination, make it a priority to research the emergency services number specific to that location. Additionally, ensure you have the contact information for your country’s nearest embassy. Record these numbers and either write them down or save them in your phone for swift access in case of an emergency. Essential emergency numbers typically include:Emergency Services: 911Nearest Embassy of Your Country
- Use the right bag
Opt for cross-body bags over shoulder or handbags, as they offer enhanced safety by minimizing the risk of grab-and-go incidents during quick maneuvers. Numerous bags tailored for travelers incorporate security features like slash-proof straps, RFID blockers, and locking zippers. Consider investing in a high-quality bag that aligns with your specific needs and preferences for an optimal travel experience.
- Bring travel locks and use them
Save some money by bringing your own lock if you intend to stay in a hostel. Whether you’re staying in a hostel or not, having a travel lock can secure your bag to your seat or chair during dining or transit, providing added protection for your valuables against potential theft.
- Keep digital copies of important document
Retain digital duplicates of essential documents during your travels. Your passport, arguably the most invaluable possession while abroad, can be efficiently replaced in the event of theft by possessing a digital copy. Have a copy of your driving licence, your national Identification, the documents to travel with children if you have full custody or travel authorization in a digital folder along with your vaccinations document.
- Try to blend in
Tourists often carry substantial amounts of cash and valuables, rendering them more susceptible to potential scams. It is advisable to avoid presenting oneself as an overt tourist. Assimilate with the local attire, refrain from abrupt stops in busy thoroughfares for photography, and, even in moments of disorientation, exercise discretion. If in need of directions or consulting a map, seek refuge inside a shop or cafe for increased security.Prioritize Established Transportation Services Conduct research on reputable taxi companies before arriving at your destination and exclusively utilize their services. When opting for ride-sharing platforms like Uber or Lyft, meticulously verify your driver’s vehicle details and confirm their identity prior to entering the vehicle.Maintain Regular Communication with Contacts Before embarking on your journey, communicate your itinerary to a trusted individual and promptly update them on any alterations to your plans. Cultivate a routine of checking in with a close friend or family member at the conclusion of each day. While this may initially appear cumbersome, prioritizing safety outweighs the inconvenience. In the unfortunate event of an emergency, prompt assistance is more likely if someone is aware of your intended whereabouts for the day.
- Ask locals for any advice neededUpon checking in at a hotel or hostel, seek recommendations regarding safe and less secure neighborhoods, and mark potential trouble spots on your map. Additionally, leverage safety travel apps for emergency alerts and valuable information. Sitata, for instance, is a commendable application that provides real-time alerts on potential hazards, offers insights to avoid scams, and facilitates the location of nearby hospitals. For U.S. travelers, the Smart Traveler app, endorsed by the U.S. State Department, is indispensable. It offers features such as travel advisories, alerts, and embassy locations. You can also use apps like Citizens
- Maintain situational awareness at all times.
Whether you find yourself in a bustling tourist area or strolling down a deserted street, it’s crucial to remain attentive to your surroundings. Potential wrongdoers often target individuals who appear distracted or disconnected from their environment. This awareness is especially vital for solo travelers, particularly women traveling alone.
- Trust your instincts
Should you find yourself feeling uneasy due to a person or location, it is crucial to acknowledge that such discomfort is typically grounded in a valid reason. Frequently, our subconscious mind detects nuances and cues that elude our conscious awareness, giving rise to our instinctive “gut feelings.” It is imperative to heed these intuitive sensations, as they serve as a valuable mechanism for personal safety. With these fundamental safety insights in your arsenal for your travels, venture forth with confidence and embark on your exploration of the world.
- Follow Traffic Rules
Adhere to traffic rules and regulations, including pedestrian rules. Rules may differ in different States.
- Research Local Customs
Familiarize yourself with local customs and etiquette to show respect to the culture.
- Tip Appropriately
Tipping is customary in the U.S. It’s common to tip waitstaff, taxi drivers, and other service providers.
- Use Reputable Transportation
Choose reputable transportation services and verify details if using ride-sharing apps.
- Stay Informed
Stay updated on local news, weather, and any travel advisories.
- Respect Personal Space
Americans value personal space; be mindful of this in public places.
- Dress Modestly depending on which states/city or community you may visit
While styles vary, dressing modestly is generally appreciated, especially in religious or formal settings.
- Souvenirs and respect of cultural Heritage
We respect the preservation of cultural heritage, and as such, we do not endorse souvenirs that consist of historic and archaeological artifacts unless permitted by law.