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USA Top Travel Tips
Money, credit cards, travelersí checks, ATM machines
There are many ways to exchange your currency into U.S. dollars, but some are not as financially beneficial for you as others. One way is to exchange currency at the U.S. airport when you arrive. Most major airports have currency exchange agencies. However, the exchange rate is usually more lucrative for the exchange company than for you. This is a good option when all else fails, or if you need a small amount of cash as soon as you arrive at the airport.
The best option is to use your bank card or credit card at an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). Before you travel, check with your home bank or the company that issued your credit card to make sure that your card can be used to make purchases and to obtain cash overseas. Make sure that you have a valid Personal Identification Number (PIN) on your card that will work at ATM machines in the U.S. Once thatís confirmed, you will be able to use your card to get cash at the best exchange rate available. (ATM machines will charge a fee to provide this service.)
The advantage of using a credit card is that if your card is lost or stolen, you can easily obtain a new one within 24 hours by calling your credit card company. Americans increasingly use credit or debit cards, not cash. So itís possible that you wonít need much cash at all.
As a backup, you might want to purchase some travelersí checks.
Health and Medical Emergencies
The U.S. has one of the best emergency health care systems in the world, but you need to know a few basics so that if a health emergency happens you will know how to respond.
Before you travel, you need to make sure that your health insurance will cover you in the U.S. Contact your provider for details and be sure to carry your insurance information with you at all times.
If your local provider will not cover you in the U.S., you should consider purchasing a temporary travelerís policy. There are many companies that provide this type of insurance at reasonable costs. Be sure to select a high amount of coverage because hospital care in the U.S. is extremely expensive. The U.S. does not have a public health care system.
If you become sick or injured, you only need to remember one important phone number: 911. No matter where you are in the U.S., this number will immediately connect you to the local emergency response services, including the police, fire departments and ambulances. The United States has the best emergency response service in the world. So if you have a medical emergency, you can count on fast and professional care. Just remember the number: 911.
If you have the time and would like to see the American landscape, consider taking a train. Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) provides excellent service to every major city in the U.S. and many smaller cities along the way. Depending on the time of year, a one-way adult ticket from Miami to Denver would cost only $230 plus food. This fare would give you a very comfortable reclining seat, but not a bed. Add another $330 and you can have a private room, a big window, a bed, a sink, a bathroom and free meals. The trip would take you through Washington, D.C. and Chicago before arriving in Denver 58-hours later. That might seem like a long time, but you can walk, eat in the dining car, get off the train at selected stops, play cards, read books, watch DVDs and just check out the beautiful view.
Taking a bus is also an option. The same journey from Miami to Denver would cost about $200 and would take about two days. Thatís less time than the train, but you would have far less comfort on the bus. If interested in this option, visit greyhound.com.
Traveling by car can be an economical option if you are traveling as a family. Roads in the U.S. are well-marked, safe, and smooth. Be careful if you are driving in the winter because roads can be very dangerous and sometimes close. There are many hotels, gas stations, tourist attractions and restaurants along the way. Be sure to plan your trip well before you leave.
You will need to evaluate which form of transportation is best for each city you visit. Major cities such as New York and Los Angeles have excellent subway systems. Taxi service is expensive, so if you plan on visiting many places, your best option would be to rent a car.
If you plan on flying, be at the airport least two hours before your domestic flight so that you have time to pass through very strict security systems. Check with your airline about specific items that are not allowed onboard. And remember that most airlines donít offer food service on domestic flights; you can eat at a restaurant after you clear security.
In the days of internet communications, itís easy to stay in touch with your friends and family back home. One option is to bring your own laptop, stop into a café with wireless connection, and then send email. Another option is leave your computer at home and use your hotelís internet service. You can easily find internet cafés, too.
If you are traveling by car, it would be wise to have a cell phone with you in case of emergency. You can go to any grocery store and buy a prepaid, no-contract cell phone for a reasonable rate. You can add more talking time to the phone with a credit card.
To use a pay phone, you will need plenty of coins (no pennies) before you start calling. A local call in most cities costs 50 cents. Long distance calls will be much more expensive. A better option might be to buy a prepaid phone card instead of coins. Instructions are printed on the cards. But if you plan on making a lot of calls, the prepaid cell phone option is much better than the cards.
American states and cities have many different "area codes" for phone service. There could be numerous area codes within a single metropolitan area. These area codes are listed in all phone books. If you are going to call a long distance number, youíll need to dial "1" and then the area code followed by the number. For more on area codes, visit this site: US area codes.
Remember that the laws in the U.S. are strongly enforced. It is therefore important to obey all traffic laws and laws pertaining to alcohol and bars. It is against the law for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol. In most states you can only buy alcohol at liquor and wine stores, not at grocery stores or in restaurants. You will be asked by store clerks and restaurant waiters to show identification that proves your age. If you drive under the influence of alcohol, you can expect to be arrested. The police are efficient, both in the city and on the rural highways.
Should you need help with a serious legal problem, a good place to start is to contact your countryís embassy or consulate for legal assistance or you can hire a lawyer. Be sure to have that number with you at all times in case you should need it.
Author: Glenn McMahan
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