The basics


The United States uses the US dollar but in the USA, plastic is queen! Visa credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, even at craft fairs and farmer's markets. In many places the price of gas is cheaper if you pay with cash however. Also, some business have a $5-10 minimum purchase with a credit card. ATMs may be found virtually everywhere.


English is the primary language in the United States, but Spanish and Chinese are also widely spoken, especially in coastal areas.  Many cities have neighborhoods populated by one specific immigrant group, and you can find whole communities that speak languages as varied as Russian, Yiddish, or Korean.

Geography & Culture

Similar to the distinction between the coasts in general, the West coast is more laid back and the East is a bit more buttoned up. While both coasts are very gay-friendly, the West Coast scene is more relaxed in terms of public displays of affection and day-to-day expressions of Pride. For example, Chelsea is a famous gay neighborhood in New York, but it would be possible to walk through it without realizing that it's LGBT. In West Hollywood, however-a comparable neighborhood in Los Angeles-there's a rainbow flag crosswalk that's hard to miss.


Though once the primary method of travel, and a fundamental tool in the expansion of the West, trains are no longer a part of the modern transportation system in America.  Train trips are likely to be slower and more expensive than other options, but for tourists looking to see the country in a more relaxed fashion the railroad system has a lot to offer.

he train network is limited and the infrastructure has aged, with most tracks ceding priority to freight rather than passenger trains, you can expect delays and long travel times.  The modern American train traveler is there to enjoy the journey rather than the destination, so as long as you keep that in mind it should be an enjoyable trip.

Driving rules, like many laws in the US, vary by state, so you'll need to check with each state you plan to visit to see if your driver's license is valid.  If not, you can obtain an International Driving Permit from the country that issued your license.  Likewise you will need to check with each rental car company you plan to use-Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise are the big three-and ask what documentation they require for foreigners.  There are often restrictions or surcharges for drivers under the age of 25.

The US has several domestic airlines that may not be known internationally, and many of these offer inexpensive, no-frills flights on the same routes as the major carriers. Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and Allegiant Air are the larger domestics, and all fly to multiple destinations across the continental United States with some also heading to Mexico and the Caribbean.
Most of the smaller regional airlines in the US operate as feeders to the major carriers like American and United - so ticket purchases would be routed through the parent company - but there are a few independent regionals such as Horizon Air in the northwest, Cape Air in the northeast, Silver Airways in the southeast, and Great Lakes Airlines in the Midwest that offer reasonable fares for local trips.

Virgin, major US cities - Jet Blue, major US cities + southeast islands - Alaska, major US cities plus Alaska, Idaho, Montana, etc. - Southwest, major US cities - Frontier, major US cities plus Costa Rica, Mexico, Dominican Republic - Skywest Partners, US cities and smaller towns - ExpressJet, 180 cities in the U.S., Bahamas, Canada and Mexico