Thinking about conquering the States? From someone who has been there and done that I would thoroughly recommend it. However, it will probably cost more than “finding yourself” in Thailand or raving on a Croatian beach. Taking on the States without getting skint is an achievement in itself, so make sure you have saved up before you get planning.
All saved up and ready to go? That’s where I come in; here are my top ten #traveltips to help you take on the States without returning penniless.
#1: The wheels on the bus go round and round
In general, the USA does not have great public transport services; however, they are all over the budget bus hype. Check out Bolt Bus in the north-east and Greyhound and Megabus for cross-continental ventures. When booked in advance, these buses can provide cheap long-haul journeys in relatively modern buses. One more tip: if you take an overnight bus, sit near the driver – there can be some interesting characters during the night.
#2: Surf those couches!
I have many female friends who have opted to sleep on a randomer’s sofa without issue, but to avoid any tricky situations you might prefer to stay with a female host or bring your lad friends along! This is an amazing and free (yes FREE) way to meet locals with invaluable knowledge of your chosen destination. Check out Couchsurfing.org.
#3: Leaving on a jet plane
Yes the image of the open road is tantalising and there are some beautiful routes which must be driven, but the USA is a massive country, don’t forget! Of course drive part of the way, but if you have limited time and funds, take an internal. I recommend Southwest, cheap and the first 2 hold bags are free!
#4: Climb aboard!
Although petrol and car rental is relatively cheap in the states compared to the UK, the amount of distance you will have to travel to get anywhere will be twice as much. Check out blablacar for rides to various locations or if you have a car yourself offer a friendly hostel-friend a lift – we gave a ride to an Aussie who offered to pay our entire petrol cost for the journey!
#5: Skint in sin city
For all those lads on tour, or crazy kids looking for hookers and cigars, Vegas is perfect. For backpackers however it is NOT a cheap option. It’s worth a peek just to witness all the hype and as a gateway to the Grand Canyon but don’t stay for long if you truly are on a budget. You’ll just watch the dollars fall out of your hand. A soft drink at McDonald’s is double the price in Vegas than everywhere else, a whopping $2, can’t be having that…
#6: It’s all about the money, money, money
If, like me, you decide to take a travel card be warned, every ATM charges you an additional fee.. well at least every ATM I used in New York, DC, Louisiana, Texas, Nevada and California. They are still good for conversion rates and if anyone steals it they don’t have complete access to your – likely dwindling – funds, but take out large chunks at a time to make the charge worth it. Furthermore, leave the debit card at home, these Americans are all for credit cards!
#7: I don’t know about you, but I need to be twenty-two!
Another road-tripping tip: if you’re under 22 there is at least a 10 dollar extra per day for your car. Just be warned so the bill doesn’t rise unexpectedly. Also watch out for hefty fees for returning the car in a different state to the one you picked your ride up in.
#8: I went to the supermarket and I bought…
Walmart: the treasure trove of life. Everything, and I mean literally everything, which you could ever desire sits smugly on the towering shelved aisles of this megastore. Stock up on sandwiches and classic hostel pasta dishes to save money if you are planning a lengthy stay stateside.
#9: Tackling tax and tips
Goddamit this is annoying! You dig out exactly the right change to then find out at the till that tax hasn’t been added so your exact change is useless. Why not add it on the label? IT MAKES NO SENSE. But hold on that’s not the final price… Everyone, and I mean everyone, expects a tip. True, this is because waiters literally earn next-to-nothing and live off the tips, however I’m used to only tipping if they have been exceptional or we’ve gone all out and had a huge meal. Ah hello waiter-who-seems-incapable-of-smiling, you have certainly perfected the art of pouring coffee over ice in less than 30 seconds, here, have an extra dollar! No.
#10: Stay for longer
Everyone loves an excuse to extend a holiday or to take a good few months out. It isn’t cheap to get over there so if I were you I would make the most of being stateside! Take internals or night buses and travel around as much as possible. Food is cheap and hostels can be reasonable so make the journey worth it!
Photo credits: @mazwebs, @clblood, @samplediz, @jcash on sxc.hu