Even with its ‘never-a dull-moment’ political environment, the USA continues to attract travellers from all over the world. Undeniably one of the most diverse countries in the world, the term ‘bigger and better’ is certainly embodied in the States.
Trafalgar has compiled a list of practical tips and bucket list experiences below:
1. No visa, no entry
Before you start your planning your trip to the US, you will need to check if you require a visa. If you are the proud owner of a South African passport, the answer is most certainly yes. You can apply at your nearest U.S Embassy or Consulate, but don’t book a non-refundable flight until you have all your documents in order and your visa has been issued. For more information about US visas for South Africans, visit https://za.usembassy.gov/visas/.
2. Queues on arrival
Expect long queues at immigration once you’ve arrived in the USA. Certain airports provide US pre-clearance so if you’re flying via that destination, you’ll clear customs before you actually arrive on US soil, which can speed up the process significantly. It is not unusual to sit in immigration queues for hours before being admitted to the States.
3. There’s no such thing as international transit
If you arrive at an airport in the USA and are in transit to a secondary destination, you will have to clear customs in that airport before being allowed to board your next flight. This is even if your bags are tagged for their final destination so ensure you have enough time in transit to clear customs, collect your bags, re-check them in and get to your gate.
4. He who shall not be named
Avoid making negative comments about the current commander-in-chief. If the topic of politics comes up with the local Americans, listen, observe and learn, but don’t go looking for a political debate. Be conscious and respectful to those around you, regardless of their views.
Now let’s get to the fun stuff:
5. Celebrity safari in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles
Once you get into the US, try not to be too much of a crazy celeb stalker and get yourself kicked out. Keep in mind to play it cool if you do spot someone famous, which is highly likely in Los Angeles. If you are interested in dabbling in the life of the rich and famous, opt for a Beverly Hills tour.
6. Live in Vegas!
Suit up in Vegas. Besides betting it all on black at the casinos, watching a live show should be at the top of your bucket list. One of the most epic headliners is ‘Vegas! The Show’- a musical on the history of Las Vegas, in true flashy Broadway style.
7. A new profile pic with the hoodoos
No, this is not a famous American band. Also known as “tent rocks” “goblins” and “fairy chimneys”, these uniquely shaped rocks are a typical feature of the Northern Great Plains. These can be best admired throughout Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
8. See the Grand Canyon by helicopter
Although it is one of the more typical tourist attractions, it is still an iconic stop in the USA and well worth a visit. This spectacular gorge in Arizona should not be overlooked, unless you are flying high above it in a helicopter. Nothing beats this front row seat in such an incredible arena!
9. Chuckwagon Dinner, Jackson
“Chuck”, an old American slang word for food, also means that it’s time to don your stretchy pants. These open-air buffets are reminiscent of how things were done back in the day. Tuck into cowboy beans, BBQ chicken and creamy mashed potatoes. Why eat, pray love when you can simply eat, eat, eat.
10. Buy some antlers
While making your way through the Southern states, you can also pick up some great American souvenirs such as elk antlers. Unlike your laptop, this is one of the few items that is acceptable to to take as part of your carry on luggage, especially if you are going to be flying domestically.
11. Breakfast at Lou Mitchell's
If you love breakfast, then you also need to add this to your bucket list. A popular breakfast spot for former US Presidents, athletes and actors, Lou Mitchell’s is an iconic restaurant in Chicago. It has been going since 1923 and serves some of the best omelets, pancakes and french toast.
12. Get your history fix, first-hand
If you are an political history enthusiast, you will be sure to get your fix in Washington D.C. Take a tour with a local expert, who will be able to answer all of your questions. Then, learn more in the way of the Civil War with a stop at the infamous Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania.
13. Take a bite out of the Big Apple
Once you get to NYC and you have dabbled in the touristy attractions, flag down a yellow cab and head off to the food districts like Little Italy, Chinatown (a restaurant called WoHop), Jackson Heights and the East Village. Your tastebuds will be most grateful.
14. Get help with your Itinerary
The USA is an extensive country with a phenomenal collection of places to visit. It is likely that you will find yourself getting lost in your planning long before your trip even starts. Save yourself the hassle by speaking to a travel specialist, like Trafalgar who can recommend some tried and tested itineraries.