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Things to Know Before You Visit USA from India
The US attracts travelers from all over the globe, including India. And why not! It is a country with countless treasures, diverse landscapes, historical monuments, and varied cultures. The destination truly offers vast experiences to travelers, making them come back every year. However, one must know a few things before visiting the US to make the trip enjoyable.
1. Understand that the US is a vast country
The US is so big that it will take about 45 hours to drive from Los Angeles to New York without stopping or six 8-hour days. And the driving will be boring, too! So, flying is probably a great option if you plan to travel from one coast to another. If you wish for a cross-country road trip, you must drive for long hours daily.
Fortunately, you can find numerous affordable flights and a few convenient trains and buses that can take you from one location to another. So, depending on where you land first and how you plan your trip, you can easily find some cheaper transport options for traveling around the US.
2. Carry a travel insurance policy
Travelers are not mandated to carry a medical or travel insurance policy, but it is always recommended. The healthcare costs in the US are high, and medical emergencies can crop up at any time. Without insurance coverage, one must pay medical bills and prescriptions from their pocket. The medical bills and hospitalization charges are not affordable for many, putting you in financial debt.
It becomes tough to figure out what to do when a medical emergency arises, especially in a foreign land. For example, there can be circumstances where you injure yourself during a skiing activity. You may be required to be transported to a city for advanced care and treatment. Sometimes, the transportation cost via air ambulance can cost you a thousand dollars. This is where you need insurance coverage.
You can find several health insurance plans for Indians coming to the US. Purchase a policy covering doctor visits, urgent care, medical costs, hospitalization, evacuation, repatriation, and more.
3. Know your visa situation
Tourists need to understand the entry requirements in the US. The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows nationals from certain countries to enter the US as tourists for up to 90 days without a visa. When you enter the country under the VWP, you should apply for authorization through ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization)
Many countries are a part of the USA’s VWP, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Chile, and Europe. If you are wondering what ESTA is, it is a pre-approval to enter the USA without a visa. You can apply for ESTA online through the Department of Homeland Security’s website. It stays valid for two years. However, applying for your ESTA at least 72 hours (about 3 days) before departure is advisable.
4. Expect to witness a lot of diversity
You will find different ethnicities, cultures, languages, cuisines, and customs throughout the US. Though English is widely spoken all over the US, you will find people speaking multiple languages. Apart from people and their diverse backgrounds, the country will surprise you with mountains, coasts, beaches, deserts, rocky terrains, plateaus, etc. Whether you wish to have a cultural tour, hike through offbeat trails, or dance your heart out in a nightclub, you can get all experiences in the US.
5. There is a tipping culture in the US
In the US, the minimum wage for workers is quite low. Hence tips become an essential source of income for many workers. Tips are prevalent in hospitality and service industries like housekeepers, door attendants, bartenders, concierge, hotel porters, valets, taxi drivers, etc. Each time they offer service to you, you are expected to pay them a tip. However, some restaurants add gratuity to the bill, making the trip unnecessary. Tipping is also expected in private transfers unless a service charge is added. Adding no tip is considered rude in the US.
6. Take note of the travel requirements
COVID-19 fear is still lingering in the minds of travelers. Though travel restrictions have been relaxed, you should still follow each country’s safety protocols and rules. The general advice is to get a COVID-19 test done, regardless of vaccination status or citizenship, no more than 24 hours before you travel to the US.
Wear a mask while in indoor areas and stay six feet apart from others where possible.
7. Be prepared to pay more than the price on display
Most prices that you will find on display exclude sales taxes. So, when paying for an item, you will be paying more than the price written on the tag. Moreover, different cities and states have different tax rates, so the price will vary considerably. A good rule of thumb is to add 5-10% to the item’s price. It may not be a big deal on small items, but it will pinch your wallet if you eat or purchase something expensive.
8. The weather varies drastically
The US is a geographically vast country. It comes with incredible climate diversity. From magnificent mountain ranges to arid grasslands, you can find everything here. For example, the cities on the west coast, like Seattle and Portland, are cool and rainy, but the east Pacific coast shows a remarkable difference in temperature between night and day. It may be 120° F in Arizona and 2° F in Montana. Check the weather and the road conditions before planning your trip. Also, make sure to carry clothes as per the weather.
9. Each state has different laws
Each US state has laws you must abide by when you visit. For instance, you can walk openly with alcohol cans in New Orleans or Las Vegas, but not in other states. New Hampshire does not mandate wearing seat belts, but other states do. You can purchase marijuana in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon but cannot smoke it publicly. Laws regarding helmets, too, differ from one state to another.
10. A trip to the hospital is going to cost you
The healthcare system in the US is expensive and complicated. For example, if you get sick or meet with an accident during your vacation, you must rush to an emergency room. And unfortunately, you will be leaving with a huge medical bill. As a precautionary measure, invest in travel health insurance so you do not get stuck with expensive bills on a trip.
These are a few tips that can be handy when visiting the US from India. No matter which state you plan to visit, take note of the weather and political situations, follow COVID-19 safety protocols, and carry a medical insurance plan with you. Have a safe and enjoyable trip to the US.