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About United States

The United States is a land for dreamers, for curious travellers drawn to bright lights, big mountains and the call of the open road.

America is a country that defies the quick summary. Somewhere between the honking of horns on 5th Avenue and a crowd’s roar at Wrigley Stadium, the rustle of a wheat field and the echoes of jazz on the bayou, the sigh of a Utah desert wind and the sizzle of a burger patty, there’s an American Dream just waiting to be discovered.

United States facts

Capital city

Washington DC

Population

313.2 million

Language

English

Currency

USD

Time zone

(GMT -05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)

Electricity

Type A (North American/ Japanese 2-pin) Type B (American 3-pin)

Dialling code

+1

United States travel highlights

View of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City

New York City

New York is the city that never sleeps. Grab a slice and see those famous sites - Times Square, Broadway, Central Park and the Empire State Building.

View of Yosemite National Park in USA

Hiking the trails of Yosemite National Park

One of the most famous parks in the USA, Yosemite National Park's colossal granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls and redwood trees attract visitors from all over the world.

Skyscrapers of Chicago in USA

See the skyscrapers of Chicago

Chicago is the 'City of Skyscrapers'. Located on Lake Michigan, it's also known as the friendly city. Locals are more than happy to tell you about their favourite restaurant or café.

United States holiday information

America has always had a strong immigrant identity. Irish, Russian, Greek, African and Latin migrants have all left their mark over the years, creating a diverse and surprising cultural mix. Kwanza, Hanukah and Chinese New Year are just as important as Easter and Christmas, but sports and entrepreneurship are celebrated by all cultures universally. Some areas (like the Bible Belt) are conservative; others (like Portland and Seattle) are more liberal and experimental. It’s the celebration of these differences that makes America distinctly ‘American’. 

The United States is famous for its big portions, and it’s best to be aware that (even when it comes to salads) the calorie count will probably be much higher than you’re used to at home. On the plus side there’s a huge variety of cuisines to choose from, including Creole in New Orleans, Jewish deli fare in New York and southern BBQ in Texas. Make sure to try fresh poppy seed bagels in Manhattan, a slice of apple pie at a roadside diner and a cubano sandwich in the Florida Keys.

Independence Day / 4th of July

The celebration of America’s independence from Great Britain is celebrated every ear on July 4th, the sate of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Most citizens celebrate with barbecues and fireworks (the legal and not so legal) and city streets are given over to decorative floats and parades.

Burning Man

In traditional American style, Burning Man is an annual event dedicated to the theme of radical self expression. It takes place each year in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, where thousands of festival goers congregate to see art, live music, dance and the conflagration of the iconic Burning Man Statue – the signal that the festivities are over.

Mardi Gras – New Orleans

While Rio still holds the title of Carnival King, New Orleans gives it a good run for its money with the annual Mardi Gras. It’s a combination of Creole culture and good old-fashioned fun, with colourful costumes, spicy food and plenty of masquerade balls. 

One America’s real advantages is its sheer variety of landscapes. If you’ve got a few weeks to explore, it’s easy to pass through everglade swamps, amber sandstone deserts, pine forests, geyser fields and sprawling prairie lands – often all on the one road trip. The country’s most iconic National Parks are Yellowstone, Zion, Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, Denali and the Great Smokey Mountains – little pockets of preserved wilderness in which you’ll find deer, bears, moose and bison and dozens of other native species. 

The United States is a shopper’s dream. Iconic department stores like Bloomingdales and Macy’s offer a wide range of high-end labels, but cities like New York and LA also feature a great mix of smaller, independent designers. Prices are often a lot cheaper than in other countries too. The only thing to remember is that often tax is not included in the purchase price – make sure to check your country’s customs policy before bringing goods back into the country. 

  • Ticket to ride, by Sarah Darmody
  • America Unchained, by Dave Gorman
  • Bury my heart at wounded knee, by Dee Brown
  • On the road, by Jack Kerouac
  • Travel with Charlie: In search of America, by John Steinbeck
  • Into the wild, by Jon Krakaeur
  • The autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  • Gone with the wind, by Margaret Mitchell

United States travel FAQs

Entry requirements for the USA have changed in recent years, so please read these instructions carefully.

 

Many countries now operate under a visa waiver arrangement (meaning you don’t need a visa) however you still need to obtain an electronic authorisation which confirms you’ve been approved to travel. This must be obtained in advance. You can get one from the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) website: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov

All ESTA applicants require a US$14.00 fee, which you can pay online. You should apply for your visa waiver authorisation at least one week prior to travel. You’ll need your passport details and your address while in the United States (just use the address of your starting hotel).

Many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can travel within America for less than 90 days without a visa, if they meet certain requirements. You can find more information here: http://travel.state.gov/visa/tempvisitors.html

Tipping is a big part of service culture in America. You’ll be expected to tip in restaurants, cafes and diners, as well as taxi drivers, valet attendants, porters and hotel maids. People in these industries generally earn minimum wage, and therefore rely on tips as a major source of income. In general, 15% is appropriate in restaurants, $1 or $2 to bartenders and a few dollars for hotel staff. 

Internet access is excellent in the US, with all towns and cities having great connections and plenty of Internet cafes. Wi-fi is common. 

Overall, mobile phone access is excellent throughout the country, but it may be patchy in the more remote areas like National Parks and canyons. Ensure global roaming is activated on your phone before you arrive, but please be aware that this may incur extra data charges. 

Flush toilets are standard in all American restaurants, hotels and cafes. 

  • Cup of coffee = US$1.50-2
  • Hotdog from street cart = US$2-3
  • Newspaper = US$0.50-$2
  • Cinema admission = US$10-12

Drinking from taps in the US is considered safe, unless there are warnings saying otherwise. For environmental reasons, please consider a refillable bottle or canteen as opposed to a disposable water bottle.

Most US stores accept major credit cards, but it’s always worth carrying around plenty of low denomination cash, in case cards aren’t accepted or if you need to tip someone. 

ATMs are common in America, and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding one in the major towns or cities.

Yes. All Peregrine passengers are required to purchase travel insurance prior to their trip. Your insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day. 

For a current list of public holidays in [country] go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/[country]/public-holidays