Tensions may be rising on American soil, but that’s no reason to postpone the trip of a lifetime. Between its breathtaking national parks and bustling cities, the United States is sure to produce an unforgettable adventure. As you’re packing, check out these five things the U.S. travel guide didn’t tell you…
#1 Forget The Freeways
Commuting in the major cities can be a nightmare. A cab once backed into me in a Manhattan crosswalk (seriously.) Whether you’re on the bus or driving a rental, plan your travel route out beforehand to minimise stress.
Check out the public transportation of your destination – many cities have decent subway or bus systems. Take note of the cities with the worst traffic in the country, and try to avoid driving around them. U.S. drivers can be aggressive, so hang on for the ride. Road rage is just another part of the American experience.
#2 Pack An Open Mind
America is a land of diversity. From the LGBTQI scene in San Francisco to the birthplace of voodoo in New Orleans, there’s something in the United States for everyone. Take the time to appreciate all the nation’s little quirks. Cultural norms will change from one area of the country to another. In New York City, it’s best to walk fast and mind your business. In the Midwest, however, you may find people greeting you as you pass. Take note of the differing customs and adapt accordingly.
#3 Keep Small Bills For Tipping
In America, the living wage is a myth. Tipping is the standard, especially in the restaurant industry. Food servers make as little as 2.15 an hour, so they rely on good tips. Generally speaking, 10% is the bare minimum you want to give your server for good service. Around 15% is considered fair. If you’re feeling generous, you can go to 20% or more. Some other people you’ll want to tip include salon workers, hotel bellhops, bartenders, and parking valets.
#4 Beware The Bible Belt
The Bible Belt is a network of conservative states that spans most of the Southern U.S., from Virginia down to Florida and west to Texas. For people of colour and members of the LGBTQI community, the beliefs of some southern residents can be hostile: just look at the Unite the Right Rally in Virginia last year which resulted in three deaths. White supremacy is a real threat in the Bible Belt; minority communities should exercise caution when passing through.
This is not to say neo-Nazis should spoil your fun. The South holds many of America’s cherished travel destinations. I recommend the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, the home of country music in Nashville, Tennessee, and the famous shrimp ‘n grits at any Southern diner.
Just travel smart. Be mindful of your surroundings, and travel in groups when possible. Check for political rallies ahead of time and avoid areas where people in Trump hats are gathering in large numbers. Seriously.
#5 The Big Three
Money, religion, and politics. In the U.S., it’s pretty much the golden rule not to speak of them. Asking someone if they voted for Trump might not get you a pleasant response. Political and religious discussions can become heated, especially between opposing viewpoints.
Do your research about the U.S. political climate before coming. Engage in political discussions with caution, and with mature individuals—not with the drunk guy cursing about illegal immigrants. Some Americans just haven’t mastered responsible discussion of the Big Three. If you can avoid talking about them, it’s safer to do so.