Planning a trip to the United States? You’ll have a much better time and eliminate travel hassles if you remember to adjust to some of the peculiar American quirks. Here are the 10 key issues we advise looking out for.
Las Vegas strip picture from Shutterstock (Andrew Zarivny)
The United States is one of the most popular travel destinations for Australians: more than 863,000 trips were made there in 2012, ranking it as our third-most popular destination (after New Zealand and Indonesia). US culture often seems familiar to us after a lifetime of imported TV, music, movies and games, but there are some peculiar quirks of travelling to the States which aren’t always so apparent.
I’ve been thinking about these issues in the run-up to our World Of Servers visit to TechEd North America — these are problems that our winning bloggers are going to have to bear in mind. However, they’re equally applicable to anyone travelling to the US. We ran a more basic version of this list back in 2010, but given the many changes since then an update seemed wise.
10. You’ll pay more than the listed price
Picture: Douglas Muth
9. Don’t make jokes to airport security
all the reported comments on a mapdaily occurrence
8. Stock up on dollar bills for tipping
Dollar bills picture from Shutterstock
7. International transit is not a thing
Departures picture from Shutterstock
6. Know your body scanner rules
In the US, scanners are used for domestic and international flights, and everyone passing through the airport is subjected to them. However, you do have the option of asking for a pat-down scan instead. Personally I wouldn’t bother — the body scan is much quicker — but the choice is there if you have health or privacy concerns. Picture: Getty
5. You won’t hear airport-wide flight announcements
isn’t the case
Again, this isn’t unique to the US, but it’s worth noting. If you have access to an airport lounge, note that they typically don’t make flight announcements for domestic flights either; international flights are often called, and some lounges will highlight boarding flights on a separate screen (as in the picture), but this depends on the airport and airline.
4. Your accent may be a problem
3. If you must lock your bag, use TSA locks
The only way to work around the lock ban is to use one of the TSA-approved locks, which can be opened with a master key. That means baggage screeners can inspect your baggage if it does set off security processes, but it will remain impervious to other outsiders. I’m cynical about the usefulness of this — there must be a lot of master keys around — but if you like locking your luggage, it’s the only way to do it.
2. Be sparing when using your phone
top 10 tips to avoid roaming rortswe’ve rounded up some of the better optionsHotspot picture from Shutterstock
1. Make sure you apply for an ESTA
Electronic System for Travel Authorization
The process is relatively speedy and can be done entirely online, but it isn’t free; you have to pay $US14, and payment via credit card is the only option. This may seem fiddly, but there is one advantage: if you have an ESTA, you only have to fill in customs paperwork on board your flight, rather than separate customs and immigration forms.
Apply for an ESTA well in advance of your trip; if you arrive at the airport and don’t have an ESTA (or a visa), you won’t be able to board your flight. An ESTA remains valid for two years. The official minimum time period is 72 hours.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman often feels he knows Las Vegas better than Brisbane, which is a worry. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears regularly on Lifehacker.