Tips for planning your USA trip

By Yeswanth on Feb. 15th, 2024


Reach out to friends & family

Before you start planning your trip to USA, research and check if you know anyone living there. It might have been a while since you last spoke with them, but it’s okay to message them and schedule a call. They can help you plan well and answer any pertaining questions.

Also, check to see if any one of them can host you. Again, just ask. People living in USA are generally friendly and welcoming towards visitors.

Tips when booking domestic flights

  1. Many airlines will only allow you to take one personal bag (a small backpack or a purse) along with the base fare of the flight. You will have to pay additional costs to bring a check-in luggage or a large carry-on luggage along with you. Paying for your luggages will be cheaper while booking your flight.
  2. Some airlines including Southwest airlines don’t show up in booking websites (like Skyscanner). So it’s better to check the route fares on their website also.
  3. Many US cities will have multiple airports (eg. San Francisco, Washington DC) and they might be in different parts of the city. So, make sure you know which airport you want to fly to and fly out of. This will avoid unnecessary last minute confusion.

Driving in USA

If you are planning to rent your car to drive, know the following:

  1. Cars drive on the right hand side of the road.
  2. Get International Driving Permit even if it’s not absolutely required by law. Local cops and some rental agencies might not recognise an Indian license. Having an Internation Driving Permit can be handy.
  3. Get liability insurance when you book your car from the rental agency. Liability insurance provides protection against claims resulting from injuries and damage to other people or property.
  4. Pedestrians have right-of-way in USA. Make sure you watch for them and stop your car when they are crossing the road.
  5. There are HOV (High occupancy vehicle) lanes across USA. These are usually faster moving lanes, and exclusive to use for vehicles with a driver and atleast one passenger (or two passengers, depending on the state rules)
  6. States can have different rules.

Tipping culture

Different people tip differently but here’s what I learnt about tipping in the USA.

Why tipping is encouraged? The waiters do not earn enough wages and therefore tipping is another way of ensuring you are supporting them.

  1. Typical tipping percentage is 10% - 20% on the bill and people tip according to the experience they had and how generous they feel. Tip is calculated on the bill amount before taxes. So make sure you don’t include taxes in the calculation.
  2. Only tip in dine-in restaurants. No need to tip in takeaway restaurants.
  3. Tipping for other services are NOT mandatory. Eg. Uber driver, Doordash delivery.

Common places to see in a city

  1. Most cities in USA have public parks. Some of them are iconic eg. Central Park in New York City and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Do research and visit the local parks in your city.
  2. Museums in USA are worldclass. You can find museums on variety of subjects ranging from Natural History to Air and Space to Art and Heritage. They are immersive and sometimes extremely engaging.
  3. Local Library - Local libraries in cities are funded by the state and free to visit by everyone. You will find books for readers from elementary school to adults. Some of the libraries, have dedicated children section and some have dedicated teen section too. You can often find puzzles and games in the libraries.

Hope you are able to use the above tips while planning your trip to USA. Feel free to ask your questions in the comments section below.

We have also written a blog on applying for a US visa

Applying for a U.S. Tourist Visa
My experience getting a U.S. Visa
US Visa