Travel to different countries seems simple enough, especially where they speak English, so what can go wrong? Actually plenty can, although your travel company will often give you a list of dos and don’ts for the country you’re visiting. The increasing trend of travelers arranging their own holidays, a little research and forward planning can go a long way. This week we’re taking a look at the USA and where you can come unstuck unless you’re in the know.
We call them bank holidays and moan at their infrequency but America has federal holidays on different dates to us so you’ll need to take note of these if you’re not to drive to a tourist site or bank and find it closed. Ignoring the common holidays, you’ll find everywhere closed on the;
When Not to Travel to the US?
- 16th January: Martin Luther King’s birthday
- 20th February: Washington’s birthday
- 28th May: Memorial Day
- 4th July: Independence Day
- 3rd September: Labor Day
- 8th October: Columbus Day
- 12th November: Veteran’s Day
- 22nd November: Thanksgiving
There are few times when it’s inadvisable to travel to the US and few places that the advice applies to but if you’re thinking of holidaying along the Gulf of Mexico or up the east coast be aware that from July until November it’s hurricane season. Whilst many of these storms cause only inconvenience, usually once a year there’ll be one that causes severe disruption and danger to life so if you’re planning to visit the east coast during these months, be warned.
What Not to Say
Americans won’t like you decrying their political system nor their politicians in many cases. In the ‘bible belt’ states, usually corresponding to the mid-west and central USA, saying you don’t believe in God won’t earn you many friends. Belittling America’s efforts in overseas conflicts is also likely to offend, especially as so many Americans have died, ostensibly protecting the free world. This will be especially so in towns or cities where there are military installations.
We all know Americans speak English but it seems to be a different language on times. Mention pavement, lift, chips, boot and more to an American and you’ll likely get strange looks or be completely misunderstood. Instead, use sidewalk, elevator, fries or trunk!
You’ll need a non-immigrant visa to holiday in America. The visa will be valid for ninety days from the date of entry and gives you the right to travel to America but you can still be refused entry to the US by the immigration official. The visa, also known as an ESTA doesn’t give you the right to work in the US and if you are found working illegally on a tourist visa you can be fined, jailed or extradited.
Tipping in the USA
Tipping is a daily fact of life in the US and you’ll be expected to tip when an employee of an organisation or company does something to help. The tip needs to be generous, usually a minimum of five dollars and applies almost everywhere across the US. In the UK, 10% is often considered a reasonable tip, in the US, this would be seen as the bare minimum and 20% more welcome. From tipping taxi drivers in the US to bar staff and fast food attendants, tipping is expected and often mandatory, so save yourself the embarrassment and expect to add around 20% to the cost of most things.