Planning Your Visit to the U.S. - What Visitors Need to Know Before You Go

There are a number of situations you may encounter during your trip to the U.S. that may be commonplace for the locals, so here are some tips on how to handle them as a visitor.

Apr 18, 2018, 11:00 AM

Traveling to the U.S. can be both exciting and overwhelming. It is extremely important to focus on the preparation and planning of your trip. The better prepared you are for the unexpected, the more time you can spend enjoying your trip. Here are some of the most common situations you may encounter during your trip to the U.S. and some tips on how to handle them.

Tips for Tipping in America

The bellman carries your suitcases up to your hotel room. The hotel staff delivers extra towels for your family. The valet dashes away to retrieve your car. Your server offers recommendations, pours wine and serves your food with a glowing smile. You will notice people working in the tourism or restaurant industry going above and beyond to provide superior service. This is not a coincidence, they are working to earn a tip.

Gratuity in the U.S. can be confusing. Most people who are performing services are making less than minimum wage. They are depending on their service to earn tips. It is customary to tip staff in the hospitality industry 15% - 20% of the total bill. If you are uncertain of the amount to tip, a few dollars will suffice.

More recently, some cities have adopted a “service charge” which covers the tip. Miami Beach is notorious for including a 18% - 20% service charge to the bill. This service charge replaces tipping. In these situations, do not feel obligated to tip above the bill. Similarly, if you have a party of 6 or more, restaurants will usually charge a flat percentage for gratuity. Do not get caught in the tourist trap of paying the tip twice!

Business Insider provides a valuable graphic regarding U.S. tipping guidelines.

Protect Your Health with Travel Medical Insurance

Healthcare costs more in the United States than in most other countries. Cost of an emergency visit varies based on treatment, but according to the National Institute of Health, the average emergency room visit costs $1,233. The U.S. does not operate on a national healthcare system, so it’s important to make sure you are covered with a supplemental health insurance plan. No one plans to get sick or injured while on vacation, but unfortunately, it does happen.

IMG offers several plans to cover visits to the U.S., and we even try to make it easy for multi-national families to coordinate and purchase coverage for visiting family members.

Some important topics to consider:

Do I need Travel Health Insurance?

Countries that Require Travel Medical Insurance for Entry

Consider Your Public and Private Transportation Options

Public transportation is vastly different in the United States compared to other countries. New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. are well known for their easy to use, accessible public transportation systems. Research the cities you will be traveling to before committing to a transit pass. A city may offer public transit, but you might find other more convenient and safer options.

Taxi cabs are prevalent in major cities and still available at all airports. Uber, a downloadable smart phone app, is an alternative to taxi cabs. While Uber has created controversy in the U.K. and other countries, either option is viable.

Before checking into your hotel, call and ask if they offer an airport shuttle. These vans will take you to and from the airport for free. This is a great way to save money, and don’t forget to tip the driver!

Currency Exchanges & Conversion

Most businesses in the U.S. accept payment via credit card, and increasingly mobile payments like Apple Wallet - but it’s still wise to carry cash for tips and other small transactions.

Prepare for your trip by researching the conversion rate. Please note, the rates posted online rarely include commissions and fees added to the transaction. Head to your local bank in your home country for your conversion needs prior to your trip. The local banks will have a less expensive rate than booths at the airport or tourist heavy areas. You should also contact your credit card companies to let them know that you will be traveling. By doing this, they will place a note on your account rather than freeze your card for suspected fraud. While it’s wonderful when those companies catch someone trying to steal your information, having your credit card frozen in another country is not.

Your bank will also be able to outline any foreign-transaction fees that you may incur. Be wary of “zero-fee” locations for exchanging money. These typically end up as the most expensive places to exchange currency.

Take Lots of Pictures!

As you plan for your incredible experience, we hope that these U.S. travel tips make your planning even easier. We want you to make the most out of your next adventure!

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