Travelling to the USA: Top Things to Remember as a Foreigner

Travelling to the USA: Top Things to Remember as a Foreigner

Headed to the US on holiday? Here are some top quirks peculiar to the States that you should remember.

Prices listed on items are not exact

Sales tax is left off on price tags so you should be prepared to pay slightly higher than the amount displayed. The tax amount varies from 4 and 6 per cent depending on where you are shopping.


Joking with airport security could get you banned

Although this applies to every airport in the world, the US airports are stricter than most. They have an annoying process that involves removing your belts and shoes, but you must take it all with a straight face. Jokes about a bomb or any harmful object could have you sent back to your country and banned from entering the US for an extended period of time. Keep your cheeky side in check with the security.


Body scanner is optional

In US airports, you can elect to have a pat down instead of going through body scanners. Why would anyone want a pat-down? Medical reasons or privacy concerns most often.


Be prepared to repeat yourself

Americans are some of the friendliest people you could come across but many of them don’t adapt quickly to different accents. This means you should be prepared to repeat yourself several times if you haven’t got your American accent perfected.


Use your phone sparingly

Mobile roaming rates anywhere will punch a hole in your pocket and the US isn’t any different.  There are ways to avoid the roaming rates problem but a good rule of thumb is to embrace the free Wi-Fi. There are many free hotspots in hotels and public places but ensure you won’t be charged a fee after a while as free isn’t really free in some places.


Apply for an ESTA

If you're from the UK you can visit the US for trips less than 90 days without a visa. However, you are required to apply online for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. This notifies the US Homeland of your impending arrival and allows them to run a quick check on you. Everything is automated so most people are cleared within a day, if not minutes. New rules, however, mean your application could be refused if you have visited the Middle East or Iran at any point in the last 5 years on an assignment or holiday that was not government related. In this case, you will have to set up a visa appointment. Failure to get your ESTA will result in your being refused entry to the plane on the day of leaving your home town.