Getting around the USA is incredibly easy. With miles of roads, great air links and extensive rail networks, the transport in the USA ensures there is no hassle getting from A to B. So, whether you need to get from New York to Los Angeles or from one side of a city to the other, it’ll be easy, hassle free and also surprisingly cheap! Below you’ll find everything you need to know about planes, trains and automobiles…
Travelling by Car
The open roads of the USA are a joy to behold: miles upon miles of open and desolate tarmac, with some of the most stunning scenery on the planet flanking you on either side. Hiring a car is the choice of many travellers coming to the USA, and these can be hired from huge companies such as Hertz and Avis. Watch out for any hidden fees when hiring though, especially if you’ll be dropping the car off in a different place to where you hired it from. Fuel will not be a major issue though, with prices much lower than most other Western countries.
For shorter journeys, taxis are a common option, and these can be hailed wherever you are. Remember never to get into a taxi if you are unsure whether it’s legitimate, and also make sure you ask for a price before you leave, to avoid any unexpected charges at the end of the journey. Many taxis are driven by recent immigrants to the country, so there can sometimes be a language barrier. If so, use a map to point out your desired destination.
Travelling by Plane
The US is such a large country that citizens regularly use planes to get from one place to the other. There are many airlines operating domestic flights in the USA, such as Southwest, American Airlines and Continental, so make sure you compare the ticket prices before booking – this can save a lot of money. Getting a plane is undoubtedly the quickest way to cross large distances, but it is also the most expensive, so you’ll have to weigh up these factors against each other.
Perhaps the biggest downside of getting a plane though is the fact that you’ll be 30,000 feet above the country you are trying to explore. At least in a bus or car you’ll be able to look out of the window and take in the marvellous scenery. Then again, buses and cars don’t generally come with entertainment systems and free drinks…
Travelling by Bus
Buses are without doubt the least expensive way to travel around the US, however they are also the least luxurious as well. There are many different companies operating bus services around the country, such as Greyhound and Mega Bus, and the prices can sometimes be as low as a couple of dollars for a 200 mile journey. Of course, you run the risk of having to sit next to some unsavoury characters, but for a couple of dollars can you really complain?
It should be noted – perhaps unsurprisingly – that using the bus is perhaps the most time consuming way to travel the country while on a gap year. This is because you won’t usually take the most direct route, instead stopping off at different places to pick up additional passengers. For example, a journey from Washington to Chicago will snake around visiting Harrisburg, Cleveland and Pittsburgh before reaching its final destination. On the up side, if you suddenly decide you want to spend some time somewhere, you can just hop off and you’ll only have lost a few dollars – you certainly can’t do that with a plane!
Travelling by Train
Trains aren’t hugely popular in the USA, however they do offer a relaxing way to see the country, for a reasonably affordable price (although the prices don’t come close to those offered by the bus companies). Perhaps the best way to save money is to purchase a pass for a number of days from Amtrak, which will allow you to travel around certain parts of the country unrestricted. This is essentially the American equivalent to inter-railing in Europe.
All towns and cities have train stations, but these can be slightly scary places at night. Therefore, make sure your journey starts and finishes during the day. Also, make sure your belongings are safe before shutting your eyes to get some much need sleep.
11 cities in the USA also have a Metro system (New York, Washington, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia/New Jersey, San Francisco and Cleveland), which can be used for short journeys across the area. These are generally very cheap and usually extremely punctual. They are, however, usually extremely busy too, so make sure you are prepared for the scrum when getting aboard your train! Tickets can be bought at the station and passes for specific periods are also available.