A Few Things Brits Should Know Before Visiting the USA

Planning a holiday to America? The USA has a lot of amazing experiences to offer, from hiking in the Grand Canyon to the big city lights of New York City to the beaches of Miami. Here are a few important things that you should know before your trip:

It’s Bigger Than You Think

You can drive almost anywhere in the UK in a matter of hours, but in the USA you can drive all day and barely even cross one state. The sheer scale of the country can be difficult to imagine, so before planning a road trip across the country make sure that you truly understand the distances that you will be covering.

Get in the Habit of Tipping

Tipping isn’t a huge part of UK culture, but it is something that you will need to get used to when visiting the USA. It is culturally accepted that wait staff, bartenders, taxi drivers, concierges, bellboys and others should be tipped whenever they serve you. It’s not always a reward for great service, it is simply expected as long as the person performs their duty.

Marching band, New Orleans
French Quarter, New Orleans, USA

If you do not tip, your server will either think that they have done something terribly wrong, or that you are a rude and cheap person. American waiters will receive most of their income from tips because they get paid a very low hourly wage. You might not agree with the system (why not pay service staff a fair wage?) but it is best to take a “when in Rome” attitude and follow the local tipping customs. A tip of 15-20% is what is commonly given.

You Will Need to Apply for an ESTA

Before you enter the country you will need to complete an ESTA application, which stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. This is required by the US government of British visitors, as well as any other traveller from a Visa Waiver Program country. It is recommended that you submit your application online at least 72 hours before your trip and the ESTA will be valid for 90 days. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee your entry into the country (US border control makes that decision), but without it your holiday will not happen!

Times Square, New York City, USA
Times Square, New York City, USA

Be Careful When Talking About Hot Button Topics

In British culture, it is generally acceptable to have a no-holds-barred conversation about a very intense political subject with your mates at the bar over a few pints. You might disagree completely with each other, call each other names and proclaim each other’s positions to be idiotic – then you will happily buy each other another round and go down to the chippy for a late night snack.

However, have the same conversation with someone in the USA and you could end up either causing a room full of awkward silence or making a sworn enemy forever. Americans don’t typically have heated discussions about politics, religion, guns, etc. with people they hardly know and it is almost always extremely uncomfortable to bring these topics up – so be aware.

Make Sure That You Have Travel Health Insurance

You are going to be very far away from the Land of the NHS and if anything happens to you, your treatment will certainly not be free. One of the biggest shocks for Brits is how expensive medical care can be in the USA. If you break your leg on your holiday you could owe $10,000 or more. It is absolutely essential to have travel insurance so that a small accident doesn’t bankrupt you.

These are just a few important things that every Brit should know before taking a holiday in the USA. Have fun and enjoy the great travel experiences that this country has to offer!

Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.

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  1. Some very useful tips here – I didn’t know about the ESTA for example! Also being careful about what you talk about with new people is interesting, I didn’t think it would be like that… Great tips to take heed of.

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