Traveling in the United States from Eastern Europe takes a lot of time and money, and it involves some differences you may not be used to. In 2 weeks, 5 states, 3 time zones, I noticed a few details you may find interesting or useful for a first trip.
- Everyone has or needs a car to get around, and most of the cars are huge! As a tourist, you can walk around without a car rental.
- There are none or only a few walking paths in a regular United States town, as in New Jersey. When in Morristown area or downtown Las Vegas, I had to walk for several minutes to get to the crosswalk, and I barely saw someone on the streets; please note that this does not apply to big cities, like New York or Los Angeles for example.
- In Las Vegas, in the Strip area, you will barely see crosswalks. Rest assured, that’s why you have all those bridges, to go from one side to the other.
- Transportation in big cities is well connected. In NY you have plenty of options, although I would not recommend any drive in Manhattan, as it’s easy to get stuck in a traffic jam.
- If you need to, take an Uber or the popular Lyft (another app used for ridesharing and on-demand transportation) and select pool to share the ride with others! I hope they bring this option in Romania as well!
- The buses in Los Angeles and in New York required a fixed amount of money (only coins, no change), if you don’t have a card. In LA there are different types of buses running, if you buy a day ticket, make sure you can use it for all buses. For example, metro bus or blue bus are different companies, and the day ticket is not valid for both. The buses are large, all equipped for people with needs and with wires for stop required. As much as I saw, in all states it was mandatory to request the stop, otherwise, you may miss your stop.
- Green or red lights are optional for pedestrians, especially in bustling cities. First two days in New York I was the only awkward one to wait patiently the green lights. Even the car drivers were used to this chaos as they were just waiting for hurried pedestrians to pass.
- Large boulevards don’t use names, but numbers. If you ask for directions or distances in the street, they will calculate your route in the number of blocks. In Los Angeles, many street name plates are hanging in the middle of the street, as you usually have on the highways. Many times it was confusing to me what’s the actual name of the street.
- Regular coffee it’s… long black coffee, you won’t find espresso at a regular coffee shop. It’s like a v60, but I’d rather compare it to tea. Thus it’s easy to understand why the Americans drink a huge mug. Sadly, the other coffee options are mostly latte flavored, as you can see in their Starbucks, the king of coffee. You have it in offices, hotels, bookstores, and of course in the streets. The company has no competitors, I have not seen any other coffee chain there, only a few small and adorable coffee shops, but these are hidden from here to there.
- Breakfast at the hotels (New Jersey and Arizona) felt like all sugar, milk and pastry. Plus juices and coffee. No vegetables, no tasteful eggs, rarely cheese (except cheddar topping), but sweet yogurt. If this is a typical breakfast, I have all the appreciation for the slim or regular fit Americans.
- The food has a lot of fat in general, and vegetables are rather limited, but you can find healthier (and more expensive) options.
- You will be amazed at the amount of plastic used in services (for food and beverages).
Other United States specifics
- Some buildings, skyscrapers and times square billboards will make you think everything is super modern. I’d say there are many restaurants, cafes and places far from being modern. Some have their magic and that American feeling, at least from a tourist perspective. But don’t expect shine and bright or clear streets everywhere you walk.
- Accommodation is rather expensive unless you pick an Airbnb. However, please consider that you can very well spend a good value of money on clothes for example, or food. Of course, the main attractions are expensive – museum fees are from 20-25 dollars up, espresso-based coffee is around 5 dollars), and at M&M World you spend at least 10-15$.
- Taxes are added separately to your purchase, so every time you’ll see a different price on the total receipt, bigger than the displayed price. Also, please don’t forget to add the tips unless you’re buying from a supermarket or paying a transportation ticket. This is the country of tips: 10 to 20% is the regular percentage, depending on the place, city etc.
- People are generally very nice, especially in services: smiling while giving you info, making sure you got what you need. In Los Angeles, the people are even more relaxed, and they were even more kind and open with us. I love how they sing in the subway, in shops or in any other public places.
- Forget about kilometers, (centi)meters, Celsius grades and keep close a converter for miles, inches and Fahrenheit grades.
These are just pieces from the notes I saved in my phone while traveling in New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Arizona, California. More about United States experiences to come soon!