There is no wonder why many travelers want to tour around the entire country of the United States. A UK-based travel magazine, Condé Nast Traveller, conducted a survey among its readers and America was voted in seventh place as one of the Best Countries in the World to Visit.
Before you book your flight to your first-ever USA trip, it is best to know more about the country’s common but rarely discussed topics like custom and practices. We’ve jotted down seven questions and answers you should take note before you proceed with your USA tour.
1. How much should I tip?
Gratuity is a common etiquette in America. First time travelers should know that tip-giving is always expected in the service sector, and it usually varies depending on what services received. For example, the customary tip for waitstaff at a table service restaurant, or a cab driver, will be around 10% to 20% of the bill, before tax. Bartenders may be tipped per drink or after running a tab around almost the same rate.
You may opt to give higher tips if you’re delighted with a pleasing service and lower it should the service fall badly. In some rare occasions where there is an extremely poor service provided, gratuity may be abandoned.
2. Why is my bill more expensive that the price shown?
If dining and shopping around the America are included in your itinerary, take note that prices reflected on the menu and price tags are not the only values you’ll be paying for. We’re warning you of the taxes. Tax rates may vary depending on the product and food type. They are usually not included to what’s on the menu and price tag, so it is best to know beforehand how much tax you’re expecting to pay to avoid overspending.
3. Is it real that food portions in America are bigger than the average?
YES. Heavy-eaters can rejoice by this fact. A 2015-published article by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains that food portions have almost tripled across many restaurants in America over the course of 20 years. However, note that food servings and portions still vary depending on what state you’re in.
If you’re more of a modest eater and cannot munch all the food you are served, you may always opt to have the rest of your unconsumed food packed and ready for take-away.
4. Is striking a conversation with a total stranger a good idea?
Americans are generally friendly compared to citizens in other countries, and they won’t hesitate to have some small talk even if it is with a person whom they don’t personally know. So, it won’t be a bad idea to strike a conversation with them. In fact, some may initiate a chatter. Getting to know a few local people might give you keys to low-key but great places around the area!
You might also meet people who might seem to express lack of interest in having some conversation, so if you’re feeling this kind of a hint, might as well drop it but do not be discouraged to meet new people.
5. Should I rent a car or go around using public transportation?
The answer to this question will boil down depending on the city or state you’ll be in. Some areas can be best enjoyed by driving a rented car to go around from place to place. There are some cities that are best to travel around using the public transportation such as trains, buses, and cabs.
A combination of both may also be done as well for the sake of practicality. You may take your rented car around the state to go over some places, bring it back to the return location, and ride a train or a bus to travel to another state.
6. Help! I am driving, and a cop pulls me over. Should I get out of the car?
First-off, if you opt to go around places by renting a car, you should never drive under the influence of alcohol. Of course, you should also be aware and follow all the traffic rules in America. Tourists may unknowingly violate some traffic rules, but that’s no excuse to get away with a violation.
Oblige immediately if you ever experience this and you see a police vehicle tailing you and signaling you to pull over. DO NOT leave the vehicle. The best thing to do is to pull the driver’s window down, place your hands on the wheel, and kindly wait for the cop to come over to you. Make sure to converse in a calm manner and let the police officer know that you’re a tourist. Should you’ve been proven to have violated some traffic law, kindly ask for the nearest place to pay the fine.
7. Are there tourist traps in America, too?
Unfortunately, America also has several tourist traps just like many tourist-luring countries around the globe. Thus, it is best to talk with someone local in the area, so you may ask some tips on what places would be worth it to see.
Tourist traps are usually surrounded with food stands that sell measly food at a hefty cost. Famous attractions may also be full of cons that will try and rip you off by selling fake tickets. Be wary of these and other similar deals that may ruin your trip!
Now that you’ve learned more about the US of A, you may now live your dream of touring around the country like a local. Be sure to enjoy every part of the journey and share them all to us!