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Getting around the United States

Travelling by Train around the Unites States


Travelling by train in North America can be an enjoyable service, as it gives you the chance to see the dramatic changes in scenery throughout the continent. The main company in the United States for long-distance train travel is Amtrak, which has a network that spans over 500 communities and has service to 45 states, plus extends into Canada and Mexico. In Canada it connects up with Canadian National (CN), which is the main train service across the United States.

Amtrak trains have coach seating and air-conditioning, with a variety of sleeping accommodation available for a supplemental charge. All long-distance trains have waiter-staffed, seated dining facilities, restaurants, viewing cars, movies and showers on board. All these services give you the comforts needed for a long distance rail journey.

Amtrak offers a USA Rail Pass, available for travel within three different regions, or the entire United States. Depending on the region, they offer 15-day and 30-day passes for unlimited travel. Travel must begin within 180 days of the date the pass is issued. They also offer many different other types of passes around the United States to suit your journey. Also, Amtrak offers rail/fly packages that allow travellers to fly to their destination in one direction and to take the train in another; this is a package that has become extremely popular since many of the airlines have reduced their domestic flights.

The one thing at Amtrak disposal is the Acela Express high-speed rail service, which is a train that travels up to 240km an hour and it reduces the standard three-hour trip between Washington, DC and New York by 30 minutes and the New York to Boston journey from four hours and 30 minutes to three hours.



Travelling by Bus around the Unites States


Travelling around North America by bus gives you more options that what you might not get flying by other forms of transport. It can be a great adventure, as this massive land mass you have the opportunity to see the beautiful country and meet many locals, where you probably wouldn’t if you were travelling by air. Buses are a great travelling, as they are reliable, clean and comfortable, reclining seats, onboard toilets and they have air-conditioning, which is good in the peak of summer.

The frequency of bus services varies widely, depending entirely on the route and which company you are dealing with. There are substantial ticket discounts available if you decide to travel by bus. This depends on your ages, if you are student, the distance of your journey, how far in advance you booked it and finally the one of many types of passes many of the bus companies have.

The most well-known and biggest company is Greyhound Lines,  who operates throughout the United States and in Canada, where they are called Greyhound Canada. Greyhound Lines recently has stopped services to many small towns, but they still do stop every 70 to 150km to pick up passengers and for meal breaks and driver changes. This reputable company that has been operating for years and they have a great network in North America. Also, they have many different types of passes for you to choice from and they offer discounts for kids, students and seniors.

Competing with Greyhound Lines are the 50-plus franchises of Trailways. Trailways doesn’t have the long distance network that Greyhound Lines has, but if you are travelling a short distance, there’re prices are competitive and the buses are reliable and comfortable.

A smaller company, but very reputable in the United States is the Peter Pan Bus Line, which operates a sufficient and reliable service along the east coast in the United States. If you are looking at regional travel just on the East Coast, you should check out the Peter Pan Bus Line for the some great competitive prices.

Some of the other regional bus companies worth checking out are Atlantic Coast Trailways, which offers a great service on the Atlantic Coast. On the northeast coast is Capital Trailways, which is a reliable service. The Pacific Coast has the Pacific Coachways Trailways, which has reliable and comfortable service up the Pacific Coast.

If you are planning a trip into Canada, the two best options are Greyhound Canada and The Red Beaver Bus Company, which provides a sleeper bus service nationwide.



Renting a Vehicle in the United States

A road trip along the famous Route 66 is popular with millions of visitors ever year, as many rent cars, RV’s and even motor cycles. The interstate highways and road systems are some of the best in world and the scenery is dramatic in the country, as you can beaches, deserts, rainforests and mountains all within a couple of days drive.

If you are planning on renting a car while you are in the United States the company we recommend is Budget Rent a Car, they have some of the best prices of any car rental company and they have a office in all the airports in the United States as well, which makes it easy for picking up your car when you arrive.

International driver’s licenses are recognised by Budget Rent a Car, but it’s recommended that you get an International Driver’s licence before you arrive. Also, if you are under 25 years old then you will have to pay additional fee per day. If you are over 25 years old you don’t have to worry about the additional fee. Make sure you also get insurance and if you think your international credit card will cover insurance, make sure because if you are in an accident and it doesn’t cover it, you may have to pay thousands. We also recommend that if you are driving across the United States to look into getting a membership and joining the American Automobile Association (AAA). This company is the country's largest auto club and supplies its members with maps, insurance, and, most important, emergency road service, which might come in handy. For more information on rates, locations and sizes of vehicles go to Budget Rent a Car.

If your dream is to drive across the United States in a recreational vehicle (RV) then there are many companies in the USA that cater for RV's. The advantages of renting a RV is that you don’t have to worry about looking for accommodation, as you will have everything you need in the RV. The best RV company we recommend is Cruise America, as they have a good network, good selection of RV's and great prices.

If you have come to the United States and it’s your dream to cruise across Route 66 in a motorcycle then you’ll need a special motorcycle licence and in order to rent a motorcycle. The company we recommend for renting a motorcycle in the Unites States is Eagle Rider.



Flying around the USA


In recent years airlines have drastically reduced the prices of their domestic flights and therefore, it has made it more affordable for travellers to travel around the United States by air. If you are on tight schedule then this is probably the best way of getting around the country, so you can see all the things you came to the United States for.

There are schemes in place for international visitors, which include discounts on internal flights with the Visit USA (VUSA) Airpass, which is operated by US Airlines. These passes are offered as a minimum of three and a maximum of ten coupons entitling the passenger to that number of flights within the USA at a discounted fare; price is based on the number of flight segments. A number of restrictions usually apply, including: (a) must be booked in conjunction with a round-trip flight to the USA (although this can often be on a different carrier); (b) tickets must be purchased outside North America and are not available to US, Canadian and some Caribbean residents; (c) tickets must often be purchased before a specified time (eg 21 days in advance); (d) the traveller must utilise the first coupon within a specified time period (usually within 60 days of arrival in the USA) and use all the coupons within 180 days of arrival. Delta Airlines offers a similar scheme branded as Discover America, which both schemes should be compared for the best deal.



Buy a Car in the Unites States

If you are an international visitor and you want to buy a vehicle, this can sometimes be a hassle, especially if you are only going to be in the country for a couple of months. If you have a family member or close friend already living in the United States, this can make things much easier in terms of getting a fixed address for registration, insurance and licensing. The toughest part for an international visitor is obtaining liability insurance, because you must be under 25 years old and it’s virtually impossible to arrange insurance without a US driver’s licence. If you are buying a car from a dealership, then they may know of an insurer that might give you insurance. You can also check out a company called Auto Tour USA, this is a Seattle based company that specializes in helping out foreign visitors with licensing and insuring a car.

Once you have purchased a vehicle you must transfer the car’s ownership papers to yourself and you can do this by going into the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within ten days of purchase. For doing this you will need a bill of sale, proof of insurance and the title or sometimes referred to as ‘pink slip’.

The best place to look for vehicles are in the local newspapers, bulletin boards at hostels and the local universities, visit dealers and finally a really good website called You can also check out the Kelley Blue Book, they help evualte prices, so you know if you are getting a good deal or not.

When you are ready to go home and want to sell your vehicle to try and get some of your money back, we don’t recommend that you go into a local dealership, as they will only give you a fraction of what the cars worth. First try putting a bulletin up in local hostels and universities and go onto to post an ad about your vehicle. For all the headaches you might experience buying and selling a car, we know that it’s worth it in the end because you have the freedom to go and do what you want.

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