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Destinations

USA Travel Planning Roundup

1 June 2016

Researching your trip to the USA? We’ve done the homework for you with our essential list of top sites for United States of America travel planning and inspiration.

The United States of America is the big land of travel opportunity for Australian travellers. From the bright lights of New York City to the family haven of Disneyland and the awe of the Grand Canyon, there’s nothing our friends in the United States of America can’t do on a scale you never thought possible.

However you choose to experience the United States of America, one thing is certain: this won’t be a quiet, small break. It will be mammoth and exciting. So, to help you plan your trip we’ve scoured the internet for the best USA travel tips.

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GETTING THERE

Typically, Australian visitors enter the U.S via LA, Dallas, Honolulu or San Francisco. Flights to the U.S put the long into long-haul. There’s no way of getting around it, America is a good long way from Australian shores. Our best bet for direct flights is to leave from Australia’s east coast. From Sydney you can fly direct to San Fransisco on United in a mind-bending 13h 45m. Or, take a direct flight from Sydney to Los Angeles with QantasUnited, Virgin Australia and Delta. For a record setting long-haul adventure, Qantas flies Sydney to Dallas direct in 15h 35m.
From Melbourne, LAX in Los Angeles is a 14h 25m flight on Qantas or United. Queenslanders can also get in on the LAX action with a 13h direct flight from Brisbane International Airport to L.A on Qantas and Virgin Australia.

Another rather attractive option is to fly to mainland USA via Hawaii‘s Oahu island. The flight options to Honolulu are plenty with Jetstar flying direct from Melbourne 3 times a week in 10h 30m, and Qantas, Hawaiian Airlines and Jetstar taking care of the Sydney route with a 9h 45m flight. Brisbane also gets a direct 9h 15m flight to Honolulu with Hawaiian Airlines and Jetstar.

A range of connecting flights to Sydney and Melbourne are available from Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart and Gold Coast. Aussies can also get to the States via New Zealand on Air New Zealand and Emirates.

USA Flag as header in Travel with Jane Blog Post

USA VISAS REQUIREMENTS

The Aussie government’s Smartraveller site is our go-to for the really important stuff on all foreign travel, including the U.S. On tourist visa rules for Australian’s visiting America on holiday, Smartraveller says:
If you are visiting the United States for business or pleasure, you may be eligible to be admitted for up to 90 days under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) on an ESTA.

If you wish to work, study, or stay for more than 90 days, you are not eligible for entry under the VWP on an ESTA and you must obtain a visa before travelling.

Before setting off to the U.S, Australian passport holders travelling under the VWP must apply for an ESTA at least 72 hours prior to travel. The cost is US$14 and is payable online by credit card.

While ESTA makes travel to the U.S a relative breeze, it’s important to know that the United States administers a strict entry regime and you may be refused entry if you do not comply with its requirements, even if you have already obtained travel authorisation under the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA).

Australians with a criminal record (regardless of how minor or how long ago the offence took place) should ensure they seek advice from their nearest United States Embassy or Consulate about their visa requirements for entering or transiting the United States.

Because entry and exit requirements can change, contact your nearest Embassy or consulate of the United States for the most up-to-date information.

Also worth mentioning: the United States has specific requirements regarding locks used on airline baggage. See the Transport Security Administration’s website for further details.

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SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

There is a general threat from terrorism in all regions of the U.S and unfortunately that risk is deemed to be heightened at present.

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issues detailed alerts through its National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) when it receives information about a specific or credible terrorist threat within the United States.

In a list of potential U.S safety risks, Smartraveller also cautions Australian travellers to protect themselves from opportunistic crimes, which may lead to violent crimes. Take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your property against petty crime. Don’t leave passports in rental cars, even in the boot, as rented cars can be targeted by criminals.

NATURAL DISASTERS

The United States of America offers the ultimate mixed bag of natural disaster risks, from earthquakes to hurricanes, tsunamis, extreme blizzards, flash flooding, wildfires and volcanic activity.

To learn more about what to expect in the region you’re visiting, and what to do before, during and after a natural disaster, check out the Federal Emergency Management website. It’s also a great idea to register your USA travel details with Smartraveller to stay in the loop via their emergency email service.

Travel with Jane Mount Rushmore USA

HEALTH

The standard of medical facilities and care available in America is comparable to Australia. The costs however, are far from comparable. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

Medical costs in the United States are extremely high. A visit to a doctor in the United States for even minor complaints can cost several hundred dollars, excluding laboratory tests or medication costs. – Smartraveller.

In the absence of accepted health insurance (or proof of ability to pay), payment would generally be required up front, or at the very least, a deposit or ‘good faith’ payment on admittance. Always direct any requests for funds to your travel insurance provider first; only pay the hospital if you’re advised to do so by your travel insurance company.

CAR RENTAL

If you’re planning on renting a car in the U.S, check the driving rules for the state you’re visiting before turning on the ignition. The number one rule to get your head around will be to drive on the right side of the road, a feat made easier if you can remember the phrase ‘tighty righty, loosey lefty’.

International Driving Permits are generally not required in the U.S. but it is helpful to carry one. To be double sure, check the requirements with your car rental company before leaving Australia for the States.

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LOCAL LAWS

Each country has its own laws and the U.S is no exception. Smartraveller’s U.S. advice reminds us that Australian visitors are subject to the local laws of the United States, including ones that appear harsh by our standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under the Consular Services Charter. But they can’t get you out of trouble or out of jail.
It’s smart to research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay. Here’s what to look out for in particular:

  • The Federal legal age for purchasing and drinking alcohol in the United States is 21.
  • Penalties for drug-related offences are severe and provide for minimum mandatory sentences.
  • Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.
  • Some medications that can be purchased without a prescription in Australia may require a prescription in the United States and you can be arrested for possessing medications for which you do not have a prescription. Information on prohibited and restricted items, including medications, is available on the United States Customs and Border Protection website.
  • If you overstay your legal entry (I-94) into the United States, you can be arrested, detained for 90 days or longer, deported and likely barred from re-entering the United States in future.

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THE BEST OF THE U.S

In the USA you’ll find the world’s most recognisable photo prospects, including the huge Hollywood sign, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, Las Vegas’s famous casino strip, Mount Rushmore and Rodeo Drive. Many visitors like to pretend they’re in a television show or movie and take a tour around the sites of their favourite flicks or hire a convertible a la Thelma and Louise. History and political buffs love the States for sights like the Kennedy Space Center, Washington D.C., great museums and the locations of big historic events.

Sometimes you just want to cut to the chase and experience the big hitters, right? For an awesome range of top America guides, we love Visit The USA for their concise recommendations and themed curations.

Here you’ll find inspiring travel ideas and guides like the USA Roadtrip guides, States and Cities guides and Regional Food guides. Also check out our Hawaii Travel Planning Guide.

U.S PLUGS AND ADAPTORS

You’re probably travelling with an armload of devices, so keeping those gadgets charged will be a priority. Bring an adaptor, as the type of socket used in the United States is type a and b, whereas in Australia we use type I.

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