Travelling around the United States
Updated 2021-07-30 15:05

There are various ways to move around in the United States. Destination, convenience, and budget will be important factors in helping you determine which is best for you. Most of the USA's largest cities have very good public transportation systems. In midsize cities and rural areas, however, it can be almost nonexistent. That said, many Americans prefer to travel and commute to work by car. When traveling in between cities or to a different region, there are many convenient and affordable options. Long-distance bus, train, and air travel are all widely used.

Public transportation in the US

The quality of public transportation in the US depends highly on where you live. Transport systems in large cities can include buses, subways, trams and ferries. Major cities such as NYC, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., Newark, Philadelphia, and Seattle have the country's most extensive public transport networks and are used by many people for their daily commutes.

Taxis are common in cities but are one of the more expensive ways to travel and are not generally used for daily commute, although the rise of Uber and Lyft have increased people's tendency to use paid car-transport services. Note that in the US, drivers should be tipped at least 10% of the total fare.

For longer distances, shuttles and busses are available for intercity travel. Greyhound bus lines, for instance, serve the majority of the country at really low prices.

Train travel in the US

The United States has more than 220,000 km of railway tracks that serve both freight and passengers. In the northeast region especially, commuter trains are common and used on a daily basis for short or intercity journeys. A single class is offered and you can buy your ticket at the station usually, with no reservation required.

Long-distance travel by train is possible but the lack of convenient routes and long travel times make it uncommon. Amtrak is the largest train operator and offers services such as sleeping cars for long journeys as well as food and drinks on board. Advanced booking is usually required.

Air travel in the US

The United States is a big country and when traveling long distances, a flight is often the most convenient option. When you consider the cost of gas and stopovers compared to the price of a long-distance train, the prices are relatively about the same. There are many budget airlines and each state has a number of airports where hundreds of thousands of passengers transit every day. Ticket prices vary according to your destination, travel period, and the class of travel you choose.

Renting a car in the US

If you have just arrived in the United States, you may consider renting a car for a short period of time, unless you're living in New York City, Boston, San Francisco, and the other cities where public transportation makes more sense. There are many rental agencies in nearly every city in the US. Rental prices vary according to the type of vehicle (larger vehicles like SUVs are more expensive than compact cars) and package (for instance if you'd like unlimited mileage). With most agencies, a credit card, valid driver's license, and sometimes an international driver license are required to rent a car. Car insurance is compulsory in the US and if it's not provided by your credit card company, you will need to purchase an insurance package through the rental agency.

Buying a car in the US

If you wish to buy a car in the United States, you can choose between buying a new car or a second-hand car (commonly referred to as a used car). Both new and used cars are sold in dealerships. It's also common to buy a used car from an individual. Whether from a dealership or a previous owner, it is recommended to take the car for a test drive before making a decision. With both new and used cars, it is common practice to negotiate the price with the owner. If you already have sufficient funds, you simply pay the agreed amount to the owner. Otherwise, you'll need to apply for a bank loan. Many car dealerships offer their own in-house financing.

Useful links:

Top U.S. budget airlines:
Southwest Airlines
Jet Blue

Top car rental agencies:

Greyhound Bus

Amtrak Trains

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