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Date: 13/01/2016

US Travel FAQs

French Quarter New Orleans By Sami99tr (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by: Sami99tr

Are you planning a trip to the US? Whether you are going to be cruising down Route 66, enjoying a family holiday in Florida or exploring the southern delights of New Orleans, you are sure to have a few questions about visiting the land of the free and the home of the brave. We have gathered together some of the most frequently asked questions for those travelling to the US this year.

Do I need a visa?

It depends on which country you are travelling from, but visitors from most western countries can travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). You can find more information on the VWP on the US Embassy website, including whether your passport allows you to travel under the program or whether you will need to apply for a visa in advance. Those travelling under the VWP will need to ensure they apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA), which costs $14 (under £10), is valid for two years and allows multiple entries to the US.

Can I use my electrical appliances in the US?

The voltage in the US is between 110 and 130 volts, while most appliances in the UK (and EU) are designed to run on 220-240 volts. This means your hairdryer or phone charger probably won't work if you plug it directly into a socket in the US, as it won't receive enough power; therefore, you will need an adaptor and convertor to use your gadgets and other appliances on your travels.

What is the currency?

The currency used across the US is US dollar (USD) and it is best to check the exchange rate before you go, making sure you have enough cash for emergencies. Don't just pack cash though − take a credit or debit card or pre-load a currency card to ensure you will always have money to hand.

Is it customary to tip in the US?

Tipping is a way of life in the US, and serving staff in bars and restaurants − who often earn well below the minimum wage and just a few dollars per hour in some cases − will expect you to tip to supplement their wages. If you are purchasing just a couple of drinks at the bar, a $2-$3 tip is recommended − failure to tip could cause offence and it may mean you struggle to get served next time. In restaurants it is customary to tip between 15% and 20% of the bill. Don't forget to tip your taxi driver at least $1-$2, or more for longer journeys.