Anyone travelling to the United States by boat or plane must have a valid passport and ESTA or US visa. Once in the USA, you can use public transport, domestic flights, a (rented) car, motorbike or campervan.
The trip to the United States
Most travellers arrive in the United States of America by plane. This way of travelling is in most cases fixed, but travellers do have the choice between a direct flight and a flight with a stopover. Travelling via a direct flight is not only advised to save time. An additional advantage is that the amount of CO₂ released is lower than that of a flight with a stopover. Travellers can also choose to offset the CO₂ emissions of their flight by ticking this option on the ESTA form.
Apply for an ESTA before departure
In most cases, travellers with a European nationality do not need to apply for a visa. If these travellers meet all the requirements of the ESTA, they can apply for this travel authorisation and will not need a visa. The abbreviation ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation. Because the ESTA is cheaper, faster and easier to apply for than a visa, most travellers who qualify for it choose to apply for this travel authorisation instead. Applying for an ESTA online is extremely easy with the ESTA application form.
To be able to apply for an ESTA, travellers must hold a valid passport. As the ESTA is linked to the passport number with which it was applied for, the same passport must be used to travel to the USA. At the passport control, it is then possible to quickly check whether the traveller has a valid ESTA.
Passenger cars are the most common means of transportation in the USA, but travellers can also choose to travel from one place to another by public transportation. Most major cities are well served by public transport and have an extensive train, metro and tram network. The best-known railway company is Amtrak; it transports about 30 million passengers annually. In California, a public transport network called Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has been realised with which you can reach the suburbs of San Francisco and Oakland via a tunnel under the sea. In Chicago and New York, the suburbs can likewise be reached by train and bus.
Despite the various possibilities, there are also disadvantages to travelling by public transport. Bus stops are often poorly signposted, and buses tend not to run according to a timetable. Moreover, they are often very full. It is therefore advisable to always have the telephone number of a taxi company or the Uber app at hand, just in case public transport is not running or hardly running at all. For longer distances, use the largest long-distance bus operator in the United States, Greyhound. Greyhound has 1700 buses and is known for its good value for money.
The easiest, but not the cheapest, way to travel in the USA is by car. Personal transport gives a lot of freedom. Travellers over 20 with a UK or EU licence can rent a car or a motorhome with a maximum weight of 3,500 kg at almost any car rental company. Although an international driving licence is not officially required, it is advised applying for one before departure to be on the safe side, as some rental companies require this. The international driving licence is only valid in combination with your national driving licence. A visa or ESTA USA is a mandatory document that must be applied for before departure.
Credit cards are much more widely used in the USA than in most European countries. In most cases, the deposit for renting a car can only be paid by credit card. Additionally, drivers under 25 years of age have to pay a daily surcharge.
Domestic air travel
If you have your own transport, it is possible to see a lot in a short time. Nevertheless, even with personal transport, travellers are limited to one or just a few states. Therefore, do not hesitate to book a domestic flight for long distances. A domestic flight from the eastern to the western part of the USA takes only about 6.5 hours, while this journey would take at least 40 hours if you were travelling by car. In addition, domestic flights are relatively cheap, as many airlines compete with each other.