So you have finally decided to visit the USA after all these years, but you aren’t sure how to start the process? This article is targeted at helping you to better plan your trip.
The destination possibilities in the USA are enormous for Aussies seeking not just an exciting time, but a memorable adventure. From the beauty of the Grand Canyon, to the serenity of Mount Rushmore, and not forgetting the rapturous haven that is Disney Land, America is truly the bee’s knee of tourism and exploration.
Passports and visa requirements
This is perhaps the first thought that comes to you after you decide to embark on the adventurous journey to the North American continent. The possible stresses involved in visa procurement can’t be overstated.
The good news is that you won’t need to endure such a hectic process when traveling to the USA from Aus. This is simply because Australia and America are partners in a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) that allows Australian passport owners to visit “the land of the free” without a visa for either business or tourism purposes for a period that mustn’t exceed 90 days.
So you don’t have to witness the long queues and uncomfortable questions as long as the duration of the visit isn’t more than 3 months. There are, however, flexible requirements that must be met in order to benefit from this program; but these are usually minor details that wouldn’t really hinder your travelling plans.
Prospective travellers that are eligible to make the trip must first acquire an authentic ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), without which they won’t be allowed to fly to the USA. The ESTA can be applied for at the American government website, and will swiftly be received only hours later. The questions that will be aimed at you during the application include your health history (both physical and mental) and your criminal history — if there is one.
While ESTA applications are rarely rejected if the applicant is eligible, if it does happen to you, it means you may have to apply through the US embassy for a formal visa.
Health precautions and vaccination
There is no need for specific vaccination when travelling to the US because outbreaks of diseases rarely occur. However, it is wise to be vaccinated against the normal infections and diseases shared between the regions; after all, it is better to be safe than sorry.
You can also head over to the disease watch dogs in America — the CDC, to check if there are any outbreaks to worry about when visiting.
Mobile phone services and the internet
Mobile phones in Australia are mostly GSM-enabled and may have problems with functionality when used with US networks that are a mix of GSM and CDMA. This will lead to poor network service especially when the phone is used in US areas that are only CDMA serviced.
If you decide to take your SIM with you to the US and hope to use its services while there, then be prepared to be charged exorbitantly for using a service the network providers define as ‘Roaming.’
The easiest way to solve this is just by acquiring a US SIM in order to enjoy the rates used in the country.
It should, however, be noted that because of the network dynamics of the two countries, your phone will also have to be unlocked in order to function properly with the US SIM you’ve just purchased.
Another way of solving the mobile phone dilemma is to purchase a travel SIM at an Australian travel store. This also ensures that one isn’t billed excessively for using mobile services during the trip. This method likewise requires the unlocking of the phone in order to make the SIM valid.
The only other viable option is to purchase disposable phones that can only be used to make phone calls. They come with already loaded credit that help travellers who need to make urgent calls when they arrive in the US.
The laws in America
You should always remember that you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting the moment you take your first steps on its lands. It is, therefore, important to have a clear understanding of the legal framework of the US in order to know the dos and don’ts that must be adhered to.
A few of these laws that pertain to a visitor’s stay in the country include the legal age of consuming and purchasing alcohol, which is 21 in the US.
Also, drug offences in the US are very severe and have minimum mandatory sentences attached to them. Medications that may not require prescriptions before they can be purchased in Australia may do in the US, and failure to acquire one may lead to an arrest.
There are Australian criminal laws that may as well be applied to Australians who travel overseas, and breaking of such laws may lead to the prosecution of the offender back home in Australia. Examples of such criminal offences include terrorism, money laundering, bribery, child pornography and forced marriage.
Renting a car while in the US is perhaps the wisest decision to make because of the size of the region and the transportation difficulties involved. However, it is important to confirm the driving rules in the state you will be visiting, so that you can swiftly adapt to the change. The most notable change of course will be driving on the right side of the road. Check out www.hertz.co.nz/p/car-rentals/usa for more information.
Adaptors and plugs
This is essential when travelling to the USA because of the differences in the power and voltage of the two regions. The sockets in America usually have a voltage that is lower than the ones in Australia, which is about 230V with a frequency of 50Hz.
If you are one of the lucky ones with appliances and devices that have variable voltages and frequencies of 100-240v and 50-60Hz, then you can put your mind at ease, as such gadgets and devices will definitely function properly in the US.
While no one wants to get sick or suffer an injury while travelling it does happen. Medical costs in the USA can be extortionate. A simple visit to a GP, even for small ailments can set you back a couple of hundred dollars. It’s also usual to have to pay up front unless you have travel insurance.
The Australian Government won’t pay for your medical bills while you are in the US and furthermore won’t cover medical evacuation costs should they be required.
All in all it makes sense to ensure you have travel insurance arranged before you travel. Check out www.state.co.nz/travel-insurance for more information. For a small fee you can be covered for most types of medical emergency as well as travel delays and lost luggage.