Country Profile - USA

Country Profile - USA

America is complicated with many distinct regional identities.Get Rail Tickets & Passes from International Rail for USA travel & enjoy your train travel..

Country Profile - USA

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The United States of America is a sizable country in North America, frequently known as the "USA", the "US", the "United States", "America", or just "the States". Home to the world's third-biggest population, with over 318 million individuals, it contains both thickly inhabited cities with sprawling suburbs and vast, uninhabited natural regions.

America isn't the America of TV or the films. It's big, complicated, and unique, with many distinct regional identities. Because of the vast distances involved, travelling between areas frequently means crossing through a variety of landscapes, climates, and sometimes even time zones. Such journeys can be time consuming and expensive, but frequently quite rewarding.

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Key Facts

Language

English is the most commonly spoken language

Spanish, Hawaiian, Samoan, Chamorro, Carolinian ,Cherokee and many other indigenous languages are recognized at State and Territorial levels

Size

9,826,675km²

water: 664,709km²

land: 9,161,966km²

Population 319,309,000(2014 estimate)
Capital Washington, DC
Government Federal presidential constitutional republic
Currency US dollar
Time Zone UTC -4 to UTC -10

3 THINGS THE STATE IS FAMOUS FOR

GRAND CANYON

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President Theodore Roosevelt was a leading proponent of preservation of the Grand Canyon region, and visited it on numerous occasions to hunt and revel in the scene.

While the unique geologic processes and time that formed the Grand Canyon are the topic of discussion by geologists, recent evidence indicates that the Colorado River created its path through the canyon at least 17 million years ago.

For tens of thousands of years, the region has been constantly inhabited by Native Americans who built settlements within the canyon and its many caverns. The Pueblo people considered the Grand Canyon ("Ongtupqa" in the Hopi language) a sacred site, and made pilgrimages to it.

CENTRAL PARK

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Central Park is an urban park in the central portion of the borough of Manhattan, New York City. It was initially opened in 1857, on 778 acres (315 ha) of city-owned property, after expanding to its present size of 843 acres.

In 1858, soon-to-be famous national landscapers and architects, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, won a design contest to enhance and enlarge the park using a strategy they titled the "Greensward Plan". Building started the same year, continued during the American Civil War farther south, and was finished in 1873. It was designated a National Historic Landmark (recorded by the U.S. Department of the Interior and managed by the National Park Service) in 1962.

The Park was managed for decades by the Nyc Department of Recreation and Parks and is now managed by the Central Park Conservancy under contract together with the municipal government in a public-private venture. The Conservancy is a non-profit organization that provides 75% of Central Park's $57 million yearly funding and uses 80% of the Park's maintenance staff.

Now, Central Park is the most seen urban park in America in addition to one of the most filmed places on the planet.

THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art (colloquially The Met), found in Nyc, is the biggest art museum in America and among the most visited art museums on the planet. Its permanent collection includes more than two million works, broken up among seventeen curatorial sections. The primary building, situated on the eastern border of Central Park along Manhattan's Museum Mile, is by place one of the planet 's greatest art galleries. There's also a considerably smaller second place at The Cloisters in Upper Manhattan that features medieval artwork.

The Met also keeps extensive holdings of African, Asian, Oceanic, Byzantine, and Islamic art. The museum is, in addition, home to encyclopedic groups of musical instruments, costumes and accessories, and antique weapons and armour from all over the world. Several famous interiors, ranging from first century Rome through modern American layout, are permanently installed in the Met's galleries.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was set up in 1870. The creators included businessmen and financiers, along with top artists and thinkers of the day, who needed to start a museum to bring art and art instruction to the American people. It opened on February 20, 1872, and was initially found at 681 Fifth Avenue.

As of 2012, the Met occupies about 2,000,000 square feet (190,000 m2).

3 things to avoid

1. DONT TAKE CABS

Unbeknownst to most visitors, there exists a secret rule of the universe that says: if you're running late in Nyc and take a cab, you'll get stuck in traffic. And when you're not in a hurry, there's actually no great motive to take one: They're high-priced as well as they don't always understand the best way to get to your destination.

Rather than taking a taxi, hop on the metro, which is a lot more affordable and simple to navigate.  You should familiarize yourself in advance, and oftentimes will get you where you need quicker than any cab can. There are exceptions, obviously, particularly late during the night, so in the event that you need to get a ride, consider trying Uber.

The internet-powered service uses geolocation to let drivers know where you are and the best way to get to your objective, also it tends to be about 20% cheaper than cabs. (Beware of upsurge pricing during bad weather and peak times, when Uber ought to be shunned no matter what.) As another option, consider getting around town on a Citi Bike.

2. DO NOT PAY FOR A CIRCLE LINE TOUR

For a nominal fee, a ride on the East River Ferry has views of Manhattan in addition to the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as the ferry links lots of places that aren't simple to get between on the metro.

3. DO NOT DISMISS THE SMALLER MUSEUMS

It seems sensible that you'd need to visit the Museum of Modern Art as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art but they're just two of the best art associations in the world.  Dont look down on the other, lesser-known alternatives. The Brooklyn Museum has more than ONE million pieces in its permanent collection; it'd be the best museum in the city if it weren't overshadowed.

The Morgan Library and Museum features some astonishing medieval and Renaissance gems, and the library itself is breathtaking.

1. ONO SEAFOOD - 747 KAPAHULU AVE, APT 4, HONOLULU, HI 96816

Blink or sneeze and it is possible to miss it. A identifiable landmark to help locate them is Shell Gas Station; Ono Seafood is only next door makai-bound. Oh, and don't mistake Ono Seafood here with Ono Hawaiian Food, which is just a couple of blocks makai (towards the ocean) on the exact same road. Ono Hawaiian Food is a little eatery that specializes in precisely what it's named: Ono Hawaiian Food!

2. COPPER TOP BBQ - 310 N MAIN ST, BIG PINE, CA 93514

Yelp recently released its listing of the best 100 restaurants in The United States as well as the number one position went to Copper Top BBQ, an authentic BBQ joint in Big Pine, a small town close to the Sierra Nevadas in California.

The eatery is easy to find, as it's located right off the highway. For 2015, the site's official website reported. That was the very best Bay Area-based eatery on the list.

3 WAYS TO SAVE Money

1. BEWARE UNOFFICIAL ESTA WEBSITES

As an Australian passport holder you are eligible to apply to travel under the Electronic System for Traveling Authorisation (ESTA), designed for those wanting to travel to America under the Visa Waiver Program. They are all scammers and they are billing you for a non-service, so be sure to use at the right site, (which is esta.cbp.dhs.gov).

2. PAY NOW

Given the recent downward trajectory of the Aussie dollar against the United States, it is likely an American vacation will cost you more in several months' time than it would now. So why not pay now and save yourself some serious coin?

3. RESERVE AN FLAT

Sure, you need to make your own bed, but there is lots to enjoy in renting an apartment.

An apartment makes it feasible for families to stay in cities like New York and Los Angeles at a fair cost, where multiple hotel rooms would be a budget buster. In addition, you get the advantage of a kitchen, with important economies on meal prices.

Beware of scams: Rent via an agency so that you also have some protection in the event the property doesn't live up to expectations. Homeaway (homeaway.com) has more than 300,000 flats and houses all across the US. It's possible for you to check reviews from previous guests, filter for place and amenities and correspond together with the owner.

Shopping

Many tourists visiting the USA on vacation enjoy shopping for bargains. American whiskey, fashion jeans, children's clothing, plush bath towels and fine bed linens are all popular items for shoppers from other countries. You can find many bargains in the US if you know where to shop and how to take advantage of the competitive sales.

The big shopping malls are in the suburbs

There are still some department stores and downtown shopping areas in most US cities, but the big shopping malls and discount stores are usually located out in the suburban areas. Some of the major outlet centers are located in the countryside miles from the nearest major city. So it's best to have a car if you want to do any serious bargain shopping.

Department stores offer good quality and high fashion

Department stores are large establishments that offer a wide selection of merchandise including fashion clothing, house wares, appliances, luggage and jewelry. They normally offer good quality merchandise, well known brands and the latest fashions, but not low quality products at bargain prices.

They frequently have seasonal sales with attractive discounts. In these times, you can get high quality or fashion merchandise at bargain prices. In July and August, they have end-of-summer sales. In November, the Thanksgiving Day sale of pre-Christmas merchandise is one of the biggest shopping days of the year. From December 26 through mid-January, they hold big after-Christmas sales. In February, all the winter merchandise goes on sale. In addition, they have many special promotions and clearance sales.

The big department stores are typically parts of national chains, so you can find the same stores in many cities. They normally have a downtown store in a major city with several branch stores in the surrounding suburban shopping malls. Here are the names of some well-known national department stores: Lord & Taylor, Hecht's, Strawbridge's, Kaufman's, Filene's, Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Burdine's, Lazarus, Rich's, Nordstrom's, Sak's, Dayton-Hudson's, Marshall's and Bergdorf-Goodman.

General merchandise stores offer affordable quality

Sears and JCPenny's are two large national chains with stores across the USA. They are similar to department stores but they do not offer high fashion merchandise or prestige brands. Instead, they feature good quality merchandises at affordable prices. They are particularly known for their selection of children's clothing, home appliances, housewares and domestic goods. Sears is famous for its selection of tools and lawn and garden products.

Discount stores sell at low prices

Discount stores sell some good quality merchandise at affordable prices and some lower quality merchandise at very low prices. If you are not looking for the latest fashions, or the famous brands, or the best quality, you can find some very inexpensive merchandise at a discount store. Some national discount chains with stores across the US are K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target and Caldor.

Outlet Malls are a bargain hunter's wonderland

Outlet stores or factory outlets sell high quality merchandise with a well-known brand at discounted prices. They usually offer merchandise with slight manufacturing flaws and remainders from the last season or the previous year. They do not have end-of-season sales like the department stores, as their merchandise is always discounted 20% to 40% below department store prices. If you take advantage of the end-of-season sales at a department store, you can frequently get better bargains. At all other times, the outlet store is the best buy. Outlet malls with many hundreds of top brand name outlet stores like Levi's, Ralph Lauren, Timberland, and Pioneer can be found in most states, and they are often a bargain hunter's wonderland.

ENTRY & EXIT INFORMATION

The United States administers a strict entry regime and you may be refused entry if you do not comply with its entry requirements, even if you have already obtained travel authorisation under the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA).

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 (more information below). 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.

If you need to apply for a non-immigrant visa, the US Visa Information Service for Australia encourages applicants to apply at least three months in advance of the intended date of travel.

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.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice, You should contact the nearest Embassy or consulate of the United States for the most up to date information.

For up-to-date visa information, you can also visit the following United States Government websites:

  • Embassy of the United States of America in Australia
  • United States Department of State Visa Information.

Most visitors to the United States, including those seeking entry under the VWP, are required to have their fingerprints scanned and digital photographs taken on arrival.

Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA)

Before travelling to the United States, all Australian passport holders visiting or transiting in the United States under the VWP must apply for an ESTA, preferably at least 72 hours prior to travel. The cost is US$14 and is payable online by credit card.

ESTA is a web-based system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the VWP. Travellers who do not have a valid ESTA before travelling may be denied boarding, experience delayed processing or be denied admission at a United States' port of entry.

The official site for obtaining an ESTA is www.cbp.gov/esta. There have been reports of unauthorised websites charging users to submit ESTA applications, or wrongly claiming to produce a faster approval process. We caution against using links in emails or from other websites to access this site.

An online ESTA application must be completed for each VWP traveller, including accompanied or unaccompanied children. A third party, such as a relative or travel agent, is permitted to submit an ESTA application on behalf of a VWP traveller.

VWP and passport requirements

To enter the United States under the VWP, your passport must be:

  • machine-readable if issued prior to 26 October 2005;
  • machine-readable and have a digital photograph if issued on or after 26 October 2005; or
  • an e-Passport if issued on or after 26 October 2006.

Australian passports without two lines of 44 characters at the bottom of the photo/biodata page are not machine-readable. To confirm whether your passport is machine-readable or an e-Passport, please contact the Australian Passport Information Service on 13 12 32 (within Australia).

Australian citizens travelling on an Emergency Passport, Document of Identity or Provisional Travel Document cannot enter the United States under the VWP. Holders of these documents must obtain a valid United States visa. If a valid United States visa cannot be obtained, such travellers would need to look at alternative travel plans to avoid the United States.

You should ensure that you provide accurate and current travel document details to your airline or cruise line prior to travel. If you obtain a new or replacement passport, you must apply for a new ESTA. Discrepancies between ESTA, ticketing, and passport data will likely result in you being referred for secondary inspection by a United States immigration official, which may take several hours.

VWP additional requirements

Australian citizens travelling to the United States under the VWP must be in possession of an onward or return ticket. If you plan to depart the United States by a different method, such as motor vehicle or cruise ship, you should contact the United States Customs and Border Protection for more information. You will need to provide full details of a valid address in the United States when you check in for your flight. A five-digit zip code (postcode) is required.

Admission (I-94) Record Number

Every traveller entering the United States is issued an electronic or hard copy Admission (I-94) Record Number and a stamp in their passport.

The I-94 is your proof of legal status in the United States and you can stay in the United States legally until the date of expiry of your I-94. If you remain in the United States beyond the date of your I-94, you can be arrested, detained for 90 days or longer, deported and likely barred from re-entering the United States in future. You can check your I-94 record online.

You cannot renew your I-94 entry by travelling to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands in North America. If you enter the United States under the VWP, travel to another country in North America, then try to re-enter the United States, you will not be issued a new I-94 entry.

Your second entry into the United States will be linked to your first I-94 entry and you must still depart the United States by the expiry date of the first I-94 entry. If you were issued a hard copy of Form I-94 in your passport, you should surrender it to the airline or ship staff when departing the United States. Information on what to do if you were issued a hard copy but did not hand in your Form I-94 when departing the United States can be found on the United States Customs and Border Protection website.

Other entry and exit information

Where children are travelling alone, or with one parent/guardian, we recommend that you carry a notarised letter of consent for travel signed by the non-travelling parent(s) or guardian. For more information on travelling with children in the US, see the United States Customs and Border Protection website.

If you are a United States lawful permanent resident (Greencard holder), you will be asked for your Alien Registration Number and your country of normal residence when you check in for your flight.

Many United States lawful permanent residents believe they can live abroad as long as they return to the United States at least once a year. This is incorrect. Permanent residents who leave the United States for extended periods, or who cannot show their intent to live permanently in the United States, may lose their permanent resident status. Full details are contained in the United States Government's publication 'Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants'.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

For the most up to date information please visit: http://smartraveller.gov.au/countries/americas/north/pages/united_states_of_america.aspx

Airports (up to 10 most popular)

America has a number of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet, so it makes sense the nation's airports are a number of the earth's most active. In this fast guide, I rank the USA's busiest airports

1. HARTSFIELD-JACKSON ATLANTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Airport Code: ATL

Many southern regional airlines run out of Hartsfield Jackson and Delta Airlines has its heart here. ATL has 151 national and 28 international gates.

2. O'HARE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Airport Code: ORD

O'Hare was the busiest airport in America for year until Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson took that name away in the late 1990s. O'Hare is a important joining airport for destinations in the Midwest and is a hub for United Airlines

3. LOS ANGELES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Airport Code: LAX

Los Angeles International has a new international terminal to help manage the influx of visitors from Asia as well as the Pacific.

4. DALLAS/FORT WORTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - DALLAS/FT. WORTH, TEXAS

Airport Code: DFW

DFW has also been named one of the country 's most technology-friendly airports.

5. DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - DENVER, COLORADO

Airport Code: LAIR

Denver International Airport is the biggest airport by place in America. Many regional carriers, especially Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines, join to DEN. Travelers seeing the western states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico will probably travel via Denver.

6. JOHN F. KENNEDY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - NEW YORK CITY

Airport Code: JFK The primary international airport for New York, JFK finds entrances and departures from nearly every international airline on the planet. While several domestic flights are managed at JFK, the nearby LaGuardia Airport (near the end of the list) is NYC's chief domestic airport.

7. SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

Airport Code: SFO

With three national terminals and one international terminal, San Francisco International Airport is the 2nd biggest airport in California and functions as a hub for west shore travelers to and from Europe and Asia.

In the late 2000s, SFO's central Terminal 2 experienced extensive renovations to make it a more "green" airport. It reopened in 2011 and is currently regarded as one of the more trendy and passenger-friendly terminals in the U.S.

8. MCCARRAN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

Airport Code: LAS

Airlines that serve LAS contain low-cost carriers like Southwest and Spirit, together with United, American, and Delta.

9. PHOENIX SKY HARBOR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT - PHOENIX, ARIZONA

Airport Code: PHX

The key airlines here are U.S. Airways and Southwest.

10. GEORGE BUSH INTERCONTINENTAL AIRPORT - HOUSTON, TEXAS

Airport Code: IAH

United Airlines' biggest heart is at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, but it's far from the sole carrier that services this chaotic Texan airport.

The busiest routes to and from IAH contain points in Central and South America.

TRAVEL BY RAIL

You will see nothing of America at 35,000 feet, thus come down to Earth and see world class scenery from an Amtrak train across the United States. It's possible for you to travel coast to coast for very little if you book well ahead of time.

The USA has a great railway system for visitors, and although just a skeleton system by European standards it will take you to virtually all of the towns & cities a visitor would like to see, in relaxation at reasonable costs. Long distance trains in the United States are managed by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, better known as Amtrak.

Where to get tickets

Amtrak USA Rail Passes /usa-and-canada/usa-rail-pass.aspx#AN

New York to Washington - /usa-and-canada/usa-train-tickets.aspx

New York to Boston - /usa-and-canada/usa-train-tickets.aspx

New York to Chicago - /usa-and-canada/usa-train-tickets.aspx

New York to Los Angeles - /usa-and-canada/usa-train-tickets.aspx

New York to San Francisco - /usa-and-canada/usa-train-tickets.aspx

Los Angeles to San Francisco - /usa-and-canada/usa-train-tickets.aspx

Los Angeles to Las Vegas - /usa-and-canada/usa-train-tickets.aspx

Washington to Chicago - /usa-and-canada/usa-train-tickets.aspx

Money & Costs

Average Daily Cost (per person) AU$ 289.70
Accommodation
Food
Water
Local Transportation
Entertainment
Communication
Tips and Handouts
Intercity Transportation
Souvenirs
Scams, Robberies, and Mishaps
Alcohol
AU$ 141.51
AU$ 53.53
AU$ 10.68
AU$ 48.88
AU$ 67.41
AU$ 63.25
AU$ 15.51
AU$ 217.86
AU$ 60.12
AU$ 132.85
AU$ 26.73

Weather

Boston weather - Massachusetts

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Chicago weather - Illinois

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Las Vegas weather - Nevada

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New York weather

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