Guest blogger Anna Dewinter is a freelance writer who enjoys traveling, discovering new places and meeting new people.
The United States is a huge country – with 50 states to explore, it can be hard to decide which part of it to visit first. The nation is flanked by two oceans and has a diverse topography, a wide ethnic mix and a range of fascinating cultures. Nothing can prepare you for your first glimpse of the sprawling prairies of the Midwest; hearing the cool sounds of New Orleans jazz played by a live band for the first time, seeing the majestic mountains in the West, or that first glimpse of the famous New York City skyline.
One of the most surprising things for many Europeans traveling to the United States for the first time is just how different it is from countries in Europe. Here are a few useful tips if you are considering traveling from Europe to the United States for a vacation or on business.
When you arrive in the United States you may be surprised at the quality of the accommodations, even at the less expensive hotels. In most cases you will find air conditioning as standard and fully-controllable heating in the rooms. The amenities in the bathroom will be of a high quality, and cable or satellite television will be provided. For these things to be included at the average hotel in Europe, you may pay an extra premium or will have to stay in at least a four-star establishment. The rooms in American hotels are usually much larger than those found throughout Europe, though you may come across some smaller rooms in the larger, older cities such as New York and Chicago.
The amenities available in American hotels are often much less expensive to use and more extensive than those in Europe. For example, it is not uncommon to see an ice machine, vending machines with snacks and beverages, or gyms and swimming pools in-house. You will usually find a refrigerator in your room, also often a microwave and a coffee machine, and a mini-bar. These may or may not be available in European hotels, and often if they are they will involve an additional charge. Many US hotels also include breakfast in the room charge.
Tipping for service is perhaps the most controversial topic when it comes to traveling in the United States. In fact, many Europeans have an opinion about American travelers which is similar to the opinion locals in the US have about European travelers – that neither one tips! When you visit the United States, the first thing to remember about tipping is that it is in no way mandatory. If you strongly oppose tipping in any situation, or you are dissatisfied with the service you receive, you don’t have to tip; tipping is never legally required.
However, with that being said, in some industries tips represent a considerable percentage of a worker’s income. For example, a waiter may get paid well below the minimum wage because he is expected to make up the difference in tips. When you do tip, it is best to leave cash rather than adding a sum as part of a bill settlement. The general rule for tipping is 10% for acceptable service, 15% for good service, and 20% or more for excellent service. You will also want to check your bill before leaving a tip – some restaurants will automatically include a gratuity charge in the total amount for parties of six or more.
Other things to remember
The United States and Europe are different on so many levels. The US is still a relatively new country whereas Europe is many centuries old with different laws and customs. Here is a short list of some things that travelers should remember when they arrive in the US:
- The legal minimum age for drinking alcohol in the United States is 21 years; this is enforced in every state. It is illegal to provide alcohol to a minor, even if it is your own child.
- The legal age of consent for sexual intercourse in most states (both genders) throughout the US is 18 years. Violators may face jail time.
- Prostitution is illegal.
- There are smoking restrictions in most public places, including hotels.
There are a number of cultural differences between Europe and the US, so before you take off for the States on one of the many cheap flights that are currently available, be prepared for what you are likely to experience there. It will make things a lot more fun!
- Check out our information for international visitors: learn about passports, visas, and American culture
We want to see YOUR tips for travelers – go ahead and leave a comment below!
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