The USA is a varied and exciting choice for those taking a gap year, career break or simply extended holiday. If you ask 10 people what they associate with America you’d probably get 10 different answers. America simply has so much to offer, with the buzz of New York, Los Angeles and its other great cities appealing to some, whilst the wilderness, isolation and stunning natural beauty of places such as Montana’s Glacier National Park or Death Valley captivates others.
The USA also has the advantage of being simultaneously very similar to the UK whilst also being totally and utterly unique. That makes it an easy place to travel whilst also ensuring moments of wonder, awe and fascination are never far away.
The USA prides itself on being the biggest and best to the extent that it is almost a national obsession. Geographically, economically and in terms of population it is certainly one of the biggest nations of the world and that means you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to travelling within the country. As well as size, it also offers great diversity: climatically, culturally, ethnically and gastronomically.
Each of the 50 states offers something distinctive and whether you like skiing or surfing, fine wine or craft ale, night clubs or nights under the stars, the land of Donald Trump and Mickey Mouse has got you covered.
When it comes to volunteering, your options are almost unlimited. All types of projects, exchanges and learning experiences are available. Sports coaching, be that “soccer”, golf, skiing or any range of other sports is a popular choice. The US is a bastion of capitalism, the land of business and commerce, and there are many internship and study programmes available. Camp America and BUNAC also offer cultural exchanges and the chance to work in the USA, whilst America has a massive range of ecological projects which may appeal.
By and large travelling and living in the USA is similar to being in the UK or most major European countries when it comes to practicalities. Common sense and the normal precautions should ensure your visit is hassle-free and most crime tends to happen in areas that tourists are unlikely to visit. Getting round is very easy and whilst the car remains king, increasingly bus and rail offer great alternatives. For longer journeys domestic flights offer a quick and relatively affordable option. That said, for many the appeal of a road trip on America’s open highways through vast expanses of wilderness is all part of the American dream.
Those travelling on a full British passport, as well as many other nationalities, can enter the country with Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) under the Visa Waiver Programme. This allows stays of 90 days for tourists and for limited business purposes. Those staying longer or undertaking work or certain volunteer projects may need a separate visa but the organising body will advise on that. Comprehensive travel insurance is essential in the USA due to the high cost of medical treatment.
It is advisable to apply for your ESTA or other visa in plenty of time as complications can occur, for example if you have travelled to some Middle Eastern countries or have any form of minor criminal history.