VISAS FOR AMERICA
The USA’s Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) permits New Zealand citizens to enter the USA for business and tourism purposes for up to 90 days without a visa. All travellers entering the USA under the Visa Waiver Programme
must have a machine-readable passport.
If you do not hold a machine-readable passport you should either obtain one or obtain a US entry visa. For further information how to apply for a US entry visa, visit the US Embassy in New Zealand website.
Before your trip you must register for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ETSA). You can register online at any time, but it must be done at least 72 hours before your scheduled departure date. Register for an ESTA at the US Customs and Border Protection website.
Your ESTA is valid for multiple trips to the USA for two years, or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. It is important to note that if you have been arrested or charged with a crime you’ll need to apply for a visa. This can take a while, so be sure to get on it early. Your nearest US Embassy or Consulate
will be able to give you advice regarding your visa requirements. The USA has strict entry requirements and it’s important to make sure you comply so you aren’t refused entry when you arrive.
The United States is a big country meaning there are a lot of airports with a lot of travellers! Los Angeles, New York, Houston or San Francisco; wherever you land prepare for it to be busy. Be patient and definitely don’t play comedian with airport security. This applies wherever you are travelling, but don’t even think about joking with American TSA staff. We should all know this by now, but sometimes tiredness, boredom and one-too-many movies on the plane can make a traveller think it’s a good idea to put on his Jerry Seinfeld. Trust us, airport security staff do not have a sense of humour, and neither will your fellow passengers if your antics cause a delay. Save your jokes for somewhere they’ll be appreciated. Once you land in the USA (and clear immigration!) you’ll be busting to get out of the airport to get your holiday started. There are plenty of options for transport from all international airports in the States – taxis, ride sharing services Uber and Lyft (make sure you have the apps on your phone if you plan on using these), shuttle buses, private car services, public transport and hire cars. Depending on where you’re staying hotels may offer airport pickup – check with hotel staff before you leave home. The website of the airport you’re flying into will have more specific information on ground transportation.
In places like New York, San Francisco and Washington DC, public transport is king. These extensive networks are cheap, reliable and safe. Most major attractions, sports grounds, entertainment venues are well serviced by public transport in the USA’s major cities, so grab yourself a multi-trip pass and ride to your heart’s content.
Ride sharing services Uber and Lyft are huge in the US. They’re super convenient, but just make sure you’re aware of surge pricing as it can substantially increase your fare. Surge pricing can happen more than you might think, particularly in high traffic areas and tourist hotspots like Times Square in New York City. Alternatively, cabs are readily available in most cities.
Although the country is huge, it isn't unheard of to travel across the country by bus (usually the cheapest option). Or if you plan on hiring a car for some, or all of your visit, some states require you to have an International Driver’s Permit (IDP), which must be obtained from your home country before arriving.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit depends entirely on where you want to go and what you want to do. Do you want an unforgettable (and chilly!) white Christmas with ice-skating in Central Park, or are you keen for an endlessly-sunny beach break, chasing gnarly waves and chilled days on the West Coast? One thing to keep in mind is the school holiday periods (particularly spring break and the summer vacation, which, depending on the area, can begin in June and end in late August). This is when top tourist destinations will be at their most crowded and prices at a premium. During the winter months (December-March) the northern states are cold and often experience heavy snowfall (sometimes even blizzards), which can make getting around difficult. If you are visiting the southeast or east coast be aware that tropical storms tend to be at their peak from August to October.
WHERE TO GO
You want it, the USA has got it! From the great outdoors to bustling cities, cultural experiences to sports, the land of stars and stripes has it all. Travellers can explore national parks, diverse geography, historical and pop-cultural icons, and a multitude of regional food and music scenes.
Of course, there are some quintessential USA travel experiences that you just can't miss....
NEW YOUR CITY:
It's no wonder this city never sleeps - there is way too much to see. Must stops include, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Islands, Central Park, Broadway and Times Square, Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal, Metropolitan Museum of Art (the 'Met'), American Museum of Natural History, MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), Rockefeller Centre, Cony Island, Bronx Zoo, and of course 'where Harry met Sally' Katz's delicatessen.
For a truly American sporting experience watch the Superbowl, or head to Yankee Stadium in New York (or any ballpark) to catch a game and find out why baseball is America’s national pastime. Don’t forget to get yourself a hotdog!
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK:
Be sure to pack your camera for these colourful Kodak moments. From the mesmerising colors of the Fountain Paint Pot in the Firehole River Area to coming face to face with the one of the tallest waterfalls in the USA at the Grand Canyon. You'll enjoy awe-inspiring views that leave an imprint forever.
: Let your inhibitions go, and say hello...to San Francisco. Whether you hike or bike, getting yourself across the 1.7 mile Golden Gate bridge is a must. Other quality San Francisco experiences on offer include, foraging for fresh produce at The Ferry Buildling, rolling along on one of San Fran's famous cable cars and paying a visit to Alcatraz -the formidable fortress in the middle of San Francisco Bay known as “The Rock”.
: Known for it's dream-like beauty, you're sure to fall in love with California. The Pacific Coast Highway is well known as one of the most scenic drives in the world. There are few things more spectacular than wating the sun set over the Pacific waves. From beaches and waterfalls, to castles and theme parks, you're sure to find some cool vibes in California.
HOLLYWOOD & BERVERLY HILLS:
Lights, camera, action! A trip to Los Angeles wouldn't be complete without a bit of celebrity spotting and old Hollywood glamour. Hollywood still sparkles with gems of old hotels, LA movie theatres and restaurants. Take a walk along the Hall of Fame, view the Hollywood sign by Lake Hollywood Park. Enjoy the beat of Sunset Boulevard and be sure to beach it in Santa Monica. With movie magic and mega attractions, Universal Studios is must see stop for fantasy and superhero fans.
LAS VEGAS BABY!:
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Known as the ultimate adult playgound, this neon-laden city beckons visitors from all corners of the globe. Whether you're planning a shotgun wedding or a wild weekend, for those that have yet to visit Sin City, we've come up with some fun activities. You could, place a bet at a famous casino, be entranced by dancing fountain displays, shed some light on the city's history at the Neon Museum, and visit Hoover Dam, one of the worlds tallest dams.
Nowhere is riddled with espionage quite as much as Washington DC.
THE STUNNING DEEP SOUTH:
The birthplace of jazz, soul, blues, and rock 'n' roll, the Deep South has music. Americas southern states include Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. Texas and Tennesee are not part of the true deep south, but are rich in Southern America culture and cuisine. Take a wander around Elvis Presley's former home Graceland in Memphis, spend the night in a jazz club in New Orleans and take a carriage through Charleston. Enjoy beautiful driftwood beaches of Louisiana.
ROAD TRIP ROUTE 66:
As cliche as it sounds, it's about the journey and not the destination. The romance of Route 66 continues to captivate travellers from around the world. America’s most famous roadway stretches from Chicago to Santa Monica, passing through 8 states and the diversity is staggering. There is the 'windy city' Chicago, the plains of the Ozarks through Missouri and Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, the blending of Native American, Spanish and Western cultures of New Mexico, the deserts of Arizona and California and the beachfront city of Santa Monica.
MUST KNOW TIPS
There’s no avoiding it, tipping is expected in the USA so make sure you get a stack of $1 bills as soon as you arrive. Generally, it’s custom for you tip anyone who provides a service, provided you are happy with that service. Tip porters who carry your bags ($1-$2 per bag), valet, daily housekeeping, room service delivery staff, and concierge who go out of their way to assist you with something. When dining out, the recommended tip is around 15%-20% of your entire spend (no tipping in fast food restaurants). Cabs expect anywhere from 15-30%. Tips very quickly add up, so keep them in mind when you are budgeting for your trip. In the US the price you see on an item is not the price you pay at the checkout – sales tax (local and/or state) is added. The sales tax you pay depends on which state and city you are in and ranges from around 2% to almost 10% on top of the ticketed price. Only Delaware, Montana, Oregon and New Hampshire don’t have state or local sales tax.
LEGAL DRINKING AGE:
The legal drinking age in the United States is 21 – not 18. If you’re not 21 you won’t get into bars and you won’t be able to purchase alcohol.
PACK TRAVEL INSURANCE:
Americas's medical system is vastly different from ours and you will have to pay for any medical treatment up front. A trip to even just the doctor can be stupidly expensive and in the case of a hospital visit, astronomical. In fact, the USA has some of the highest medical costs in the world. So be sure to buy travel insurance
for your trip to the USA before you leave New Zealand.
Long-haul flights can be a killer, so be kind to yourself. Most airlines will permit travellers to stopover at no extra charge in destinations through which they connect to their final destination, so why not plan a shopover in Singapore or hit an Asian hotspot such as Bankgkok or Kuala Lumpur to break up the journey. Is taking two holidays in one sounding sweet? You could schedule in a restful stop-before-you-flop island getaway in Hawaii, Tahiti or Fiji on your way home.
No matter where you're zooming to, we've got plenty of helpful advice on other popular travel destinations to check out. What are you waiting for? Zoom to it!