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United States of America

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Expert tip

The US Dollar is accepted in many countries beyond the States. If you find yourself with excess cash on your last day, consider holding on to it rather than making those last-minute souvenir purchases at the airport. Those quarters, dimes and nickels might come in handy on one of your future vacations abroad.

ATM access

5/5 stars – there are ATMs everywhere.

Tipping

Failing to tip in the USA won’t get you arrested, but it is a social faux pas. Tipping is expected in most situations where it would be considered a nicety in other countries.

  • Taxi drivers: 10-15% of the fare
  • Restaurant waiters: 15-20% of the bill (25% is polite if dining with a group of more than 4 people)
  • Bartenders: US$1-$2 per drink
  • Hotel staff: A dollar or 2 for porters, about US$5 for room cleaners, 10-15% of the bill for room service, up to US$5 for valets, and various amounts for the concierge based on how much effort they have gone to in assisting you.

Bargaining scale

1/5 stars – bargaining is not really acceptable.

Haggling is not really part of the USA’s culture. The few exceptions include negotiating the price for a large purchase such as  a house or a car, but you probably won’t be buying either of those during your holiday!

Card access

Debit and credit cards are as readily accepted throughout America, and you can use them as you would be used to in Australia or New Zealand.

However, with many currency exchanges entailing exorbitant transaction fees, it’s often a good idea to have some US cash on hand from your first day in the country.

Remember to also notify your bank of your travel plans so that any card transactions don’t attract any undue attention or get your bank accounts frozen during your holiday.

Cost of a coffee

US$1.50-$4

Transport

Outside of the major cities, public transport isn’t particularly common or useful for travellers in the USA. If practical, you may find it more convenient to hire a car. In places that do have a reliable metro or bus network, travel prices are inexpensive (up to US$3 for a ride).

The average taxi in the USA will charge you US$2.50 as a base price and then US$2-$3 for every mile travelled. Don’t forget to tip!

Pickpocket security rating

3/5 stars – theft is possible.

Pickpocketing has been describedas a dying art in the USA, but tourists are still targeted. You should exercise a sensible amount of caution when in crowded areas, especially when using public transport.

Scammers and ripoffs

Many of the common scams in the USA, such as telemarketing frauds, phishing and debt collection scams, are targeted at residentsrather than tourists. However, you should still exercise cautionwhenever anything strikes you as suspicious. In particular, if you are approached by a charity requesting donations, you should do some research to verify their authenticity before handing over any cash.

Departure tax

Departure taxes are generally included in airfares for travellers leaving the USA.

Visa costs

Australians and New Zealanders travelling to the USA for tourism purposes can usually visit without a visa through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

To take advantage of this program, you must have a current passport that is machine readable and apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA), which costs US$14.

You don't need to pay any more than this for an agent to do your visa for you. Its easy to do online yourself, and any assistance is just a ripoff.

However, if you are not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, you will need to pay US$160 for a visa.

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