Home Page Up One Level




United States of America



Fuel costs

Diesel: $0.50 - 0.60/litre (Petrol $0.50 - 0.70)

Places to stay/camp

Great infrastructure for tourists, but camping can be very expensive (by our standards) at $10-25 per night for the two of us.

Highway rest areas generally very clean, overnight stopping may be prohibited or limited to 4 - 8 hours. Bush camping in National Forest is generally possible (and free), but in National Parks there are almost always only designated sites which are often fully booked, and often pricey.

Walmart, bless 'em, allows RVs to overnight in their car-parks, unless it's locally prohibited. We spent the night in a few shopping mall car parks, but it can be noisy and you run the risk of being told to move on (which didn't happen to us).

Other information GMT-5 to -8 hrs. (-9 hrs for Alaska). Most states use daylight saving, but slightly different switching dates to Europe.

No visas necessary for EU passport holders if you have a machine-readable passport (i.e. quite a new one). Instead you come in the Visa Waiver programme, which limits your stay to 90 days. This cannot be extended under any circumstances, as we discovered! They won't issue you with a new 90-day waiver if you exit to Mexico or Canada and want to come back into the States, you can only use the remaining time of the original waiver. If you fly in from another continent you will get a new 90-day waiver. We were lucky, as they issued us with a new 90-day waiver when we entered Alaska from Canada...

Incredibly cheap: Anything electronic, durable goods, cars, generic clothing (branded clothing is often on sale very cheaply too), fast food, soft drinks, alcohol.

Incredibly expensive: Insurance, fresh food of any type (no wonder the locals eat fast food so much!), restaurants, services of almost any type, movies (cinema or DVD rental, Land Rover Defenders.

Public Internet access is surprisingly sparse and expensive - some places were charging $12/hr! Public libraries are a good bet, it is usually free, but often busy, and there may be a registration process which can be time-consuming. If you have a laptop with a wireless card you can access several commercial wireless networks with various cost options (like $10/day). Borders, Starbucks, Flying J truck stops etc. have these hotspots. But if you have a wireless card just try scanning around in built-up areas - usually you will find several "open" networks, and after a minute or two to get assigned an IP address, voila! Internet access! Look for "infrastructure" type wireless networks without encryption.

Very good roads to everywhere, but you can find interesting back roads if you look for them. Very few toll roads, apart from some bridges, tunnels etc. Quality of driving is similar to Europe i.e. generally good, but variable. They don't use international-standard road signs and the signs are not as clear as they could be, but everything works well.

Spectacular natural wonders abound in the USA, and it's almost all very accessible. Unfortunately that does mean it can be crowded. Buy an annual National Parks card for $50, which will allow a couple into almost all National Parks in the USA. The first two parks we went into would have cost us more than $50, had we paid the individual entrance fees instead.

We found the Americans to be very friendly, interesting, and helpful people on an individual basis. The level of service in business for which America is famous, was notably absent, however (with some exceptions, of course). Also, we were appalled at how inward-looking the country is.  International travel for Americans generally means travel to Mexico or Canada. The evident extreme patriotism doubtless contributes to the growing chasm between the way world issues are seen by the USA and the rest of the world. There is no meaningful news coverage or visible public debate of world issues. What is unclear is whether the almost total lack of external input is deliberate on the part of government and/or the media, or just sloppiness or apathy. And then there is this major obsession with the War on Terror. Instead of helping restore public confidence in the world (which is generally benevolent in our experience) the US government (and media?) seem bent on nurturing and manipulating public fear. In undermining the foundation of the American values of freedom and individual rights, the terrorists who destroyed the Twin Towers in NYC seem to have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.  "The need for security" now seems to dominate and hamstring much of business and private life in the USA.

Having said all that, of course every country is a mix of people, and we met some absolutely wonderful (and very erudite) people in the States, who made us realize that this is almost certainly a temporary malaise.