Land Area – 9.83 million sq km. Yes, it’s even bigger than Australia and is the third or fourth largest country in the world by total area.
Population – A massive 312 million.
Capital – Washington DC
Government – The USA is home to the world’s oldest federal government. Its citizens are subject to three levels of government – federal, state and local government.
Health – Visitor medical insurance is a necessity as proof is needed that you have it before a travel visa is issued.
Safety – There is a perception that the USA is a dangerous place to be, due to its relatively relaxed rules on handguns and the notoriety of inner city gang culture, however most Americans will have never witnessed gun crime. There are places to avoid when out and about, do your research and make sure that you stick to safe areas, especially at night. Take care of “bump and rob” attacks, if your car is bumped, make sure you pull into a well-lit area with other people around, to avoid becoming a victim of a robbery.
Law – The minimum drinking age is 21 and the drink drive limit is the same as it is in the UK. 22% of all fatal accidents in 2010 were caused by drink driving. Marijuana is illegal in the USA. The minimum age for gambling is aged 21, the sexual age of consent is 18 and the legal driving age is 16. Smoking laws vary widely throughout the USA – some states do not regulate smoking at all, whereas some ban smoking nearly everywhere, including outside areas.
Driving – Driving is on the right. A full UK driving licence will be fine for up to one year. Most cars in the USA are automatic. Traffic laws vary a great deal from state to state, another difference is that yellow lines signify the centre of the road and white the edge.
Electricity – UK appliances can only be used in the USA if they are rated with the power supply for the US and the UK e.g. 120v/60Hz and 240v/50Hz. If they are not marked in this way, you may still be able to use a travel adaptor.
Transport and Travel – The USA is a very car-reliant country, and is home to the classic road trip. Public transport provision is patchy, you may choose to use the extensive long-distance bus network or a train pass. Flying is the preferred form of travel due to the long distances involved in getting around the country, last minute deals can often be found. There is a wide range of accommodation available, from humble hostels right up to prestigious world-famous hotels.
Costs – A beer costs around £2.50, a takeaway about £4 and dinner for two in a local restaurant with wine costs about £20. Petrol in the USA currently costs 26p a litre compared to 81p a litre in the UK.
Money – The US dollar is currently worth about 63p.