Your full Wanderlust guide to

United States

United States
A jazz band in New Orleans’ French Quarter (Shutterstock)

Wonder-packed national parks, diverse cities, epic road trips, ancient Indigenous sites: the USA’s roster of travel experiences is more befitting of a continent than a country. New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles star in countless Hollywood blockbusters – but the US offers so much more than these celebrity metropolises.

Nowhere sounds better than the South. You’ll find snug jazz clubs in New Orleans; honky tonks in Nashville, and raw juke joints in the Mississippi Delta. Beyond the glittering soundtrack, poignant trails tell Civil Rights stories and National Park sites remember the Civil War battles that shaped American history.

In the Southwest, red-rock spires and canyons, cacti-filled deserts and centuries-old Puebloan cliff dwellings are parcelled into stirring national parks, while two of the country’s quirkiest cities – Portland and Seattle – rise from an emerald tree canopy in the Pacific Northwest.

In the northeast, New England unfolds in a whirl of Gilded Age mansions, lighthouse-studded shores and artsy small cities, and the Midwest’s travel bounty goes way beyond skyscraper-filled Chicago – from adventures on the ocean-like Great Lakes to cultural odysseys in some of the USA’s most underrated cities, such as Cincinnati and Detroit.

Then expect heart-stopping wildlife encounters everywhere from Florida’s sprawling Everglades (alligators, crocodiles) to Yellowstone National Park (bison, elk, bears) to Alaska’s spellbinding wildernesses (moose, Dall sheep and yet more grizzlies). The US is primed for any adventure.

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Dive into the USA’s culture and heritage

Washington DC
336.5 million
Int. dial code
Travellers from 41 destinations, including the UK, are part of the US Visa Waiver Program – check the requirements for your country at
Time zone
Eastern (EST) GMT-5, (EDT) GMT-4. Central (CST) GMT-6 (CDT), GMT-5. Mountain (MST) GMT-7 (MDT), GMT-6. Pacific (PST) GMT-8 (PST), GMT-7.
Alaskan (AKST) GMT-9 (AKDT), GMT-8.
 Hawaii (HST) GMT-10.
Plug type
Type A and B
American Dollar USD

When to go to the USA

The best time to visit the US is entirely dependent on what you want to do. 

The climate fluctuates widely across the country. Summer is generally the brightest time in northern areas, from New England to the Great Lakes region, while the south is best visited in the cooler shoulder seasons.

Planning a trip to one of America’s most popular national parks? You’ll have a smoother experience if you explore outside of peak summer season, when crowds and traffic have thinned. Winter adventures – from snowshoeing to skiing to sledding – abound in the USA’s northern reaches and mountain areas.

You can also pin your trip to one of the USA’s many festivals. Head to New Orleans, Louisiana or Mobile, Alabama for Mardi Gras in February; Chicago, Illinois for lakefront music festival Lollapalooza in August; or San Antonio, Texas for one of the country’s largest Day of the Dead celebrations in November.

International airports

You can catch direct flights to many places in the USA.

Key international gateways include John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) in New York City; O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California; and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) in Atlanta, Georgia.

New direct routes from London and other major European cities are continually added, allowing travellers to easily explore lesser visited pockets of the country, such as Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati. 

Getting around in the USA

The great American road trip is part of the USA’s national psyche, and long distances and sparse public transport means you’ll need to hire a car in many areas. Fabled road trips include California’s coastal Highway 1; the mountainous Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia; and historic Route 66, which slices through eight states. In some regions, an increased volume of electric vehicle charging stations means you can lower your carbon emissions while on the road. 

There are also good train networks across parts of the USA. Key Amtrak routes include the California Zephyr, which travels all the way from Chicago to San Francisco, and the Empire Builder, which heads west from Chicago out to Washington state. Brightline trains connect parts of Florida including Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

If you’re on a budget, Greyhound buses service vast swathes of the USA, though amenities are basic and other modes of transport are often more comfortable. 

Once you’re in the USA’s major cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington DC, extensive subway systems and light-rail trains provide convenient ways to get around.

Health & safety

Visitors to the USA should exercise the usual caution and common sense in major metropolitan areas when it comes to their personal security and possessions.

Gun crime in the US routinely makes the news, but it very rarely affects travellers. 

Tornadoes and hurricanes are a part of life in some US states: if a situation should arise while travelling, follow all evacuation orders and instructions from emergency services. Check for more advice. 

The national emergency number is 911.

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