The USA has a very efficient network of roads and highways running through cities and between states, so travelling by car is by far the most common mode of transport. Some urban areas can be congested, but generally the road capacity is good. In some states foreign nationals may be allowed to drive on a licence from their home country or an International Driving Permit for a limited period. However, it is better to obtain a US licence as even if the state doesn’t require you to, your insurance company might. Vehicle insurance requirements also depend on your state, so make sure you are aware of local laws.
Unlike many countries, the majority of cars are automatic and the controls can seem quite significantly different to begin with. In the USA you drive on the right, there is no national speed limit and traffic laws differ from state to state. For more information about traffic legislation in a particular state, or to apply for a licence, visit the relevant local driving authority website.
Taxi cabs are widely available in most major American cities and can be booked in most small towns as well. Fares are usually metered but vary from state to state and drivers will expect to be tipped, in line with the culture for most service industries in the USA.
Bus transportation is generally good in most states, although the car culture leaves it somewhat underused. Regular bus services operate in all major cities and some places also have trolleybus systems. Day tickets are normally bought on the bus, although change may not be given.
Travelling by coach is one of the most cost-effective means of getting around America. Although not the quickest way to travel between states, coaches are reliable, clean and comfortable, and usually have air-conditioning and onboard toilets. The most famous operator is Greyhound, which has depots across the USA, while competitors like Trailways and Megabus help ensure that prices remain low.
Rail travel in the USA is not normally considered the best way to travel long distance as it is much slower than flying but lacks the cost-savings that coach travel offers. There are some higher-speed services and trains are useful for regular commuters to get in and out of urban areas for work. The national rail operator is Amtrak, which runs services across 46 states and into Canada.
Trams and underground rail
Many major cities including New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco have comprehensive underground rail systems or tramways, while many smaller towns and cities run one or two tramlines for commuters.
Air transport is the most time-efficient way to travel in the USA, with the longest mainland domestic flights taking less than 7 hours. Most states have several airports and many cities have more than one international airport, giving a good choice of airlines and services to countries around the world. There are also reasonably-priced domestic flights operating regularly throughout the country. At one time, domestic air travel was treated like a bus service with minimal security, but now you can expect to encounter the same checks as you would for an international service.
Other ways to get around
In many coastal states there are ferry services or water taxis between towns or to outlying islands, while inland waterways may also offer some means of transport. Cycling can be a great way to get around in urban areas, but be aware that some towns are more cyclist-friendly than others.