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    Travel Guide USA - Discovering the United States

    There are numerous reasons why the USA continues to be one of the most visited places on earth. Its vibrant culinary scene attracts top chefs from all over the world, most of the country's national parks (over 60 in all) have won a major award of some kind and the majority of America's fifty states are blessed with a comfortably mild climate all year round. There's an overwhelming sense of abundance in the USA that keeps tourists going back for more. Stretching from one side of the continent to the other, you can pick up your Auto Europe car hire and head straight for the mountains, driving for miles across heavenly (sometimes unworldly) landscapes and passing classic American city skylines like Los Angeles and San Francisco en route.

    Travelling in the USA you'll see wild waterfalls cascading from cliff-tops, rare rock formations rising like cathedrals from the desert floor, well-preserved colonial architecture and all kinds of wildlife roaming the prairies, savannahs and lush rainforests that comprise this vast multi-faceted tourist mecca. It's the ultimate road trip destination - a vast, varied country offering boundless opportunities for an exciting motoring holiday with family and friends.

    Touring the United States of America is a matter of filling your petrol tank, buckling up and heading towards the far and distant horizon because driving in the USA is as much about the journey as it is reaching your destination, whether it’s for a mini-break in Orlando or a long stay in Las Vegas. From a relaxing drive along the rocky coast of Maine to an island-hopping adventure in Florida Keys, the USA caters for all tastes and budgets, with the added thrills of watching the sunset at the Grand Canyon or enjoying Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

    Auto Europe has been one of the main driving forces of the international car hire industry for almost seventy years. No other company offers so many destinations and pick-up points at prime airport and downtown locations all over the world, with dozens of options available in the USA alone. On the strength of our partnerships with all the world’s leading suppliers, we pride ourselves on being able to provide our clients with the widest possible choice of vehicles, ranging from small, low-cost runarounds to the most prestigious cars seen on the roads today.

    With our Travel Guide USA you'll find all the information you need regarding the many different options available when planning a road trip or motoring holiday in the USA. Find out about some of the country's top tourist destinations like Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, along with many of the things you shouldn’t miss while you are there, such as the stars' gallery on the Hollywood Boulevard. Check out our special promotions to save money with free upgrades, child seats, winter tyres, GPS devices and Auto Europe's special Gold Rate promotion. For help with your booking, our reservation specialists can be contacted seven days a week on +44 123 3225 114 to find you the best car for your needs at the cheapest price in the market.

    Look over the USA Travel Guide topics listed below and take a look at each page for information on a specific aspect of travelling in the USA.

    • USA Car Hire Guide - This guide offers you a full overview of everything you need to know about hiring a car in the USA.
    • USA Driving Information - Learn helpful information about driving in Germany. From tips and driving laws to speed limits, parking and more.
    • USA Fleet Guide Options - Information about our car hire options for your trip to the USA.
    Road Trips Attractions Travel FAQs


    Road trips with my car hire in the USA

    From a relaxing drive along the Pacific coast to a dream motoring holiday on the paradise island of Hawaii, the USA has hundreds of exhilarating road trips offering drivers the possibility of criss-crossing the entire country from north to south and east to west. There’s the whole of California (aka the Sunshine State) to explore with some of the best coast roads in the world, while America’s long Atlantic shoreline is equally appealing to people planning a care-free driving holiday with family or close friends, with plenty of prime stopover options available, including New York and Boston. You can even take advantage of our one-way offers and pick up your car in one city (let's say Los Angeles) and drop it off in another (San Francisco, perhaps). Here are a few of our road trips based on the feedback of many of our customers over the years;

    Pacific Coast Highway: A road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway is a key attraction for visitors to the western states of Washington, Oregon and California. Linking Seattle’s Olympic National Park in the north with the Mexican border in the deep south, this 1,650-mile-long coast road passes many interesting places en route, notably the mouth of the Columbia River (the seventh longest in the USA) and the famous redwood forests of Northern California where some of the trees are more than 300 feet high. Don’t miss a stopover at San Francisco’s enchanting Half Moon Bay where some of America’s most pristine Pacific beaches can be found.

    The Great River Road: A major highlight for visitors to America’s heartlands is the chance to follow the course of the Mississippi River along the Great River Road. Stretching for over 3,000 miles between Minnesota and the Gulf of Mexico, this exhilarating road trip passing through 10 different states takes in many interesting tourist sites along the way, such as the Buffalo Bill Museum in Iowa and the renowned State Museum in New Orleans. And no trip on the Great River Road is complete without a visit to the family home of Mark Twain, author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, one of America's most popular novels.

    Route 66 - USARoute 66: Immortalised by the Rolling Stones song, the world-famous Route 66 runs for 2,448 miles through eight states between Chicago and Santo Monica on California’s Pacific coast. Since 1926, this legendary road has been considered the ultimate of all America’s road trips, with a wealth of interesting attractions to enjoy and many existing remnants still standing from the original road. For many drivers, the most scenic part of Route 66 is the road west from the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River which climbs steadily up from a spectacular desert plateau before twisting past the old gold mines of the imposing Black Mountains.

    Blue Ridge Parkway: Encompassing the two verdant states of Virginia and North Carolina in the eastern United States, the Blue Ridge Parkway is a favoured road trip in the USA and one that promises visitors a true taste of America's natural splendour. Passing through the Appalachian Mountains, this very scenic 469-mile-long road offers a series of stunning landscapes renowned for their rich flora and wide variety of unique attractions, including the Linn Cove Viaduct and the Mile High Swinging Bridge on Grandfather Mountain. Don’t miss the Oconaluftee Indian Village operated by the Cherokee Historical Association for a rare insight into the Native Indian culture.


    What to do in the USA

    Stunningly diverse and breathtakingly beautiful, the USA overflows with tourist appeal, from the main gateway cities (which are destinations in their own right) to the many natural parks that emblazon much of America's interior. The sheer size of the country prevents us from listing a more comprehensive selection of the most important places to visit, but here’s a taste of some of the highlights that await drivers picking up their car hire in the USA;

    • Chicago: With its cloud-piercing skyscrapers and abundance of tourist attractions, Chicago is the perfect base from which to explore the idyllic shoreline of Lake Michigan. First stop for culture vultures is the Art Institute of Chicago, a world-class museum featuring works by Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Picasso etc. Another absolute must for visitors is the elevator trip (all 103 floors of it) to the Willis Tower’s observation deck from which the views extend across the entire city and beyond.

    • Grand Canyon: Nature’s most awe-inspiring masterpiece is without doubt this mighty 277-mile-long chasm etched into the Colorado landscape. Visible from the moon, the Grand Canyon is 17 miles wide in some places and over a mile deep, leaving visitors stunned by the immensity of the scene laid out before (and beneath) them. The scenic 235-mile drive from the South to the more remote North Rim offers road-trippers some truly memorable scenery and plenty of picnic opportunities along the way.

    • Hollywood: The first stop for most visitors to Los Angeles is Tinseltown itself – Hollywood – America’s glitzy show-biz capital. Take a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard and you just might catch a glimpse of an A-lister, particularly in the local bistros and restaurants. If not, then the nearby Walk of Fame immortalises more than 2,000 stars from 1960 onwards. Now a major tourist attraction, Universal Studios encapsulates the movie world with a grand tour, special effects and a series of rides based on the themes of some of the best films produced on its premises.New York - USA

    • New York: Self-styled capital of the world, New York basks in its reputation as the mother of all metropolises. There’s much to see and so little time, of course, but head straight for the American Museum of Natural Museum early morning to see such things as moon rock and the world’s largest cut gem before enjoying a relaxing afternoon stroll in Central Park. Then spend some time in Times Square to soak up the vibe before visiting the sprawling Rockefeller Center, which is best seen during the festive season when the city’s official Christmas tree is unveiled.

    • Golden Gate Bridge: Along with Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of San Francisco’s landmark attractions. Painted in ‘international orange’, it’s a high-maintenance structure which sees millions of pedestrians and cars cross it every year. After an exhilarating walk across this iconic bridge, visitors to San Francisco can relax in one of the world’s most appealing and open-minded cities by taking a tram ride up and down its famously steep streets before appreciating the Victorian-style architecture around Alamo Square.

    • Seattle: With its irresistible Pacific coast location, the vibrant city of Seattle is popular for its coffee culture (the first Starbucks opened downtown in 1971), first-rate fish and seafood restaurants and trend-setting music clubs (grunge originated there). Don’t miss the extensive waterfront area (wonderful in the summer), the amazing Museum of Pop Culture and the impressive Seattle Art Museum with 25,000 works from all over the world. The Seattle Aquarium, likewise, ranks among the world’s best marine attractions.

    • Yellowstone National Park: Founded in 1872, Yellowstone is the oldest national park in the world. Known for its unique geothermal features - most notably Old Faithful, just one of 300 geysers in all – the park is alive with over 10,000 bubbling mud pools, hissing fumaroles and steaming hot springs. Comprising some of America’s most pristine wilderness, Yellowstone is also popular for its natural diversity and abundant wildlife, including bears, wolves and bald eagles.

    A bit of history

    As you would expect from such a large country, America’s history is a very broad subject consisting of many different chapters. Native Americans occupied the nation for thousands of years before Columbus landed nearby on an island of the Bahamas in 1492, the first European to do so. He is credited with the discovery of the New World because his voyage started the era of European colonialism in the Americas. When the Spanish learned of his achievement, many others (called conquistadors) followed, which ultimately led to the Spanish colonisation of the Americas. British settlers arrived in Virginia in the early 17th century and their subsequent war in 1775 with 13 different colonies culminated with the Founding Fathers led by George Washington (who later became the country’s first president) writing the US Declaration of Independence in 1787 and the Bill of Rights in 1791. During the 19th century, the United States gained much more land in the West and began to become industrialized. In 1861, several states in the South attempted to leave the United States to start a new country called the Confederate States of America and this triggered the American Civil War, after which the country developed one of the largest economies in the world. The USA became a major power in the 20th century, fighting in both world wars. The United States then entered another period of wars with Korea, Vietnam and the so-called Cold War with the Soviet Union. In the 1970s and 80s women, Latinos and African-Americans sought more rights by starting a movement that culminated in Barack Obama becoming America’s first African-American president from 2009-2017.


    Frequently Asked Questions about travelling in the USA

    Here follows a list of the most commonly-asked questions which we hope will help you plan your next car rental in the USA. America is a vast country and there are many things to be aware of whilst visiting its fifty states, such as the various time zones (six in total, including Hawaii and Alaska) and what kind of travel adaptor you require in order to be able to use your electrical appliances in America, along with all sorts of handy travel tips for your next trip. If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for in this section, please feel free to call our reservation specialists on duty every day of the week on +44 123 3225 114. They can assist you with your booking and help you select the right vehicle for your next fascinating trip to the USA.Contact the Auto Europe Rental Specialists


    What type of car hire is best for your trip to the USA?

    Making the right choice when you rent a car in the USA can make or break your holiday which is why Auto Europe is proud to be able to offer you the widest choice of vehicles in the market, from small models for city sightseeing to sumptuous SUV and convertibles ideal for that dream trip down Route 66. With Auto Europe you can stretch your dollar further to enjoy huge savings on fuel by selecting one of our Economy- or Midsize-category cars. If you’re travelling with the family or a few friends, then you might want to opt for a more spacious vehicle with room for more people and extra luggage, perhaps something from our Large or Van categories, which are ideal for road trips and long drives between states. Whether you're planning to see the sights of Miami or plan to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, then be sure to treat yourself to the car of your dreams that will make your holiday in the USA even more memorable.

     

    What is the currency in the USA?

    The US dollar comes in $1, $, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 denominations. One dollar comprises 100 cents divided into pennies (1 cent), nickels (5 cents) dimes (10 cents) and quarters (25 cents). Banks are generally open from 9am-5pm Mon-Thu, closing at 6pm on Fri. With an ATM card you can withdraw cash just about anywhere although it should be noted that there’s normally a charge for using a different bank’s network. Credit and debit cards are the most widely accepted form of payment at major hotels, restaurants and the majority of retailers.

     

    What time zone is the USA in?

    The continental US covers four different time zones, plus there’s another each for Hawaii and Alaska. The Eastern zone is five hours behind Greenwich Mean time (GMT), so 5pm in London is midday in New York. Beginning at Chicago and ending in Texas, for instance, the Central time zone is an hour behind the Eastern zone while the Mountain zone encompassing the Rocky Mountains and much of the Southwest is two hours behind. Incorporating the coastal states and Nevada, the Pacific time zone is three hours behind New York, meaning that when Big Ben strikes 5pm it’s 9am in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Lastly, Alaska and Hawaii are 9 and 10 hours behind GMT, respectively.

     

    Electricity – Do I need a power adapter in the USA?

    The USA operates on a 120V supply voltage and 60Hz. Most common appliances will function with either 50 or 60 cycle current. There are two associated plug types - types A and B. Plug type A is the plug which has two flat parallel pins and plug type B is the plug which has two flat parallel pins and a grounding pin. You may also need a converter to change the voltage from 110 volts to 220 volts.

     

    Do I need a visa to travel to the USA?

    Having joined in 1988, the UK is an active member of the US Visa Waiver Program, meaning that British citizens can apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) visa waiver to travel to the United States. The ESTA allows UK travellers visit the USA for tourism, business, transit, medical and short-study purposes without a visa for up to 90 days per visit. However, security measures intended to monitor the increased threat of terrorism necessitates the pre-screening of travellers prior to their arrival in the United States, so you should expect some border delays. Applying for an ESTA is a simple procedure that requires the following: a valid passport from a Visa Waiver Programme country, a valid e-mail address, your home address and phone number plus emergency point of contact (phone and e-mail) and US$14 payable by MasterCard, VISA, American Express, Discover (JCB or Diners Club only) and PayPal.

    British Embassy Washington
    3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
    Washington DC 20008, USA
    Website: www.gov.uk
    Telephone: +1 202 588 6500

     

    Which are the most common phrases in the USA?

    Here are a few common differences between British English and American English relating specifically to car hire in the USA;

    Car hire - Car rental
    Excess - Deductible
    Voucher - Confirmation
    Petrol - Gas
    Boot - Trunk

    In some cities, such as Miami or San Diego, you will find that Spanish is spoken almost as much as English. Here are some key phrases in Spanish that might come in useful during your visit;

    Where is the closest police station? - ¿Dónde está la comisaría de policía más cercana?
    Where is the closest hospital? - ¿Dónde está el hospital más cercano?
    Where is the closest ATM machine? - ¿Dónde hay un cajero automático?
    Where is [location]? - ¿Dónde está [location]?
    Can I pay by credit card? - ¿Puedo pagar con tarjeta de crédito?
    Can I pay by debit card? - ¿Puedo pagar con tarjeta de débito?
    How much does this cost? - ¿Cuánto cuesta?
    Thank you - Gracias
    Keep the change - Quédese con el cambio


    Useful Links

    USA Airport Information

    Inspiration for a literary road trip through the USA

    Travel inspo - Destination of the month - USA

    Official Tourism Website of the USA

    Gov.uk USA Travel Advice