Knowing your way around will help you feel like a local. Public transit, walking, and riding a bike are great ways to navigate your local area. Plus, if you choose a place to live that’s within walking or biking distance of your workplace and a grocery store, you can eliminate almost all daily transportation costs!
Local public transit
Depending on where you are, there may be a subway, a commuter rail, or buses available, and fares are usually quite affordable. Many local bus lines now use transit cards and also accept cash (exact change only). Your colleagues can tell you about the local system, and you can find routes and schedules online.
Traveling between cities
You can travel between cities by bus, rail, or airplane.
America has an excellent nationwide highway system, and bus service is quite reliable. Greyhound is the major nationwide bus company in the United States, serving more than 2,000 destinations. The company offers weekly and monthly passes, allowing unlimited travel.
Long-distance train travel throughout the United States is offered by Amtrak, with high-speed trains in a few areas. You can get an international visitor pass good for up to 30 days.
The United States has airports in just about every city, and every part of the country is served by airlines. Book early to get the best fares. Here are some of the most commonly used sites for air travel:
It’s easy to find an inexpensive used bicycle at a yard sale or flea market, through online classifieds, or at a bicycle shop. Make sure you purchase a helmet and lock, and keep your bicycle in good working condition.
In the United States, bicyclists are considered vehicle operators and are required to follow and obey traffic laws, including stop signs and right-of-way rules.
Using a bicycle as a means of transit is less common in the United States than in many parts of the world, even in the most congested cities. Because of this, American motorists are not as accustomed to sharing the road the road as motorists in your home country may be. Here are some important safety tips:
- Always wear a helmet, even for short trips
- Wear brightly colored clothing
- Install reflectors and lights on the front and back of the bicycle, and always use lights at night
- Avoid riding your bike at night if at all possible
- Ride with the flow of traffic
- Never ride on the highway or where there isn’t a bike lane or wide shoulder
- Use hand signals so others can anticipate your actions
- Check your tires, brakes, and gears regularly
For more information on bicycle safety, proper hand signals, and more, visit BicycleSafe.com.
America is well-known for its car culture. Driving can be a fun way to explore and is very flexible, but there are disadvantages. CIEE doesn’t recommend driving for participants because of the high cost and the need for insurance, but you may need to rent or purchase a car if public transportation is not available in your area. In that case, you must have a valid driver’s license. Most car rental companies require a credit card, and some of them also require an international permit. Note that most companies will not rent a car to anyone under age 25.
Every state in the United States requires auto insurance that provides medical and liability coverage, whether you rent or own a car.
- Buy more than the minimum for both medical and liability. It’s more expensive, but the coverage is necessary if you’re involved in an accident.
- Rental companies offer a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). Purchase this insurance to cover damages if you’re in an accident.
- CIEE does not offer auto insurance; you’ll have to arrange for it yourself. There are many options. Consider a comprehensive policy that covers events like theft.
If you should get into an accident, stop. When it’s safe to do so, get out and check to make sure no one is hurt. Call the police. Exchange insurance information with the other driver. It’s a crime to leave the scene of a multivehicle accident without doing this. Call your car insurance company, and contact CIEE at the earliest opportunity.
Every year, many thousands of people are seriously injured or killed in road accidents. Keep safe by following these guidelines:
- Wear your seat belt at all times. It can save your life, and it’s the law.
- Obey the rules and speed limits posted on the road. Go to your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website to learn about U.S. road signs.
- Never, ever drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The injury, damage, and legal consequences can be severe. The legal limit for alcohol is very low, and even one or two drinks can put you over it.
- Don’t drive when you’re sleepy. If you find yourself losing concentration, pull off the road, lock the doors of your car, and take a nap.
- Do not use your mobile phone while driving. Use of hand-held mobile phones is illegal in many places, and even if you have a hands-free device, talking on the phone is a distraction.
- Never text while driving. In addition to being extremely dangerous, it’s illegal in most states.