Knowing how to get around will not only make your life in the U.S. a lot easier, but can also help make you feel more like a local. Public transit, walking, and riding a bike are great ways to navigate and see your neighborhood, your city, and beyond. Plus, if you live within walking or biking distance of your workplace and a grocery store, you can eliminate most of your daily transportation costs.
For more information on the various types of transit, please read below.
LOCAL PUBLIC TRANSITClick to Open
Depending on where you live and work, there may be a subway, a commuter rail, or buses available. 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 more about the local system in your area. You can also find routes and schedules online.
STATEWIDE AND NATIONWIDE PUBLIC TRANSITClick to Open
You can travel between cities and states by bus, rail, or airplane.
America has an excellent nationwide highway system that is utilized by safe and reliable bus companies such as Greyhound, which serves more than 2,000 destinations across the country.
Train travel throughout the U.S. is offered by Amtrak, which serves more than 500 communities across the country. Both short and long-distance routes are available.
The U.S. has airports in just about every city. Book early to get the best fares. Here are some of the most commonly used sites for comparing and purchasing airplane tickets:
BICYCLINGClick to Open
It’s easy to find an inexpensive used bicycle at a yard sale or flea market, through online classifieds, or at a used bicycle shop. Make sure you purchase a helmet and lock, and keep your bicycle in good working condition.
Please note: Using a bicycle as a means of transit is less common in the U.S. than in many other countries. Because of this, American motorists are not as accustomed to sharing the road. To ensure you stay safe while riding a bike, please read and follow this advice:
- In the U.S., bicyclists are considered vehicle operators and are required to follow and obey traffic laws, including stop signs and right-of-way rules.
- 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 is not 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.
DRIVINGClick to Open
CIEE doesn’t recommend that our participants drive while in the U.S. unless public transportation is not available in your area. This is due to the high cost of driving and also the need for car insurance. If you do need to drive, you will either need to purchase or rent a car. You must also have a valid driver’s license.
Please note: Most car rental companies require a credit card, and may require an international permit. Most companies will not rent to anyone under age 25.
Every state in the U.S. requires drivers to have auto insurance that provides medical and liability coverage, regardless of whether you rent or own the car you are driving. Here is some advice to follow when choosing insurance:
- Buy more than the minimum for both medical and liability. It is more expensive, but the coverage is necessary if you are involved in an accident.
- Rental companies offer a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). Purchase this insurance to cover damages if you are in an accident.
- CIEE does not offer auto insurance; you will have to arrange that for yourself. There are many options. Consider a comprehensive policy that covers events like theft.
In the event of an accident, you are required to stop. When it is 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 is a crime to leave the scene of a multivehicle accident without doing this. Be sure to call your car insurance company and CIEE at the earliest opportunity.
Every year, 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; it is also 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 drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The injury, damage, and legal consequences can be severe. The legal limit for alcohol is very low; even one or two drinks can put you over.
- Do not drive when you are 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 is illegal in most states.
- Be prepared for bad weather and treacherous roads.
- Watch out for pedestrians, motorcycles, and bicycles.