With a surface area of almost 10 million km², the United States is one of the largest countries in the world. Planning a road trip through the USA is therefore not the easiest thing in the world. Because of its size and diversity of nature and culture, however, the country has a lot to offer. This article outlines a possible route along the must-sees in the country and provides tips to take into account before starting your round trip, including applying for a travel permit.
Transport and driving licence
In order to see much, you will naturally have to travel long distances. When you go on a road trip, you can decide for yourself what you will visit and when. As far as signposting is concerned, signs clearly indicate where you need to go and every exit is numbered. The roads in the USA are wide, and even in built-up areas you will find several lanes next to each other. Be aware of the fact that you can overtake on the right on motorways and that it is permitted to turn right at a red traffic light, unless otherwise indicated.
In theory, a UK or Irish driving licence should suffice when renting a car, but it is recommended purchasing an international driving licence before departure. This is a translation of your official driving licence into several languages. You may be asked for an international driving licence in many countries outside the EU. The international driving licence is only valid in combination with your UK or Irish driving licence. The minimum age for renting a car in the USA is 21, and drivers up to the age of 25 are charged a surcharge per day. Payment is usually by credit card. If you or your travel companions prefer not to drive yourself, there is always the option of a group tour. Documents needed to enter the USA as a UK or EU citizen are a valid passport and an ESTA or US visa.
Road trip west coast America
A well-known road trip is the one along Americaʼs west coast, through the states of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. If we take a look at the map, we see that geographically only the state of California is located on the west coast. However, the term is often used to refer not only to California, but also to the states of Nevada, Utah and Arizona. This road trip starts in San Francisco. When you drive east from San Francisco, you will find a large number of national parks. It is a good idea to plan ahead which national parks you would like to visit. After visiting one or more national parks, you can continue your journey in the direction of Las Vegas and the coastal city of Los Angeles, where everything is big, bigger, biggest! The motorway along the coastline then brings you back to San Francisco, where your road trip comes to an end.
So, whether you like to explore Los Angeles on a city trip or admire its natural beauty, this tour has it all. The tour can also be extended if you have more time at your disposal. In that case, you could go further inland, for example, to Colorado or New Mexico. Below are just a few of the highlights that can be found on the route. In addition to the attractions listed below, there are many other national parks and cities along the route that are well worth visiting.
San Francisco is a good starting and ending point for your round trip. The city is located on the peninsula of the same name, San Francisco. With tourist attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown and the island of Alcatraz, the city is a popular destination for holidaymakers. The Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic 1,970-metre long suspension bridge that was completed in the year 1937. Its striking colour and its enormous length make it one of San Franciscoʼs most recognisable symbols. The bridge offers a beautiful view of the city. The same applies to Alcatraz Island, which you can visit by ferry. A visit to the old prison is a must while you are there. Tickets must however be purchased well in advance.
America has countless national parks. You can visit as many as you like during your trip, but you definitely do not want to miss the Grand Canyon. As the name suggests, the national park is named after the enormous gorge in the landscape, created by the waters of the Colorado River. The canyon has been elected one of the seven wonders of nature. Because of the Colorado River, which carved the huge canyon out of the rock, the Grand Canyon is still getting deeper - about 16 inches every 1000 years. The exact age of the Grand Canyon is still unknown. Research into its age yields results ranging from 6 million to as high as 70 million years. The fact that the other side of the gorge can be seen clearly from any point is due to the low humidity.
Only 210 kilometres from the Grand Canyon the city is known for its many modern and extravagant casinos where you can try your luck. Since Las Vegas is dominated by the entertainment industry, there are also many regular shows. Well-known examples are the water artwork in front of the Bellagio or the evening parade of the Fremont Street Experience.
Los Angeles is only a 4.5-hour drive away from Las Vegas. Los Angeles is not exactly known for its sights, but more for its variety of districts and cultures. The most famous district is, of course, Hollywood. You will probably recognise places from films. If you do not meet the celebrities in person, you can still find them on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In Los Angeles, the sun shines 329 days a year.
Have you already arranged your ESTA or visa? For a holiday, business trip or transfer in the United States of America, you need to have a valid travel authorisation. For travellers from the United Kingdom or Ireland, an ESTA, an electronic travel authorisation for the United States, will suffice in most cases. Check in advance whether you meet the requirements to apply for an ESTA. Once the ESTA has been granted, it is valid for two years and you may stay in the USA for a maximum of 90 days during each visit. That should be long enough to fully enjoy the diverse American landscapes and cities during your road trip.