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United States
United States

The American nation-continent

United States in short

Skiing in the mountains, sunbathing by the sea, hiking in the great parks, strolling through the megacities or the small towns. There's something for everyone, whatever the season. 50 states and as many travel possibilities. What's more, the United States is an ideal destination for families. Children will love visiting the various theme parks. Disneyworld, in Florida and California, attracts young and old every year. The beaches of Florida and California are renowned for their relaxation. Sports fans can enjoy surfing and golf, as well as baseball and basketball. Lovers ofart, museums and culture will be delighted to discover New York museums such as the Moma (Museum of Modern Art), the Met Museum****(Metropolitan Museum of Art) and the Guggenheim, as well as the many Broadway shows.

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A consumer society par excellence that invented giant shopping centres, large-format advertising and Santa's red suit, the United States is sure to delight shopping aficionados. New York, of course, is a magnet for window shoppers, as are Beverly Hills and South Tahoe Lake. California's Nappa Valley and Sonoma Valley also produce excellent wines that even the French have recognised as superior to those of their Bordeaux neighbours.

More than a country, a continent! Immense and protean, don't try to discover it all in one trip. The United States alone is an infinite number of destinations. Whether you're more inclined towards city tourism, culture, nature or sport, you're sure to find what you're looking for, and why not a glimpse of the American dream.

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Tourists can travel to the United States every year and rediscover it time and time again: new miracles of nature, deserts, forests from another time as far as the eye can see, gigantic buildings, extraordinary cities, ghost towns and special encounters. The multiculturalism of the streets of New York, the colours of the Rocky Mountains, the richness of Los Angeles or the illuminations of the gambling capital, Las Vegas: the United States will provide you with unique experiences.

A young and dynamic nation

A relatively young nation, the United States is no less interesting historically. The French will find a few landmarks in Louisiana, notably the French quarter of New Orleans. They will discover the Cajun people, descendants of French immigrants. Fans of the Wild West can relive the conquest of the West in California. This young nation has never stopped developing and showing its power to the whole world. Seeing the magnificent buildings of New York will give you a vivid idea of what this start-up nation achieved for its time, in terms of technical prowess. The United States was also a forerunner in many areas ofentertainment, such as music production (including the famous musicals), theatre, cartoons and cinema. The cinematograph may have been a French invention, but the Americans invented the industry!

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When it comes to technology, who hasn't heard of California' s Silicon Valley, where GAFA was born? It's true that in the United States, it's particularly easy to start a business. Perhaps this is why the United States has become the leader in new technologies. A reputation that has not wavered over the years.

How to approach the States

Let's face it, you won't be able to discover the United States in a single trip. You'll have to come back again and again. For a first trip, we advise you to focus on what you want to see, depending on how much time you have. Concentrate on a single state: New York, Miami and Florida, San Francisco, Los Angeles and California, New Orleans and Louisiana. But of course, all American regions deserve your attention. It's up to you to decide, according to your desires, your interests and the time you have available.

The United States is an ideal destination for families. Everything is adapted: hotels, cars and transport, welcome in public places. Children play an important role in American society and they are pampered. So you'll be very welcome to bring your family, large or small.

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The United States is a destination that lends itself perfectly to different types of travel. Whether you choose to hire a motorhome or take a road trip by car, you'll find everything you need. The roads are good and well-maintained, so you can cruise at a decent speed. Be careful, however, not to exceed the speed limits, as the Americans don't play around with infringements.

When it comes to shopping, we recommend that you leave with an empty suitcase and fill it up as you go along. Prices are lower than in France.

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What traditions do you need to know about?

The same basic rules apply, as they do almost everywhere else in the United States. Be courteous, smile, be punctual, respect the rules and the queues in public places and shops. Follow the highway code to the letter; the police are not joking about this. Stop at pedestrian crossings if there are pedestrians. Smokers are particularly unwelcome in California. Smoking is banned in all public places. With a few exceptions, there is no haggling in shops. Americans don't kiss each other on the cheek, it's not part of their culture. But to show their sympathy, they will opt for the hug. All you have to do is hug each other and pat each other on the back. Easy and less risky these days! Or, if you don't know the person, shake hands. In restaurants, wait for someone to seat you. Don't be offended if the service is fast, because in dollar-countries, time is money. On the positive side, if you don't finish your meal, don't hesitate to ask to take it away in a doggy bag, which is common practice in the United States. They won't look at you funny.

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If you hate air conditioning, welcome to the land of air conditioning. Americans are in the habit of turning up the heat. This will also be the case in public places and restaurants, so always carry a jumper with you even if it's 40 degrees outside. Don't forget that religion is still very important in American culture and in everyday life (school, courts, politics, etc.). Many Americans are believers and are proud to belong to their parish. In terms of festivities, Americans pay particular attention to certain holidays such as Thanksgiving, St Patrick's Day and Halloween. All Americans carefully prepare for these celebrations.

Another important moment in the life of an American is the prom and spring break. It's a week when students let go of all the stresses they've been under during their studies. They usually choose sunny destinations like Cancun. The bank holidays, 4 July, is an important moment for Americans. Parades, marching bands, tricolour flags, fireworks, barbecues, picnics, baseball matches... every family celebrates Independence Day in its own way.

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The must-sees

All the must-sees

How to get there?

Cross the Atlantic with a plane ticket to the United States. New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Las Vegas are certainly some of the cities that make people dream. North America is full of remarkable sites that are a must-see in your lifetime, whether they be major cities or natural sites such as Death Valley, the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls. With a plane ticket to the United States, you're guaranteed an unforgettable holiday that you won't soon forget. So swap your euros for dollars, compare flights to the United States and get ready to see the sights.

For the French, the east coast and the north (Chicago) of the USA are particularly well served and many airlines can take you across the Atlantic, including AIR FRANCE, but also American and European airlines. There are direct flights to NEW YORK, BOSTON, PHILADELPHIA and AUSTIN, as well as MIAMI and ORLANDO in Florida. For the west coast, you'll probably have to take a connecting flight.

Where to stay?

The United States is both a big country and the home of marketing. These two characteristics have left a lasting mark on the country's hotel offer. Cheap hotels in the United States can be motels on the outskirts of town or city-centre establishments reserved for backpackers. There are also apartment hotels, initially designed for business travellers. In recent years, the economic crisis has led to the emergence of designer hotels at more affordable rates than the luxury brands.

Finding a cheap hotel in the United States is relatively easy. Niagara Falls is a prime example. They have a mixture of motels, for domestic tourists, and small hotels or bed and breakfasts more to the taste of European travellers. A city like New York can be confusing when it comes to hotels. A hotel for the less affluent traveller is the same price as a popular apartment-hotel in the Bronx. So when you're paying around twenty dollars for accommodation, you need to be careful. The tourist sites in the rest of the country are like Niagara Falls, but with budget hotels often located on the outskirts. It's best to book in advance, to get good discounts. As a general rule, a cheap hotel is around 30 or 40 dollars.

The United States is a highly organised country. The big cities on the West Coast, such as Las Vegas, San Francisco and Los Angeles, offer tourists what they are looking for: the magic of gambling town or signs in keeping with the Beatnik atmosphere. In the East, New York remains the most European of US cities, with city-centre hotels that are accessible to tourists. New York State also offers a range of very pleasant small hotels and bed and breakfasts. Miami's beaches make it easier to opt for an apartment-hotel and a week's rental.

In the rest of the country, motels reign supreme, with rooms facing the car park. Some hotels are geared towards organising conferences or welcoming national tourists, and include a swimming pool, restaurant or relaxation room. Cities such as Indianapolis and Detroit have a highly developed hotel infrastructure that caters for both tourist demand and the organisation of major events. To make sure you make the best choice, it's best to use a hotel comparison service to find a cheap hotel in the United States.

Finally, camping enthusiasts will be delighted, as American campsites are well-maintained and have all the modern comforts required. Ideal for exploring the national parks. But beware, wild camping is strongly discouraged if not forbidden.

Practical information

Cultures vary from country to country. It's best to find out what is customary in the country you are about to visit. In the United States, tipping is not at all anecdotal, unlike in France. There are even services rendered by professionals who are paid only with a tip. This is particularly true of waiters and waitresses, who receive no pay - or very little - in addition to what they are given at the end of the meal or after a drink. It's so strange for us that we can forget about the tip or simply feel that we don't have to give it. In this case, the employee will not be paid for the service provided. And you will be frowned upon.

There is no formal rule, but it is customary to consider a tip to be at least 15% of the amount of the bill. This also applies to other professions, but for these it is very difficult, as a foreigner, to know whether the employee is being paid or not. So we apply the rules of precaution and common sense. However, you should be aware that when an employee is paid by tip only (this is legal in the United States, depending on the profession), his or her employer generally informs the customers who will be using his or her service.

If the service is paid for by the provider, then the tip for the employee is between 15% and 20% of the mandatory amount to be paid. This is the case for guides, tour leaders (rafting, hiking, horse riding, etc.), masseurs, spa and wellness staff, including beauticians and hairdressers, and taxi drivers.

You should also know that the minimum wage in the USA is currently $7.25 per hour. This gives you an idea of the minimum you'll need to leave if you don't have any other information. But a $20 note will always be welcome.

You should also leave a minimum of $1 for baggage handlers and porters, a barman for a drink ordered on its own or a taxi for a short journey. 10% for a café or fast-food restaurant.

In restaurants, it is common to be greeted by senior citizens, as many Americans do not have a pension and are obliged to work all their lives. In some cases, they work well into old age. For them, the tip is more than precious. Think about it.

Finally, since we're in a restaurant, it's customary to wait at the entrance, where there's usually a hostess or host, or a small desk, waiting for you. You will then be seated. This practice has become widespread in France. It increases the number of staff and therefore the tips. Oh, and don't forget the valet! They're often students who only get the tip you give them. Besides, it's in the best interests of your bodywork.

Finally, you should know that police authority is not trifled with in the United States. The officers are generally extremely courteous, but you absolutely must stay within the law and not break any rules. Be courteous yourself.

Safety

You shouldn't be reckless when travelling, especially if you're new to a destination.

Danger can come from nature, but also from your inexperience, or even your carelessness if you are too caught up in the euphoria of the trip. Be aware, for example, that in national parks, precipice areas are not necessarily signposted or protected by railings or even a rope, as the authorities are keen to preserve the landscape. This is not without danger, so be careful and warn your children.

As far as wildlife is concerned, bears in California do not attack humans, but are used to collecting rubbish. It's not impossible that you'll have a strange encounter, in the evening or at night. Above all, don't obstruct the animal and call 911 quickly.

In the arid areas of Utah, California and Nevada, there are venomous snakes of the rattlesnake type that dispense a potentially fatal haemotoxic venom. They can be recognised by their V-shaped viper head. Be careful, as its immobility and the colour of its livery allow it to blend into its environment of sienna and sand. It will not hesitate to attack.

As good things never come alone, you should also be aware that these deserts are also home to fearsome scorpions. At Skull Valley, in Tooele County, it's not uncommon to come across signs warning you of this type of danger.

If you're ever in Alaska, a territory that has no border with the rest of the country, you'll need to take precautions because a trip there deserves to be prepared. There are wolves hunting in packs, and going into this territory unarmed is foolhardy.

The Kodiak region is home to the bear of the same name, which is genuinely dangerous to humans, and the region's mosquitoes, which are quite large (unlike those found in Europe) and attack in swarms of thousands, also represent a real danger.

If you're ever in the Californian desert, be aware that it can be swelteringly hot. So be sure to bring hats, light clothing and plenty of water.

Formalities for entering the United States

As a French citizen, you are automatically exempt from visa requirements (except if you are travelling for work), and must apply on the Internet for and obtain authorisation to travel to the USA (ESTA) at least 72 hours before departure. Do this as early as possible.

However, an electronic or biometric passport will be required for all family members, including infants.

Otherwise, you will need to obtain a visa.

Vaccination requirements and health risks:

As far as COVID is concerned, adults must still be vaccinated according to a complete vaccination schedule. This obligation is not about to end, as mortality in the USA represents 1% of people under the age of 45, and 1 million Americans died during the pandemic. PLEASE NOTE: not all vaccines are accepted in the USA.

For more information, see the link below.

There are no other vaccination requirements for travelling to the USA. You should be aware, however, that rabies is rife, particularly in California, Alabama, South Carolina and Minnesota. If you need to spend some time in the wild, you can get vaccinated, subject to the necessary waiting periods. Rabies is transmitted by mammals.

The plague is also endemic to the West. Transmitted by fleas, the plague mainly affects rodents, particularly prairie dogs. But it also affects mammals and other domestic animals. Cases of transmission to humans are confirmed every year in the USA.

So make sure that your children in the countryside do not touch mammals.

What to eat

Sometimes caricatured abroad and limited to fast-food restaurants, American cuisine is in fact extremely varied. Visiting a typical diner is a tasty experience, as is discovering the latest experimental trends in nouvelle cuisine. The United States offers a wide range of influences: Asian, Mexican, French, Italian... But of course, American cuisine is synonymous with hamburgers, French fries, coleslaw, Caesar Salad and Cobb Salad.

Another institution is breakfast. Often hearty, it offers unbeatable value for money. On the menu: pancakes, doughnuts, muffins, French toast, bagels, granola, scrambled eggs, chips... all washed down with a long coffee (often tasteless for us French). At the weekend, don't break the brunch tradition (a mix of breakfast and lunch). It is eaten later than breakfast and also serves as a midday meal. It is served in many restaurants.

lightbulb_outline Editor's tip

If you have decided on a road trip, plan the stages and your stopping-off points. We would also strongly advise you to take out repatriation insurance, which your hire company will be sure to offer you, as there may be very few garages on your route.

It is also strongly advised not to take hitchhikers, or even, in deserted areas, to stop within reach of more or less lone walkers.

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