This page is divided into two sections. The first section contains general information about United states of America, like history, description of culture, currency, visa, travel to and in the country and crime / safety. The second part contains information about all the cities I have been to.
General information about the Unites states of America
The United States of America is a large country in North America, often referred to as "the USA", "the U.S.", "the United States", "the United States of America", "the States", or simply "America". Home to the world's third-largest population, with over 318 million people, it includes both densely populated cities with sprawling suburbs and vast, uninhabited natural areas.
With its history of mass immigration dating from the 17th century, it is a "melting pot" of cultures from around the world and plays a dominant role in the world's cultural landscape. It is home to a wide array of popular tourist destinations, ranging from the skyscrapers of Manhattan and Chicago to the natural wonders of Yellowstone and Alaska, to the warm, sunny beaches of Florida and Hawaii and the deserts of Arizona.
The country is large, complex, and diverse, with several distinct regional identities. Due to the vast distances involved, traveling between regions often means crossing through many different landscapes, climates, and even time zones. Such travel can often be time-consuming and expensive but is often very rewarding. It's an impossible task to do the US in one go unless you have all the time in the world.
The contiguous United States or the "Lower 48" (the 48 states other than Alaska and Hawaii) is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, with much of the population living on the two coasts. Its land borders are shared with Canada to the north, and Mexico to the south. The US also shares maritime borders with Russia, Cuba, and the Bahamas.
The country has three major mountain ranges. The Appalachians extend from Canada to the state of Alabama, a few hundred miles west of the Atlantic Ocean. They are the oldest of the three mountain ranges and are covered with a diversity of flora and fauna, a thick canopy of dense vegetation. They offer spectacular sightseeing and excellent camping spots. The loess lands of the southern Mid-West and the Limestone cliffs and mountains of the south add beauty to the region, with lush vegetation coating the surfaces of cliff faces that border rivers, and mist shrouding beautiful green mountains and gorges. The Rockies are, on average, the tallest in North America, extending from BC, Canada to New Mexico, with many areas protected as national parks. They offer hiking, camping, skiing, and sightseeing opportunities, as well as desert and subtropical getaways in the southern lowlands of the region. The combined Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges are the youngest. The Sierras extend across the "backbone" of California, with sites such as Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park; the Sierras transition at their northern end into the even younger volcanic Cascade range, with some of the highest points in the country.
The Great Lakes define much of the border between the eastern United States and Canada. More inland seas than lakes, they were formed by the pressure of glaciers retreating north at the end of the last Ice Age. The five lakes span hundreds of miles, bordering the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, and their shores vary from pristine wilderness areas to industrial "rust belt" cities. They are the second-largest bodies of freshwater in the world, after the polar ice caps.
The western portions of the USA are rugged and contain arid landscapes, complete with wind-shaped desert sand dunes like White Sands, New Mexico. In California, Death Valley is the lowest spot on the USA mainland (282 feet below sea level) and is one of the hottest places on Earth. Natural areas include vast areas of desert untouched by humans. Camping and hiking through the majestic landscapes of the Southwest is a big vacation draw for many Americans.
Florida is very low-lying, with long white sand beaches lining both sides of the state. The tropical climate enables many exotic (both native and non-native) plants and animals to flourish. The Florida Everglades are a pristine "river of grass," made up of tropical jungles and savanna are home to 20-foot alligators and crocodiles, among many other creatures.
The USA contains every biome on earth. The USA has something for everyone; tropical jungles, subtropical and temperate savannas, searing deserts, Mediterranean-like coast lines, frozen mountain peaks, coniferous forests, steamy subtropical river systems, and more. The United States Has a total of six time zones.
The United States is the only industrialized country that has still not adopted metric units of measure in daily life (it still uses the customary English units that were in use prior to the revolution, similar to the later British imperial system, but typically with smaller units as one of the major differences), except for scientific, engineering, medical, and military applications.
All road signs and speed limits are posted in miles and miles per hour respectively. Automotive fuel is priced and sold per gallon, which is 128 fluid ounces, 80% of the size of an Imperial/UK gallon. Other capacities of liquid products are normally quoted and sold per gallon, quart, or ounce (although liters are often indicated and sometimes exclusively used, as with some soda, wine, and other liquor products). Temperatures are reported in Fahrenheit only; 32 degrees (with units unspecified) is the temperature at which water freezes (equivalent to 0 degrees Celsius). The good news is that most cars on the road in the US have both mph and km/h marked on their speedometers (good for trips to Canada and Mexico), and almost all groceries and household items sold in stores are labeled in both systems. The vast majority of Americans, though, have little day-to-day exposure to the metric system (apart from having studied it a little in school) and will assume some understanding of customary measures.
In addition, the US government does not regulate apparel or shoe sizes. Although there are informal standard sizes, they are not strictly enforced. The only thing you can count on is that sizes tend to be consistent within the same brand. If you plan to shop for apparel or shoes, you will have to do some trial-and-error for each brand to determine what fits, because you cannot rely on any brand's sizes as equivalent to another's. Please note that, as the average body size of Americans tends to be larger than that of those living in other countries, a concept known as vanity sizing (the labeling of larger garments with smaller sizes) exists in many clothing retailers, especially those aimed at women. It is very possible for people with smaller body types to have some difficulty finding suitably sized clothing.
Electricity in the United States is provided to consumers in the form of 120V, 60Hz alternating current, through wall outlets that take NEMA 1 or NEMA 5 plugs. (NEMA stands for National Electrical Manufacturers Association.) NEMA 1 plugs have two flat, blunt blades (don't worry, they're not sharp), one of which may or may not be polarized (slightly larger than the other), to ensure that the hot and neutral blades are inserted correctly for devices for which that matters. NEMA 5 plugs add a round grounding pin below the blades. All US buildings constructed or renovated after the early 1960s are required to have three-hole outlets that accept the two blades and one pin of NEMA 5 plugs, as well as both polarized and unpolarized NEMA 1 two-blade plugs.
Most Americans speak English. In many areas, (parts of the South, New England, inner cities, and in the upper Midwest), you'll find some distinctive regional accents and dialects. Nowhere should this pose any problem to a visitor, as Americans often admire foreign accents, and most will approximate the standard accent to help you understand them or try to speak your language if they can. Only 18.5% of American students study a foreign language in primary or secondary school.
Thus, visitors are generally expected to speak and understand English. The US does not have an official language at the federal (national) level (most states have English as their official language). A growing number of popular tourist sites have signs in other languages, but only English is certain to be available at any given location. There is a wide variety of accents across the U.S., where certain words are spoken or pronounced differently.
Due primarily to immigration from Latin America, the United States has the third-largest Spanish speaking population in the world. Spanish is a second language in some of the United States, especially California, the Southwest, Texas, Florida, and, to a lesser extent, in the metropolitan areas of the Midwest and East Coast. Many of these areas have Spanish-language radio and television stations, with local, national and Mexican programs.
Spanish is the first language of Puerto Rico and about 13% of residents on the mainland, most of whom live in the West or South. Spanish speakers in the United States are primarily Puerto Ricans, or first- and second-generation immigrants from Latin America. As a result, the Spanish spoken is almost invariably a Latin American or Puerto Rican dialect. In some areas, a good handle on Spanish can make communication easier. Because many immigrants take service-industry jobs for substandard pay, employees at restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and other such establishments in the West and South are more likely to understand, speak, and translate Spanish. About 13% of primary and secondary students in the United States study Spanish and may be able to understand basic phrases.
French is the primary second language in rural areas near the border with Quebec, in some areas of Louisiana, and among West African immigrants, but is not widespread elsewhere. In southern Florida, Haitian immigrants primarily speak Haitian Creole, a separate language derived from French, as their second language, although a substantial number also speak French.
Thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), some products now have trilingual packaging in English, Spanish, and French for sale throughout the entire trade bloc, especially household cleaning products and small electric appliances. In areas with large numbers of Spanish speakers, the major discount stores like Walmart and Target have internal directional signage in their stores in both Spanish and English. However, the vast majority of consumer products are labeled only in English, and most upscale department stores and boutiques have signage only in English, meaning that a rudimentary grasp of English is essential for shopping.
Hawaiianis the native language of Hawaii but is rarely spoken. Mandarin is common. Smaller immigrant groups also sometimes form their own pockets of shared language, including Russian, Italian, Greek, Arabic, Tagalog, Korean, Vietnamese, and others. Chicago, for instance, is the city with the second largest ethnic Polish population in the world, behind Warsaw. The Amish, who have lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio for generations, speak a dialect of German.
Some Native Americans speak their respective native languages, especially on reservations in the West. However, despite efforts to revive them, many Native American languages are endangered, and people who speak to them as their first language are few and far between. Navajo speakers in Arizona and New Mexico are an exception to this, but even a clear majority among them speak and understand English too.
Bottom line: unless you're certain you'll be traveling in an area populated with recent immigrants, don't expect to get by in the United States without some English. American Sign Language, or ASL is the dominant sign language in the United States. When events are interpreted, they will be interpreted in ASL. Users of French Sign Language and other related languages may find ASL intelligible, as they share much vocabulary, but users of British Sign Language or Auslan will not. Closed captioning on television is widespread, but far from ubiquitous. Many theaters offer FM loops or other assistive listening devices but captioning and interpreters are rarer.
For the blind, many signs and displays include Braille transcriptions of the printed English. Larger restaurant chains, museums, and parks may offer Braille menus and guidebooks, but you'll likely have to ask for them.
It is usually inappropriate to join a table already occupied by other diners, even if it has unused seats; Americans prefer and expect this degree of privacy when they eat. Exceptions are cafeteria-style eateries with long tables, and at crowded informal eateries and cafes you may have success asking a stranger if you can share the table they're sitting at. Striking up a conversation in this situation may or may not be welcome, however.
Table manners, while varying greatly, are typically European influenced. Slurping or making other noises while eating is considered rude, as is loud conversation (including phone calls). It is fairly common to wait until everybody at your table has been served before eating. You should lay cloth napkins across your lap; you can do the same with paper napkins or keep them on the table. Offense isn't taken if you don't finish your meal, and most restaurants will package the remainder to take with you or provide a box for you to do this yourself (sometimes euphemistically called a "doggy bag", implying that the leftovers are for your pet). If you want to do this, ask the server to get the remainder "to go"; this term will be almost universally understood, and will not cause any embarrassment. Some restaurants offer an "all-you-can-eat" buffet or other service; taking home portions from such a meal is either not allowed or carries an additional fee. If you are eating with a group, it is very rude to leave before everyone else is ready to go, even if you came separately. Cleaning your plate is a sign that you enjoyed your meal and doesn't imply that the host didn't serve enough or should bring more.
Many fast-food items (sandwiches, burgers, pizza, tacos, etc) are designed to be eaten by hand (so-called "finger food"); a few foods are almost always eaten by hand (French fries, barbecue, chicken on the bone) even at moderately nice restaurants. If unsure, eating finger food with a fork and knife probably won't offend anyone; eating fork-and-knife food by hand might, as it's considered "uncivilized" and rude.
When invited to a meal in a private home it is considered polite for a guest to ask if they can bring anything for the meal, such a dessert, a side dish, or for an outdoor barbecue, something useful like ice or plastic cups or plates. The host will usually refuse except among very close friends, but it is nonetheless considered good manners to bring along a small gift for the host. A bottle of wine, box of candies or fresh cut flowers are most common. Gifts of cash prepared ready-to-serve foods, or very personal items (e.g. toiletries) are not appropriate.
An exception is the potluck meal, where each guest (or group/family) must bring a food dish to share with everyone; these shared dishes make up the entire meal. Usually dishes are grouped (e.g., salads, main dishes or casseroles, side dishes, desserts); you should ask the host if they want you to bring something in particular. Ideal dishes for a potluck should be served from a large pot, dish, or bowl, and would be spooned or forked on to diners' plates—hence the emphasis on salads, casseroles, and spoonable side dishes. Make sure to bring enough that if you and your family had to eat only that dish, they would be full, in order to ensure that there is enough food for everyone.
Travel to the Unites states of America
Most visitors from outside Canada and Mexico arrive in the United States by plane. While many medium-sized inland cities have an international airport, there are limited flights to most of them. Most travellers enter the US at one of the major entry points along the coasts. USA have a strict VISA-policy that they enforce strictly. It's important that you read the VISA-section below to be allowed to enter USA. you may be denied entering the airplane to USA if Your visa is not in order.
Travelling within the Unites states of America
The size of the US and the distance between some major cities make air the dominant mode of travel for short-term travelers over long distances. If you have time, travel by car, bus, or rail can be interesting.
Be aware that in general, outside of the downtown areas of big cities public transport in the U.S. is not as commonly used, developed, nor reliable as in many European and Asian countries. Due to cheap fuel prices, endless available parking spaces, cheap auto insurance, very cheap car prices and large distances to travel, Americans prefer to drive their own car rather than opt for public transport.
The quickest and often the most convenient way of long-distance intercity travel in the US is by plane. Coast-to-coast travel takes about six hours from east to west, and five hours from west to east (varying due to winds), compared to the three or four days necessary for land transportation. Most cities in the US are served by one or two airports; many small towns also have some passenger air service, although you may need to detour through a major hub airport to get there. Depending on where you are starting, it may be cheaper to drive to a nearby large city and fly or, conversely, to fly to a large city near your destination and rent a car. Major carriers compete for business on major routes, and travelers willing to book two or more weeks in advance can get bargains. However most smaller destinations are served by only one or two regional carriers, and prices to destinations outside of the big cities can be very expensive.
America's love affair with the automobile is legendary and most Americans use a car when moving within their city, and when travelling to nearby cities in their state or region. However, many Americans can and do travel between the vast regions of their country by auto - often going through different time zones, landscapes, and climates. In the winter months (Dec though March) millions of American nomads travel south to the warm desert and subtropical climates in everything from cars to motor homes (called "RV's"). Generally speaking, the older American cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, DC, Seattle, and Philadelphia are best to see using public transport or even on foot (at least within their downtown cores). However, the newer sunbelt cities (normally in the West and South) are built for the automobile, so renting or bringing your own car is usually a very good idea. This applies even to very large cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta and Miami, where public transport is very limited and having a car is the most practical way of getting around. In the smaller American cities, everything is very spread out and public transport thin. Taxis are often available, but if you're not at the airport, you may have to phone for one and wait a half-hour or so to be picked up, making similar arrangements to return. Taxis are typically a expensive option to use. While most Americans are happy to give driving directions, don't be surprised if many aren't familiar with the local public transport options available.
The United States is covered with the largest and most modern highway system in the world. Interstates are always freeways—that is, controlled access divided highways with no at-grade crossings, the equivalent of what Europeans call a "motorway". These roads connect all of the major population centers, and they make it easy to cover long distances—or get to the other side of a large city—quickly. These highways cross the entire US mainland from the Atlantic to the Pacific, through several time zones, landscapes, and climates.
Most of these highways have modern and safe state run "Rest Areas" or "Service Plaza" areas. These rest stops normally offer restrooms, vending machines, and phone service. Service Plazas (more likely found on toll roads) may offer fuel, restaurant(s), and simple vehicle repair. Many of these rest stops also offer tourist information and picnic areas. Additional commercial traveler services tend to congregate on the local roads just off popular interstate highway exits. Sometimes you'll find a truck stop, an establishment that caters to long-haul truckers but is open to all travelers. Signs on the highway will indicate the services available at upcoming exits, including gas, food, lodging, and camping, so you can choose a stopping point as you're driving. White lines separate traffic moving in the same direction and yellow lines separate opposing traffic. Greyhound Bus Lines (First Group) have the predominant share of American bus travel. A long history of hitchhiking comes out of the U.S., with record of automobile hitchhikers as early as 1911. Today, hitchhiking is nowhere near as common, but there are some nevertheless who still attempt short or cross-country trips. The laws related to hitchhiking in the U.S. are most covered by the Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC), adopted with changes in wording by individual states. In general, it is legal to hitchhike throughout the majority of the country, if not standing within the boundaries of a highway (usually marked by a solid white line at the shoulder of the road) and if not on an Interstate highway prohibiting pedestrians.
Places to sleep
You may use i .e. hotels.com, booking.com or hostelworld.com to find somewhere to sleep. If you want to rent a private home Airbnb.com could be something for you. The two best-known hotel guides covering the US are the AAA (formerly American Automobile Association; typically pronounced "Triple-A") Tour books, available to members and affiliated auto clubs worldwide at local AAA offices; and the Mobil Travel Guide, available at bookstores. Craigslist rentals are not well monitored and have a higher risk of being dangerous or fraudulent.
Money and banking
Official currency is the United States dollar ($), divided into 100 cents (¢). Conversion rates vary daily and are available. The dollar is colloquially known as the buck (a reference to when buck skins were used as a median of exchange in areas far from the coastal mints) so 5 bucks means $5. Foreign currencies are almost never accepted, although some major hotel chains may accept travelers' checks in other currencies. Canadian currency is sometimes accepted at larger stores within 100 miles of the border but discounted for the exchange rate. (This is more of an issue nowadays with a weak Canadian dollar.) Watch for stores that really want Canadian shoppers and will accept at par. Often, a few Canadian coins (especially pennies) won't be noticed and do show up in circulation with American coins as they are the same size (but different metal contents and weight). Now that the Mexican peso has stabilized, it is somewhat accepted in a limited number of locations at border towns, but you're better off exchanging your pesos in Mexico, and using US dollars instead, to ensure the best exchange rate.
Common American bills are for $1, $5, $10, $20, while the $50 and $100 bills are less common, and the $2 bill is usually only available by special request at a bank. All bills are the same size. All bills are made of a paper blend of cotton and linen; no polymer bills have been released. All $1, $2, and the older $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills are greenish on one side and printed with black and green ink in the other. Newer versions of the $5 (purple), $10 (orange), $20 (green & orange), $50 (pink) and $100 (blue) bills incorporate different gradations of color in the paper and additional colors of ink. As designs are updated every 5-10 years to make it more difficult to counterfeit, you will currently find up to three different designs of some bills in circulation. Almost all vending machines accept $1 bills, and a few accept $5 bills; acceptance of larger bills ($50 and $100) by small restaurants and stores is less common because they may not have enough change available. No US banknotes have been demonetized in the last 80 years and older series of bills are valid. In the unlucky event that your dollars get damaged or torn, U.S. banks will replace the notes for free if enough of the security features are still legible. Note that $2 bills are uncommon and often considered a novelty or a collector's item, or sometimes even a fun gift.
The standard coins are the penny (1¢, copper color), the chunky nickel (5¢, silver color), the tiny dime (10¢, silver color) and the quarter or quarter dollar (25¢, silver color). None of these coins display the numeral of their value, so it is important to recognize the names of each. The size doesn't necessarily correspond to their relative value: the dime is the smallest coin, followed by the penny, nickel, and quarter. However, the four standard coins have had stable designs, at least on their obverses. The same American presidents have graced the front of the penny, nickel, dime, and quarter since 1909, 1938, 1946, and 1932 respectively. They also have had the same respective diameters and thicknesses since before the 20th century, so it is possible and common to receive coins decades old in change. The Half dollar (50¢, silver) and dollar ($1, silver or gold colored) coins exist but are uncommon in general circulation. No American coins have been devalued or demonetized, although changes in design and composition have driven virtually all examples of non-current types from circulation and coin tills.
Coin-operated machines universally accept nickels, dimes, and quarters. Pennies will not be accepted at unmanned vending machines or parking meters but will be accepted at self-scan checkout machines at supermarkets. Most machines that accept coins will accept dollar coins, although this may not be stated on the machine since the dollar coin is not often used. Machines that accept coins will not accept half dollars, unless specifically marked that they will. Coin-operated machines may or may not accept similarly sized and valued foreign coins (i.e., Canadian coins) depending on the sensitivity and internal settings of the machine.
Major credit cards Visa and MasterCard were both launched in the U.S., so it makes sense that today, Visa and MasterCard (and their debit card counterparts/affiliates) are widely used and accepted throughout all 50 states and all inhabited territories. Nearly all large retailers will accept credit cards for transactions of all sizes, even as small as one or two dollars. However, some small businesses and independently-owned stores specify a minimum amount of money (usually $2-5, but can legally charge up to $10 minimum) for credit card use, as such transactions cost them around 30 to 50 cents (this practice is also common at bars when opening a tab). Almost all sit-down restaurants, hotels, and shops will accept credit and debit cards; those that do not post a sign saying, "CASH ONLY." Other cards such as American Express and Discover are also accepted by most retailers, but not as widely. Many retailers have a window sticker or counter sign showing the logos of the four big U.S. credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, and Discover. However, major retailers might accept only cash or debit cards for payment of prepaid/gift cards/transportation passes. It is also possible to find vending machines which accept credit cards.
Vaccine and health
The average American takes a bath or shower at least once per day and expects others to do the same. Excessive body odor is frowned upon, as is excessive use of perfumes and colognes.
American men either shave their faces daily, or if they grow beards and / or mustaches, keep them neatly trimmed. American women shave their legs if walking around in shorts or high-cut skirts that expose bare skin. Most also shave their underarms and some shave their arms. Bad breath (halitosis) is also frowned upon. Americans are taught from a young age to brush and floss their teeth twice daily.
Being a highly industrialized nation, the United States is largely free from most serious communicable diseases found in many developing nations; however, the HIV rate is higher than in Canada and Western Europe, with about a 0.5% infection rate in the overall population. This is due to Americans being more likely to have multiple partners at younger ages (down to 12 years of age,) than residents of Canada or Western Europe.
Two diseases that, while rare, are worth becoming educated about are rabies and Lyme disease. Rabies is more prevalent in eastern regions of the country and may be contracted from animal bites; if you are bitten by any mammal, see a doctor quickly—do not wait for symptoms. Lyme disease is spread via the deer tick, which are prevalent in the woodlands and open fields of many rural areas. When venturing into the outdoors, it is a good idea to apply an insect repellent onto exposed skin surfaces that is effective against deer ticks.
Other diseases that are endemic within the United States, but are of far less concern, include Hantaviral Pulmonary Syndrome (found in western regions), Dengue fever (in areas from the southern Mid-West down to the Gulf and Hawaii,) Chikungunya (almost all regions,) Bubonic Plague (Pacific Northwest,) Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (mostly in the Rocky Mountain region), West Nile Virus (all regions)and Eastern/Western Equine Encephalitis (particularly in the mid-west region).
All of the above listed diseases are extraordinarily rare, and the medical system of the United States is very much capable of handling any of these when necessary.
For the latest in traveler's health information pertaining to the United States, including advisories and recommendations, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.
Health care in America is arguably the best but among the most expensive in the world. The vast majority of working Americans have health insurance for themselves and their family, for those who don't the Affordable Care Act (commonly called "Obamacare" by Americans) enacted by President Barack Obama in 2010 helped to alleviate the problem. Americans generally use private health insurance, paid either by their employer or out of their own pocket; some risk paying high hospital bills themselves, or depend on government subsidized health plans. If you are at least 65, then your medical coverage is covered through the national Medicare system. As a traveler you should have travel insurance, or you will potentially face very high costs if you need medical care.
Most metropolitan areas will have a mix of public and private hospitals, and in turn, US private hospitals can be either non-profit or for-profit. Public hospitals located in wealthy suburbs can be as good as private ones, but in poorer inner-city areas, public hospitals are usually overcrowded and run-down and should be avoided by tourists. However, many public hospitals are also the Level I regional trauma centers for their respective metro areas (i.e., they guarantee 24-hour on-site availability of all major types of medical specialists), which means that you will be taken there if critically injured.
In a life-threatening emergency, call 911 to summon an ambulance to take you to the nearest hospital emergency room ("ER"), or in less urgent situations get to the hospital yourself and register at the ER's front desk. Emergency rooms will treat patients without regard to their ability to pay, but you will still be presented with a bill for all care. Note: if you use an ambulance to get to a hospital you will have to pay extra for that. Do not use ERs for non-emergency walk-in care. Not only can this be 3-4 times more expensive than other options, but you will often wait many hours (or days) before being treated, as the staff will give priority to patients with urgent needs. In most areas, the charge for an emergency room visit starts around $500, in addition to any specific services or medications you may require. Most urban areas have minor emergency centers (also called "urgent care", etc.) for medical situations where a fully equipped emergency room would be excessive, such as superficial lacerations. However, their hours may be limited, and few are open overnight.
There is no airside transit without US entry between international flights. All travelers must disembark and proceed through immigration and customs inspection to enter the United States at first port entry, even if you're only staying for the two to four hours needed to transit between flights. This is most relevant if you're transiting between Asia or Europe to/from Latin America. Therefore, all travelers must be able to enter the United States on the Visa Waiver Program (or other visa exemption) or obtain a visitor's (B1 or B2) or transit (C1) visa.
Citizens of the 38 countries within the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) do not require advance visas for entry into the United States. For travelers under the Visa Waiver Program, the entry period is strictly limited to 90 days. Travel under the Visa Waiver Program is limited to transit, tourism, or business purposes only; neither study, employment, nor journalism is permitted under the VWP. Travelers entering the US under the VWP and arriving by air or sea must apply for Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval on-line before travel, preferably 72 hours before travel. An ESTA approval is valid for two years (unless your passport expires earlier) and costs $14 (payable by credit card). If granted, it allows the traveler to commence their journey to the US but (as with any visa or entry permit) it does not guarantee entry. The ESTA application contains a questionnaire, which if answered truthfully will direct you to apply to a visa if you are ineligible for the Visa Waiver Program for reasons of criminal history, etc. If you have any concerns, complete the ESTA application well in advance of your departure to allow time to apply for a visa if directed to do so.
Entry under the Visa Waiver Program by air or sea also requires that you are using a signatory carrier. It is a fairly safe assumption that commercial scheduled services to the US will be fine, but if you are on a chartered flight or vessel you should check the status of the carrier, as you may require a visa. Before arrival, if you are not a Canadian or Bermudian, you will receive either a white I-94 (if entering with a visa) or green I-94W (if entering on a visa waiver) form to complete. For visitors travelling under the Visa Waiver Program arriving by air, the I-94W has now been replaced by the electronic ESTA system; therefore, the form is not required. Again, remember that the ESTA approval is in essence, a permit to travel - not a guarantee of entry, hence there is no need to produce a copy of it at passport control - had there been any problems you would have been denied boarding at your origin airport, however most travelers tend to keep a copy of it in their possession anyway, just in case.
Travelers entering by air or sea must also have a return/onward ticket out of the United States. If the return/onward ticket terminates in Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or any Caribbean Island, the traveler must be a legal resident of that country/territory. If travelling by land, there is a $7.00 fee when crossing the border.
For the rest of the world, or for those who don't fit the profile of a Visa Waiver Program entry (e.g., need to stay more than 90 days) the visa application fee is a non-refundable $160 (as of April 2012) for visas that are not issued on the basis of a petition (ex. business, tourist, transit, student, and journalist) and $190 for those that are (employment). This fee is sometimes waived under very limited circumstances, namely for people requesting certain exchange visitor visas.
Make sure you leave before the authorized period of stay indicated in your I-94 form (not your visa) expires. If you overstay the period granted at passport control or violate your terms of entry (e.g., work while present as a visitor), this will automatically invalidate your visa and you'll no longer have a valid immigration status. In addition, overstaying your authorized stay or violating the conditions will make it extremely difficult to re-enter the United States for any purpose, and this may, in some cases, bar you from re-entry for at least three years, if not permanently. If you entered under the Visa Waiver Program but overstayed, you will need a visa for all future visits. Even if you did not technically overstay each of your visits, if officers suspect or detect a pattern with your previous visits/travel history that suggests you are in fact spending more time in the US than your home country (e.g. you leave the US only to return there a few weeks later), you may also face severe questioning the next time you arrive.
Before arrival, if you are not a Canadian or Bermudian, you will receive either a white I-94 (if entering with a visa) or green I-94W (if entering on a visa waiver) form to complete. For visitors travelling under the Visa Waiver Program arriving by air, the I-94W has now been replaced by the electronic ESTA system; therefore, the form is not required. Again, remember that the ESTA approval is in essence, a permit to travel - not a guarantee of entry, hence there is no need to produce a copy of it at passport control - had there been any problems you would have been denied boarding at your origin airport, however most travelers tend to keep a copy of it in their possession anyway, just in case.
I-94 forms are now used primarily at land ports of entry. As October 2013, the I-94 paper form is now optional for virtually all visitors arriving by common carrier at air and seaports of entry. CBP now has arrangements in place to electronically receive manifest information directly from all major common carriers. From the manifests, CBP's computers create and maintain electronic I-94 records for all passengers who are foreign visitors. CBP operates a Web site where visitors may view their own electronic I-94 record while they are still in the United States.
After you are admitted into the US and retrieve your bags from the baggage claim, you will proceed to the secondary inspection area (the customs checkpoint), regardless of whether your journey terminates at this airport or if you are transiting onward via another flight. Hand your customs declaration to the officer. Most of the time, the officer will point you to the exit and that will be it.
Sometimes, the officer may ask you a few routine questions and then let you go. The officer may refer you to an adjacent X-ray machine to have your bags inspected or may refer you for a manual hand search of your bags. Any search more intrusive than a bag search is rare and is usually indicated only if some sort of probable cause has been established through questioning or during the bag search to suggest suspicious activity.
If you managed to get into the United States visa-free or not, if you plan on visiting rural Nevada, be careful on where you are. There is a closed city in Nevada called Mercury which the town was involved in nuclear testing programs by the U.S. government, something it no longer conducts. This city, like many other closed cities, is closed off to the public, including foreigners. You will need special permission from the U.S. government in order to enter the town. Attempting to enter without the permission will get you arrested.
International flights bound for the United States tend to feature extremely strict security. Besides going through a regular security search to enter the departure area of the airport terminal, it was standard up until 2015 at many airports to have an additional layer of security around waiting areas for gates for US-bound flights with a secondary security checkpoint of its own. While that kind of security is no longer seen at many airports, all airlines with US-bound flights continue to carefully inspect all documents at time of boarding. Passengers may be selected for the Secondary Security Screening Selection (or "SSSS"), which randomly selects passengers on inbound flights to the US (although it is applied to internal flights also) for additional security screening. Passengers are typically stopped at the jetway prior to boarding, and their carry-on bags are hand searched, portable electronic devices must be charged and powered on for inspection, and shoes/socks will be swabbed. The first sign that this may happen to you is that an electronic boarding pass will be denied, or you will be referred to an agent if you use a self-check-in machine at the airport. If the letters "SSSS" are printed on your boarding card when you eventually get it, then it means you have been selected - so be prepared for the additional screening.
Unlike most countries, the US does not provide formal passport control checkpoints for those exiting the country.
Notable exceptions to the precautions above are the states of Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) and several recognized Indian Reservations, which have all recently legalized recreational use of marijuana. According to these new local laws, you can possess up to 1 ounce (8 ounces in Oregon, 2.5 ounces in the city of Portland, Maine, 2.5 ounces in Michigan and 2 ounces in Washington D.C.) of marijuana from a licensed seller and use it personally if you are over 21 years old. Indian Reservations have recently been allowed by the Federal government to regulate cannabis on their recognized reservation, so laws within the reservation vary widely, and can be different from state laws. Example: while cannabis is legal in the state of Washington, the Yakima Nation (an Indian reservation in Washington State) declares cannabis illegal on their land. So, by default, both federal and laws of the Indian Reservation apply. However, use on public streets or inside public buildings is illegal, so if you do use it, use it in private. Law enforcement usually ignores marijuana use on private property (i.e., inside someone's home), but caution should be exercised as police can arrest you for marijuana use in states where it is not legal, and drug crimes can carry surprisingly stiff sentences and will result in deportation for foreigners.
The federal government of the United States still considers marijuana illegal, so the use is still illegal in territory under direct federal government jurisdiction within states where marijuana use has legalized such as the Lewis-McChord Military Reservation in Washington state, and all National Parks, National Forests, and other public lands under federal jurisdiction. Likewise, mailing of marijuana from Washington state to Colorado through the US Postal Service or bringing in some 'BC Bud' from British Columbia to Washington state is still illegal. The future of these laws is uncertain, but for now, they stand (with the exceptions in recognized Indian Reservations and federal territory).
Marijuana possession and use is still illegal everywhere else, so do NOT under any circumstances bring marijuana into any U.S. jurisdiction where it is illegal, nor across adjacent international borders. This includes any Indian Reservation that deems it illegal on their land as you will risk facing criminal charges if you are caught with it. Depending on which country of your residence or you're traveling to after leaving the U.S., you may face criminal charges in your home country (or a third country) if found in possession of cannabis (or even in very small amounts) on arrival from the U.S. or having it in your urine or through other means of testing for drug use from a person's body, even if it was completely consumed in the U.S. prior to departure. The US reports crimes to other countries even ones who enforce the death penalty for drug offences so keep that in mind.
Do not bring cannabis or any other federally illegal drug onto any Federal enclave, as federal drug laws are heavily enforced.
Cuisine and drink
Drinking customs in America are as varied as the backgrounds of its many people. In some rural areas, alcohol is mostly served in restaurants rather than dedicated drinking establishments, but in urban settings you will find numerous bars and nightclubs where food is either nonexistent or rudimentary. In very large cities, of course, drinking places run the gamut from tough local "shot and a beer" bars to upscale "martini bars".
American tradition splits alcoholic drinks into hard liquor and others. Americans drink a wide array of hard liquors, partially divided by region, but for non-distilled spirits almost exclusively drink beer and wine. Other fermented fruit and grain beverages are known, and sold, but not consumed in great quantities; most fruit drinks are soft (meaning 'non-alcoholic', not 'low alcohol volume'). 'Cider' without further qualifiers is a spiced apple juice, and 'hard cider' is a relatively little-consumed alcoholic beverage in spite of the U.S. having been one of its most enthusiastic consumers a mere two centuries ago. Be prepared to specify that you mean a liquor or cocktail in shops not specifically dedicated to alcohol.
Drinking customs in America are as varied as the backgrounds of its many people. In some rural areas, alcohol is mostly served in restaurants rather than dedicated drinking establishments, but in urban settings you will find numerous bars and nightclubs where food is either nonexistent or rudimentary. In very large cities, of course, drinking places run the gamut from tough local "shot and a beer" bars to upscale "martini bars". American tradition splits alcoholic drinks into hard liquor and others. Americans drink a wide array of hard liquors, partially divided by region, but for non-distilled spirits almost exclusively drink beer and wine. Other fermented fruit and grain beverages are known, and sold, but not consumed in great quantities; most fruit drinks are soft (meaning 'non-alcoholic', not 'low alcohol volume').
'Cider' without further qualifiers is a spiced apple juice, and 'hard cider' is a relatively little-consumed alcoholic beverage in spite of the U.S. having been one of its most enthusiastic consumers a mere two centuries ago. Be prepared to specify that you mean a liquor or cocktail in shops not specifically dedicated to alcohol. Beer is in many ways the 'default' alcoholic beverage in the U.S. but gone are the days when it was priced cheaply and bought without high expectations for quality.
In the last 25 years, America has seen a boom in craft brews, and cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Boston are becoming renowned among beer lovers. The various idioms for alcohol consumption frequently and sometimes presumptively refer to beer. While most American beer drinkers prefer light lagers – until the 1990s this was the only kind commonly sold – a wide variety of beers are now available all over the U.S. It is not too unusual to find a bar serving 100 or more different kinds of beer, both bottled and "draft" (served fresh in a cup), though most will have perhaps a dozen or three, with a half dozen "on tap" (available on "draft").
Microbreweries – some of which have grown to be moderately large and/or purchased by one of the major breweries – make every kind of beer in much smaller quantities with traditional methods. Most microbrews are distributed regionally; bartenders will know the local brands. Nowadays all but the most basic taverns usually have one or more local beers on tap, and these are generally fuller of character than the big national brands, which have a reputation for being generic. Some brew pubs make their own beer in-house, and generally only serve the house brand. These beers are also typically considered superior to the big national brands. Vineyards in Palisade, Colorado Wine in the U.S. is also a contrast between low-quality commercial fare versus extremely high-quality product.
Unlike in Europe, American wines are labeled primarily by the grape (merlot, cabernet sauvignon, Riesling, etc.). The simple categories 'red', 'white', and 'rosé' or 'pink' are also used but disdained as sole qualifiers by oenophiles. All but the cheapest wines are usually also labeled by region, which can be a state ("California"), an area of a state ("Central Coast"), a county or other small region ("Willamette Valley"), or a specific vineyard ("Dry Creek Vineyard"). (As a general rule, the narrower the region, the higher quality the wine is likely to be.) Cheap cask wines are usually sold in a box supporting a plastic bag; bottled wines are almost universally priced as semi-luxury items, with the exception of 'fortified wines', which are the stereotypical American answer for low-price-per-milliliter-alcohol 'rotgut'.
All 50 U.S. states now support winemaking, with varying levels of success and respect. California wines are some of the bests in the world and are available on most wine lists in the country. The most prestigious American wine region is California's Napa Valley, although the state also has a number of other wine-producing areas, which may provide better value for your money because they are less famous. Wines from Oregon's Willamette Valley and the state of Washington have been improving greatly in recent years and can be bargains since they are not yet as well-known as California wines. Michigan, Colorado's Wine Country, and New York State's Finger Lakes region have recently been producing German-style whites which have won international competitions. In recent years, the Llano Estacado region of Texas has become regionally renowned for its wines. The Northern Virginia area, specifically Fauquier, Loudoun, and Prince William counties are also becoming well known for both their flavor, and organized wine tasting tours, supplemented by the scenery seen on the drives between locations. Sparkling wines are available by the bottle in up-scale restaurants but are rarely served by the glass as they often are in western Europe. The best California sparkling wines have come out ahead of some famous brand
French champagnes in recent expert blind tastings. They are comparatively difficult to find in 'supermarkets' and some non-alcoholic sparkling grape juices are marketed under that name. The wines served in most bars in America are unremarkable, but wine bars are becoming more common in urban areas. Only the most expensive restaurants have extensive wine lists, and even in more modest restaurants wine tends to be expensive, even if the wine is mediocre. Many Americans, especially in the more affluent and cosmopolitan areas of the country, consider themselves knowledgeable about wine, and if you come from a wine producing country, your country's wines may be a good topic of conversation. America's native spirit — bourbon, straight up.
Hard alcohol is usually drunk with mixers, but also served "on the rocks" (with ice) or "straight up" (un-mixed, with no ice) on request. Their increasing popularity has caused a long-term trend toward drinking light-colored and more "mixable" liquors, especially vodka, and away from the more traditional darker liquors such as whiskey and bourbon that many older drinkers favor.
However, this is not an exclusive trend, and many Americans still enjoy whiskey and bourbon. It was formerly wholly inappropriate to drink hard liquor before 5PM (the end of the conventional workday), even on weekends. A relic of this custom is "happy hour", a period lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours, usually between 5PM and 8PM, during which a significant discount is offered on selected drinks. Happy hour and closing time are the only presumptive customs in American bars, although 'ladies' night', during which women receive a discount or some other financial incentive, is increasingly common.
Although laws regulating alcohol sales, consumption, and possession vary somewhat by state and county, the drinking age is 21 throughout the U.S. except in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (where it is 18). Enforcement of this varies, but if you're under 30 you should definitely be prepared to show photo ID when buying alcohol in a store or entering a bar (which often refuse admittance to "minors" under 21). In some states, people who are under 21 are not even allowed to be present in bars or liquor stores. A foreign passport or other credible ID will probably be accepted, but many waiters have never seen one, and it may not even be legally valid for buying alcohol in some places. As a driver's license is the most ubiquitous form of ID in the U.S. and have a magnetic strip for verification purposes, some supermarkets have begun requiring them to purchase alcohol.
In such cases, it is the cash register not the cashier which prevents such purchases. It's worth noting that most American ID's have the date of birth laid out as month/day/year, while frequently other countries ID's use year/month/day or day/month/year which may cause further confusion. Using false identification to misrepresent your age is a criminal offense in all 50 states, and while most alcohol vendors will simply refuse to sell or take a blatantly fake ID away, a few also call the police which may result in prosecution. Most states (currently 45 of them) and Washington D.C. have found and use loupes in the federal law to allow underage drinking, example; in some states like Delaware and Mississippi, underage drinking is legal on private, non-alcohol premises (including private properties not open to the public). As long as he/she is accompanied by the physical presence of a parent or legal guardian who is over the age of 21 and has the approval to consume alcohol, but this varies.
In states like Hawaii and Tennessee, Underage consumption of alcohol is allowed for religious purposes. Some states require that the alcohol must be provided by an official religious representative and/or limit the type of alcohol allowed. In states like Texas and Wisconsin, underage consumption of alcohol is allowed on alcohol-selling premises, such as a restaurant or bar, as long as the legal guardian gives the minor the alcohol and is in the presence of the legal guardian. This again varies. In states like Colorado and Nevada, underage consumption of alcohol is allowed for medical purposes. Again, this varies. Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire, and West Virginia have no exceptions to underage alcohol consumption laws.
Selling alcohol is typically prohibited after a certain hour, usually 2 AM. In some states, most stores can only sell beer and wine; hard liquor is sold at dedicated liquor stores. In Indiana, sales of any type of alcoholic beverage is banned statewide on Sunday, However, bars are still open and serve alcoholic beverages. Several "dry counties" – mostly in southern states – ban some or all types of alcohol in public establishments; private clubs (with nominal membership fees) are often set up to get around this. Sunday sales are restricted in some areas. Some Indian reservations (especially the Navajo Nation) doesn't allow any alcohol on their territory. Most towns ban drinking in public (other than in bars and restaurants of course), with varying degrees of enforcement. Even in towns which allow public drinking, a visible bottle (rather than one in a small bag, which is so commonly used for it as to be synonymous with public drinking) is either illegal or justifies police attention.
All communities have some sort of ban on "drunk and disorderly" behavior, some quite stringent, and as a rule intoxication is an aggravating rather than exculpating factor in all but the most and least severe offenses. Drunk driving comes under fairly harsh scrutiny, with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% considered "Under the Influence" and many states considering 0.05% "Impaired" - in Washington D.C. it's illegal to drive with any amount of alcohol in your system. If you're under 21, however, most states define a DUI from 0.00-0.02%. Drunk driving checkpoints are fairly common during major "party" events, and although privacy advocates have carved out exceptions, if a police officer asks a driver to submit to a blood-alcohol test or perform a test of sobriety, you generally may not refuse (and in certain states such as New York it is a crime in itself). DUI ("driving under the influence"), OUI ("operating under the influence") and DWI ("driving while intoxicated") are typically punished quite harshly, and as a foreign national it will typically mean the end of your time in the United States - even permanent residents have had their Green Cards revoked and were subsequently deported for DUI.
In many jurisdictions catching and enforcing DUIs is the main job of patrolling police; it is watched for zealously and treated severely. It is also usually against the law to have an open container of alcohol anywhere in the car other than in the trunk. Some states have "open bottle" laws which can levy huge fines for an open container in a vehicle, sometimes several hundred dollars per container. If you're going out to drink with others; always assign at least one person as the designated driver of an automobile. Likewise, you can also arrange a taxi to take you back to your residence. Either way, it is way better than getting a ride in the back of a police car with a DUI on your record.
Places I have been to in the Unites states of America
New York City
I have made this map in Google My maps that displays sights, museums, places to eat, shops, meeting points, public transportation, police, ER, hospitals etc in New York city. I have added lots of extra places on the map that is not mentioned in this article, and it is possible to view this map on your computer, tablet and telephone.
New York City (also referred to as "New York", "NYC", "The Big Apple", or just "The City" by locals), is the most populous city in the United States. It lies at the mouth of the Hudson River in the southernmost part of the state, which is part of the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. The city spans a land area of 305 square miles (790km²).
New York City has a population of approximately 8.2 million people. The New York Metropolitan Area, which spans lower New York, northern New Jersey, and southwestern Connecticut, has a population of 18.7 million, making it the largest metropolitan area in the U.S. As of 2014, it was one of the 15 largest metro areas in the world. New York City is a center for media, culture, food, fashion, art, research, finance, and trade. It has one of the largest and most famous skylines on earth, dominated by the iconic Empire State Building.
New York City consists of five boroughs, which are five separate counties. Each borough has a unique culture and could be a large city in its own right. Within each borough individual neighborhood, some several square miles in size, and others only a few blocks in size, have personalities lauded in music and film. Where you live, work, and play in New York says something to New Yorkers about who you are. Alongside London it's one of only two universally acknowledged to be World Cities - the most important and influential cities on Earth. It's home to many world-class museums, art galleries, and theaters. Many of the world's largest corporations have their headquarters here. The headquarters of the United Nations is in New York and most countries have a consulate here. This city's influence on the globe, and all its inhabitants, is hard to overstate, as decisions made within its boundaries often have impacts and ramifications across the world.
Immigrants (and their descendants) from over 180 countries live here, making it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Travelers are attracted to New York City for its culture, energy and cosmopolitanism. English is the primary language spoken by most New Yorkers although in many communities it is common to hear other languages that are generally widely understood. In many neighborhoods, there is a large Latino/Hispanic population, and many New Yorkers speak Spanish. Most cab drivers speak either Arabic, Hindi or Bengali. There are also many neighborhoods throughout the city that have a high concentration of Chinese immigrants where Mandarin or Cantonese may be useful. In some of these neighborhoods, some locals may not speak very good English, but store owners and those who would deal frequently with tourists or visitors all will speak English.
The World Trade Center attacks of 11 September 2001 were a shared ordeal for the city's inhabitants. Despite those events, from 2003 to the present, New York City has rebounded and surpassed itself in growth. Crime is down to one third of the levels of 1990 and New York City is now one of the safest large cities in America.
The diverse population runs the gamut from some of America's wealthiest celebrities and socialites to homeless people. There are millions of immigrants living in the city. New York's population has been diverse since the city's founding by the Dutch. Successive waves of immigration from virtually every nation in the world make New York a giant social experiment in cross-cultural harmony.
The city's ethnic heritage illuminates different neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. Manhattan's Chinatown remains a vibrant center of New York City's Chinese community, though in recent years the very large Chinese community in Flushing, Queens, has rivaled if not eclipsed it in importance, and three other Chinatowns have formed in New York City: the Brooklyn Chinatown in Sunset Park; the Elmhurst Chinatown in Queens; and the Avenue U Chinatown located in the Homecrest section of Brooklyn. Traces of the Lower East Side's once-thriving Jewish community still exist amid the newly-gentrified neighborhood's trendy restaurants and bars, but there are Chassidic communities in Borough Park, Crown Heights and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Harlem has been gentrifying and diversifying and remains a center of African-American culture in New York. East (Spanish) Harlem still justifies its reputation as a large Hispanic neighborhood. Little known to most tourists are the large Dominican neighborhoods of Hamilton Heights and Washington Heights in upper Manhattan. Brooklyn's Greenpoint is famous for its large and vibrant Polish community, and the Flatbush section - once home to the Brooklyn Dodgers - is today a huge and thriving Caribbean and West Indian section. Queens and Brooklyn are known for being home to many of New York's more recent immigrant groups, which since 1990 have included large numbers of Russians, Uzbeks, Nigerians, Chinese, Irish, Italian, French, Filipinos, Yugoslavians, Indians, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Japanese, Koreans, Thais, Kenyans, Arabs (from throughout the Middle East and northern Africa), Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, Ecuadorians, Brazilians, Colombians and Jamaicans. Unlike most of the USA, New York City's Caucasian population who are native born New Yorkers are overwhelmingly descended from the previous century's immigrants: Irish, Italian or Eastern European Jewish, a smaller percentage are Turks, Yugoslavs, Albanians. Each of these groups have brought their cuisines with them, making NYC a city where authentic bagels, Pizza and ethnic foods are available everywhere. An important change has been taking place in the population recently. During the last 2 decades and especially since 2003, large numbers of young people, many of them recent college graduates and professionals from the rest of the USA have moved to New York City, mostly to Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the parts of Queens closest to Manhattan. They have changed things considerably and continue to add to New York's vitality and artistic output. They have completely changed their neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Manhattan, such as Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Lower East side, Manhattan. One important thing to note about New York City, is its never-ending change, new stores, businesses, buildings and even skyscrapers replace the previous structures, there is always new construction. Photographs of the same busy street 10 or 20 years ago are unrecognizable today.
New York City is home to 46 Fortune 500 companies. Its gross metropolitan product of $1.7 trillion is the largest of any American city and represented approximately 9% of the American economy. If it were a nation, the city would have the 16th-highest GDP in the world. New York's constantly expanding economy is the main reason why millions have immigrated to the city, from all over the world and all over the country over the past 2 centuries of the city's growth. The city is the national center for several industries. It's the home of the two largest US stock exchanges (NYSE, NASDAQ) and many banks. The famous Wall Street is where the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is as well as the famous investment banks and financial investment firms. Wall Street is located in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan.
The city is extremely well connected by air with flights from almost every corner of the world. Three large and several small airports serve the region. Both JFK and Newark are easily accessible with metro to and from the city. LaGuardia is not so if you arrive New York to and from airport it's bit more hassle to get to the city.
Most of NYC is laid out in a grid. By convention, Manhattan is spoken of as if it runs north to south (it's actually northeast to southwest), with streets running east and west and avenues running north and south. This makes it relatively easy and straightforward to find your way. Streets are numbered (except in downtown Manhattan) and the numbering rises as you go north. Most avenues are numbered from east to west (so First Ave is east of Second, etc.) below 59th St. Building numbering on avenues starts at the south end of the avenue and rises as you move north, while building numbering on streets starts at Fifth Ave (for the most part - see below) and increases as you go east or west crosstown.
For shorter distances, there is no better way of getting around New York than hitting the sidewalk. If you use the subway or buses, you will almost certainly need to walk to and from stations or stops. In all areas of New York, a traveler is likely to visit, all streets have wide, smoothly-paved sidewalks. For long distances, walking is also fine and a great way to see the city. Jaywalking is extremely common among New Yorkers; an average New Yorker typically jaywalks 10-15 times a day. However, it can be extremely dangerous. If you cannot properly gauge the speed of oncoming cars, it is recommended you wait for the walk signal. Do not blindly follow someone crossing, as while they might have time to make it across, the person behind them might not. If you do jaywalk, remember that in the US, people drive on the right side of the road on two-way streets so remember to look left to check for oncoming traffic on your side of the road. Be aware that many streets are one-way, so you may have to look right. Beware of bicyclists unlawfully going against the proper flow of vehicular traffic.
Remember that even if you have a walk signal, police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances can bypass red traffic lights. Always defer to these vehicles when walking. In most of the parks I have been to in New York, tame squirrels are most likely to approach you looking for nuts or similar food. If you have some, they will most likely eat it out of Your hand.
While it is possible to pay bus fares using exact change (coins only), you must have a MetroCard to enter the subway system. Cards can be bought online, at station booths, at vending machines in subway stations, and at many grocery stores and newstands (look for a MetroCard sign on the store window). The vending machines in the stations accept credit cards; however, MetroCard vending machines will require that you type in your 5-digit zip code, or your regular PIN on international cards. There is a $1 fee for a new MetroCard
Despite a (somewhat deserved) reputation for being dirty, the subway, which operates 24/7, is the fastest and best way to travel around the city. Fares are $2.75 (unless you use Single Ride MetroCard, which is $3.00), regardless of distance traveled. The much-feared subway crimes of the 1970s and 1980s are for the most part a thing of the past, and it is almost always completely safe. Just remember to use common sense when traveling late at night alone. Try to use heavily traveled stations, remain visible to other people, and don't display items of value publicly. While violent crime is rare, petty crime - especially theft of iPhones and other expensive electronics - is more frequent, so be aware when using your phone on the train. Also, beware that hundreds of people have been arrested for putting their feet on a Subway seat or sitting improperly on a subway seat. Seven years ago, rule 1050(7)(J) of the city’s transit code criminalized what was once simply selfish behavior, such as standing too close to the doors. About 1,600 people were arrested in 2011 and had to wait long periods before seeing a judge and being sentenced.
Manhattan possesses the lion's share of the landmarks that have saturated American popular culture. Starting in Lower Manhattan, perhaps the most famous of these landmarks is easy to spot - the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of the nation standing atop a small island in the harbor, and perhaps also the most difficult attraction to access in terms of crowds and the long lines to see it. Nearby Ellis Island preserves the site where millions of immigrants completed their journey to America. Within Lower Manhattan itself, Wall Street acts as the heart of big business being the home of the New York Stock Exchange, although the narrow street also holds some historical attractions, namely Federal Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the United States. Nearby, the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center Site commemorates the victims of that fateful day. The 1776 foot tall One World Trade Center is the spiritual successor to the fallen Twin Towers and is now the tallest skyscraper in both New York and the United States. Connecting Lower Manhattan to Downtown Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge offers fantastic views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines.
Moving north to Midtown, Manhattan's other major business district, you'll find some of New York's most famous landmarks. The Empire State Building looms over it all as the second-tallest building in the city, with the nearby Chrysler Building also dominating the landscape. Nearby is the headquarters of United Nations overlooking the East River and Grand Central Terminal, one of the busiest train stations in the world. Also nearby is the main branch of the New York Public Library, a beautiful building famous for its magnificent reading rooms and the lion statues outside the front door; and Rockefeller Plaza, home to NBC Studios, Radio City Music Hall, and (during the winter) the famous Christmas Tree and Skating Rink.
Still in the Midtown area but just to the west, in the Theater District, is the tourist center of New York: Times Square, filled with bright, flashing video screens and LED signs running 24 hours a day. Just to the north is Central Park, with its lawns, trees and lakes popular for recreation and concerts.
Head down to Tribeca to see one of the most unique New York City landmarks, the Staple Street sky bridge. Located on one of New York City's smallest streets, the Staple Street sky bridge dates back to 1907, when it was built to connect two buildings that were part of New York Hospital.