Traveling across the United States
The United States isn’t a popular place for long-term budget travelers. Most people just come here for a short vacation and to visit one or two cities. After all, it’s a large country without a real tourist infrastructure or good cross-country transportation. Hostels really aren’t big in the United States, trains don’t go a lot of places, and we don’t offer working holiday visas. Moreover, most round-the-world tickets only stop in LA or NYC. But the United States is a country that demands more time. There are lot of national parks, a diverse geography, culture, music, and great regional food. Rent a car and drive around. Take some cross-country tours. The cities are great, but America really reveals itself in the country.
Accommodation – The US doesn’t have many hostels. Outside major cities, you’ll just find cheap hotels and motels. Hostels cost between $15-30 USD per night for a dorm room. Cheap motels and hotels cost begin at $35 USD per night. Hotels in cities start at $60 USD per night. The US is very vast and prices fluctuate a lot depending on what region you’re in.
Food – Food in America is very cheap. Between fast food and cheap delis, you can eat really well on a budget. Fast food will cost you $6 USD per meal (unless you go after the dollar menu), mid-range restaurants like Applebee’s will cost around $10-15 USD per meal. Sandwich shops are around $5 USD, and nice sit down restaurants begin around $15 USD.
Transportation – The US is a big country, and its size can make it difficult to travel around. The easiest way to travel is by car. The great expanse of America is best seen via car and the open road. The American road trip is a long-held tradition and gives you the flexibility to see all the off the beaten path places out there. On the coasts, there is an extensive train and bus network that is very cheap, with bus fares as low as $1. Flying is your quickest option but can be very expensive. For cheap flights, consider JetBlue and Southwest. Amtrak runs trains throughout the country, and while amazing, isn’t very cheap compared to the bus.
Activities – Given the size and diversity of the country, prices vary too widely to give an accurate description.
Money Saving Tips
Travel by land – The best way to get across the country is often times by driving or bus. In the northeast, bus fares cost as little as $1. Typically, flying and trains are the most expensive way to get around. If you can, rent a car and share the gas costs with friends.
Get a national park pass – One of the highlights of any trip to America is visiting all the national parks. Getting a national parks pass will let you into all the parks for free so you don’t have to keep paying an entrance fee.
Cook – The United States has some of the cheapest food in the developed world. Grocery shopping for less than $40 USD per week can save a lot of money.
Couchsurfing – The Couchsurfing movement started in the United States, and free accommodation offered can make up for the lack of hostels. You’ll find plenty of hosts throughout the country who will show you around their town and let you stay for free.