Study Abroad: Getting Around In The USA

I always knew that whilst I was on my year abroad I wanted to use the opportunity to do some travelling, especially to areas and cities that aren’t necessarily ones that people back home generally visit like LA, or NYC (although I’d love to visit some of them as well!). However, North America is vast to say the least which can make getting around a little difficult, particularly if you’re used to being able to get from one side of your country to the other in roughly an 8 hour train trip like you can in the UK. Also as an exchange student without a car in a part of America where everyone has a car I’ve often found myself having to rely on others or trust myself with the South’s pretty haphazard public transport system. So here are a few tips if you find yourself in America and wanting to do a bit of budget-friendly travelling.

By far the quickest way to travel if you’re considering longer distances as all states have multiple national airports. If you book in advance you can get some pretty good deals but it’s still a pretty pricey option, also airports tend to be quite far out of town so you’ll need to consider how you’re going to get around once you arrive.

America’s Amtrak trains cross the continent, however, the further west you get the sparser they become. Furthermore, if you’re travelling from or to a smaller city connections can be terrible meaning you have to take a very long, very expensive route to get somewhere relatively close by. For example on a recent trip to Memphis, my 6 hour, $60 one way ticket by bus would have taken over 24 hours and cost over $300 on the train as from Hattiesburg it would have gone to D.C. and Chicago before coming back down South, so doing your research is essential! For some journeys however, the train is ideal; they’re generally quite spacious, comfortable and cheaper than flying.

The Greyhound bus service is widespread throughout the US, offering great prices but lengthy journey times. Although I experienced no problems the buses can also have a reputation for being dangerous so it’s best not to travel alone.

By far the most popular form of transport, buying or renting a car is a great way to travel at your own pace and ensure you can get around in cities with poor public transport. Fuel is relatively cheap as well and roads are generally wide and open making driving fairly easy, just remember what side of the road to drive on!

On a smaller scale, travelling within a city also offers many options and its part of the tourist experience to try them out. Lots of US cities still use trolleys which are lovely, inexpensive ways to see more or an area, and horse-drawn carriage rides are offered in many for a slow but sweet way to travel. The best idea when travelling is to plan ahead, you’ll get the best deals and be prepared for any mishaps, in smaller cities it’s likely that only one train or bus will run a day so you have to be extra vigilant, but with a little forethought it’s a great experience.

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