Ways to travel in the United States

Depending on where you arrive in the US, you have number of options when it comes finding ways to travel from one place to another. Many US cities have buses, trains (or subways), boats, and taxis. You can ride these vehicles for a fee for each destination. In some cases, you also have the option to purchase a pass or card to make multiple trips. Whether you go far or near, you will find taxis to be a more expensive choice versus other modes of transportation mentioned earlier. Don't forget to consider air travel for going long distances.

If you are staying in the US for long, consider getting a driving license (the linked page provides information on obtaining a driving license in Maryland, USA). See that page to learn what is involved in getting a licensee in the USA. Although anyone can ride public transportation, one needs a driving license to drive in the US. Each state has its own requirements on issuing a driver's license. If possible, check for the requirements before you arrive in the US. This way you will know ahead of time what to expect. If you are already here, use your local telephone book or search on internet to find the state agency or department that issues driver's license. Each driving license issuing office is called different in each state; for example, some common names include Motor Vehicle Administration (or MVA), Department of Motor Vehicles (or DMV), Department of Public Safety, or Department of Transportation.

If you decide to drive a car in the US, observe some driving safety tips:

  • Unlike other places in the world, drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Always wear your seat belt.
  • If you are driving with children, make sure you use proper seat belts and car safety seats for children.
  • Obey all traffic laws and signals.
  • Driving under the of influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense. Don't drive if you are drunk over the legal limit.
  • If a police car, fire truck, ambulance or any other emergency vehicle needs to pass you, you need to pull over to the side to allow the approaching emergency vehicle pass you.
  • When tuning left or right, use your car’s signals to show your turns.
  • While driving, keep your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance card with you.
  • When you see a stopped school bus with flashing red lights, do not pass it.
  • If you have been drinking or taking drugs, don’t drive.
  • Don’t drive too close to other vehicles.
  • When driving in fog, ice, rain, or snow, be very careful. In rainy, icy or snowy weather, turn your headlights and wipers on, and reduce your speed.
  • Observe speed limits. Don’t drive over the speed limit, don’t especially exceed by 10 MPH of the posted speed limit. If in doubt, drive at the pace of other vehicles on the road.
  • If the police officer stops for speeding or for any other driving violation, don’t pay the fine to the officer. Handing money to the police officer may be misinterpreted as a bribe.
  • Report all traffic accidents.
  • Do not park near a fire hydrant or any sign that prohibits parking. Your car may be towed or you may be fined (possibly under $100). Park at a safe and well let spot. Lock all doors and close windows and make sure valuable possessions, if any, in the car are ought of sight.

Here are some pictures depicting the affects of heavy snow fall to driving on the road:

A car covered with at least a foot of snow
A car covered with at least a foot of snow


Heavy snow fall makes driving dangerous
Heavy snow fall makes driving dangerous

See this post to learn how to drive safely on US roads.

Are you wondering should I rent or buy a car for my a few months of stay? The answer to the question depends on your specific need. However, I’ll give you some thoughts to help you decide with these points:

Owning   Renting
  • Need money to purchase or need to seek auto financing (a loan)
  • Costs to register the car with your state’s motor vehicle office. You will also need an auto safety inspection.
  • You are responsible for car maintenance
  • Difficult to trade or switch to another car.
  • No loan is needed. You just pay the daily or weekly rate.
  • No registration or auto safety inspection costs
  • Your rental company will pay for car maintenance.
  • A request with your rental company can easily let you switch to another car.

While owning or renting a car can be a convenient way to get around, understand you will have to pay for car insurance, fuel costs, driving license. If you want to drive, don’t forget to consider traffic volume that can make driving difficult in some cities. Think of all the costs and benefits before you decide to drive over using public transportation.

Handling accidents

If you are involved in a driving accident, how do you handle the situation? Here are some tips:

  • Notify the police immediately
  • Write down names, addresses, telephone numbers and license numbers of persons involved in the accidents. This means you will need contact and vehicle information of the other driver (or drivers if more than one vehicle was involved in the accident) and give the same about you to the other driver.
  • Request contact information from witnesses, if any.
  • Do not admit fault or liability. This will be taken as an admission of responsibility.
  • If anyone is injured, wait for the medical assistance as the trained medical staff will know well how to provide the care.
  • Notify your insurance company
  • If this is a rental vehicle, notify the rental company of the accident

If your car breaks down

Breaking down of a car will be a stressful experience of your trip to the US. The best advice to prepare yourself against breaking down of your car is to use a car that won’t give you any road troubles. This will cost you more but will protect you against the headache of:

  • Calling a tow-truck
  • waiting for help to arrive. You may have to wait for hours before the help arrives depending on your location
  • fixing of the car or waiting for another car if it is rental
  • paying for repairs, and possibly the tow-truck bill

If your car breaks down on the road, remember to:

  • Move to the shoulder (to the side of a road)
  • Stop the car
  • Call for help (1-800-AAA-HELP, if you are member of AAA)
  • Turn on emergency flashers (and consider lifting the hood) to alert other drivers and police of your stop
  • Lock the doors and wait for help
  • If you need to leave your car behind on the road, make sure you don’t leave anything of value. Also lock doors and close all windows. Don’t forget to close the hood.
  • Notify the rental company if you this is a rental car

Getting fuel (or petrol) for you car

Gas stations are conveniently located across the US. Popular gas stations names include Exxon/Mobil, Sunoco, Shell, and BP (formerly Amoco). Expect pumps operating in different ways from these different gas vendors. In general, fueling instructions are:

  • Read instruction on the pump how to get fuel
  • Swipe your card at the pump if you are paying with a credit or debt card. Pump signs will show you the type of credit cards accepted. Or, pay the cashier in cash. Some gas stations in some areas require pre-payment before you get the fuel.
  • Remove the nozzle from you car and activate the pump and begin fueling
  • Don’t leave your unattended while the fuel is being dispensed into your car
  • Gas and diesel can be filled from the same gas station so don’t get them confused!
  • Once you have filled your car with the amount of fuel you need, pay the cashier if you have not already. Or, collect change, if any, from the cashier if you pre-paid.
  • Print or ask for fuel receipt
Posted on 6/18/2006
by Raj Singh