USA and Alaska

Times Square   Disney World

Why USA?              

Click here to view video - Alaska, Chicago and Midwest, Florida, Las Vegas and
New York

From its vast plains, snow-covered mountains, deep forests and strange rock formations, to soaring skyscrapers and a thunderous cultural scene, the USA is a collage of extremes. Nothing can prepare you for your first glimpse of Manhattan's unforgettable skyline, your first ride in a yellow cab, the ubiquitous hamburger joints, yawning expanses of prairie, the sweet strains of New Orleans jazz, or the neon-lit excesses of Las Vegas.

The USA is a huge country to explore, with 50 states to choose from, flanked by two oceans and covering an incredibly varied terrain. For five centuries, since the discoveries of Christopher Columbus, people from every corner of the globe have come here in search of 'the American Dream'. Between them, they have created the richest, most powerful country on earth, and a fascinating melting pot of cultures and traditions. The playwright Arthur Miller once said that the essence of America was its promise. For newly arrived immigrants and jet-lagged travelers alike, that promise of America can take on near mythic proportions. America is a land of dazzling cities, towering coast redwoods, alpine lakes, rolling vineyards, chiseled peaks, barren deserts and a dramatic coastline of unrivaled beauty. And that’s just California!

In the other 49 lie an astounding collection of natural and cultural wonders, from the wildly multihued tapestry of urban streets to the mountains, plains and forests that cover vast swaths of the continent. America is the birthplace of LA, Las Vegas, Chicago, Miami, Boston and New York City – each a brimming metropolis whose name alone conjures a million different notions of culture, cuisine and entertainment. Look more closely, and the American quilt unfurls in all its surprising variety: the eclectic music scene of Austin, the easygoing charms of antebellum Savannah, the ecoconsciousness of free-spirited Portland, the magnificent waterfront of San Francisco, and the captivating old quarters of New Orleans, still rising up from its waterlogged ashes. This is a country of road trips and great open skies, where four million miles of highways lead past red-rock deserts, below towering mountain peaks, and across fertile wheat fields that roll off toward the horizon. The sun-bleached hillsides of the Great Plains, the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest and the scenic country lanes of New England are a few fine starting points for the great American road trip.

  • When should I travel?
America’s size plays to the traveler’s advantage when it comes to weather: it’s always perfect somewhere in the US and just shy of Hades somewhere else. In other words, either your destination or your trip’s timing may need tweaking depending on the season. The main holiday season is, naturally, summer, which typically begins on Memorial Day (the last Monday in May) and ends on Labor Day (the first Monday in September). But Americans take their holidays mainly in summer because schools are closed, not because the weather’s uniformly ideal: yes, hit the beaches in August, because Manhattan is a shimmering sweat bath and the deserts are frying pans. The seasons don’t arrive uniformly either. Spring (typically March to May) and fall (usually September to November) are often the best travel times, but ‘spring’ in parts of the Rockies and Sierras may not come till June. By then it’s only a sweet memory in Austin, while in Seattle, spring often means rain, rain, rain. And winter? It’s expensive high-season at ski resorts and in parts of the southern US (blame migrating snowbirds), but planned well, winter can mean you have the riches of America’s landscape virtually all to yourself. Whether you’re planning to join them or avoid them, holidays and festivals are another thing to consider.

  • Is it safe to travel and are there places to avoid?
Most visits to the USA are trouble-free but visitors should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate international terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners. Violent crime related to the drugs trade is a major issue in the Mexican states along the border with California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The hurricane season normally runs from June to November, and can affect the whole of the southern USA. Earthquakes are a danger on the West Coast, including Alaska and Hawaii. Forest and brush fires are a danger in many dry areas in the US, particularly on the West Coast from March to November. The greatest fire risk is during a period of dry weather and high winds, which can cause brush fires to spread very rapidly. Travellers should monitor local media reports about such fires and follow the advice of local law enforcement officials. Visitors should expect stringent security checks at airports and public buildings. Visitors should be alert to the dangers of car and street crime in cities.

  • What money should I take?
The currency is the US Dollar (USD). Most major credit cards are accepted throughout the USA, including American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa. Visitors are advised to carry at least one major credit card, as it is common to request prepayment or a credit card imprint for hotel rooms and car hire, even when final payment is not by credit card. Travellers cheques are widely accepted in US Dollar cheques; Pound Sterling traveller's cheques are rarely accepted and few banks will honour them. Change is issued in US Dollars. One or two items of identification (passport, credit card, driving licence) will be required.

  • What language will they understand?
English, with significant Spanish-speaking minorties (10.7%).

  • How about my health?
Medical insurance is strongly advised. Only emergency cases are treated without prior payment and treatment may be refused without evidence of insurance or a deposit. All receipts must be kept in order to make a claim. Medical facilities are generally of a high standard. Many medications available over the counter in other countries require a prescription in the US.

  • Public Holidays

2012
01 January New Year's Day
16 January Martin Luther King Day
20 February Presidents' Day
28 May Memorial Day
04 July Independence Day
03 September Labor Day
08 October Columbus Day
11 November Veterans' Day
22 November Thanksgiving Day
25 December Christmas Day

2013
01 January New Year's Day
21 January Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
18 February Presidents' Day
27 May Memorial Day
04 July Independence Day
02 September Labour Day
14 October Columbus Day
11 November Veterans' Day
28 November Thanksgiving Day
25 December Christmas Day

  • Do I need a visa?
South African passport holders require a visa for the USA. These must be obtained in person from the US Embassy.

  • Will I need any innoculations before I depart?
No innoculations are required.