Make sure that your mobile is unlocked before you travel, otherwise you have to buy a cheap phone for $20. Get a AT&T contract, NOT a TMobile one. The coverage of TMobile is a bit crap. You can’t buy a SIM card the same way you can in the UK. It’s called Prepay and you have to spend between $30 – 40 in total for a month.
Crossroads: In towns and cities there are crossroads where there are no lights but you HAVE to stop at the line. The first person who get’s to the crossroad has right of way. If two or more cars arrive at the same time, the car to the right has the right of way first. If you see blinking red lights hanging over a crossroad, the same rules apply.
Highways: Slower traffic is supposed to keep to the right BUT a lot of drivers don’t really care where they drive. There’s no use of bullying them from behind with a honking horn into getting over to the right lane (especially if you can see a gun rack at the back of the pickup driver cabin). Just overtake them on the right like everybody else. It’s not the official law but everybody is doing it.
Don’t get into ‘road fights’ with trucks. They are big and mean.
Speed limits vary from state to state. There is no rhyme or reason. Don’t speed in towns, as there is always the possibility of a sheriff lurking in a side street. On the big roads most of the cars go a bit faster than the limits. After a while we did the same and got away with it. But we certainly don’t recommend it to you ; )
Navigation: A GPS is a must have if you don’t know any of the roads that you want to drive – but back it up with a proper detailed road map, as the GPS sometimes gets a fit and doesn’t know it’s ares from it’s elbow. Having a map will also allow you to take different routes, especially when you want to get off interstates and use 2 lane highways instead.
License: Have your driving license and ID card with you in the front of the car in case you get stopped. Don’t keep it in the boot at the bottom of a suitcase.
Sometimes it pays to go to cheap chains like Coco’s or Wafflehouse for breakfast. The food will (should) not be below a certain standard and you save time. We tried to find local cafes but you spend a lot of time searching around and if you cant find one you go back to Wafflehouse having spent half an hour searching for an alternative. We went to McDonalds once to buy a ‘Rancher salad’ each. It was ok.
If you can’t live without burgers: All roadside restaurants have them on their menu. They are between $7 and $9, come with fries and salad and taste ten times better than the McDonalds ones.
Check out micro breweries. The are everywhere now, popping up like mushrooms. They sell quality beer in great variety and we had the best food in terms of quality and price in a lot of them.
Tipping: The official rule is to tip between 15 and 20%. Most Americans generally tip 20%. That’s what keeps the American service industry (and you as a customer) happy. Also take into account that on top of the price on the menu you get charged between 7 and 10% tax, depending on what state you are in. Everything is a third more expensive than you think ; )
Alcohol: Also depending on what state you are in, you have to show ID when ordering a beer or a glass of wine in a restaurant with your meal. It doesn’t make a difference if you look like 85 – you HAVE to show ID. Best thing is to always carry your ID and driving livence on you.
Generally, the quality of food is as good as your quality of choice. Yes, some portions are big but you don’t have to stuff your face just to finish the plate.
We took a Currency Card with us that we got here in the UK. They count as credit cards and you can use them nearly everywhere except from paying directly at the pump at petrol stations. As with all things, shop around for the best deal on exchange rates and charges. We used FX but this may not suit everyone.
Ask for a receipt for everything that you buy because you don’t have to sign anything when paying by card. They just take your card away in a restaurant and smile when they bring it back.
We didn’t have any problems but it’s always good to keep track of what you are spending.