When it comes to backpacking, America is always a top choice. Thanks to the many destinations you can visit and the fact you can even drive routes and hit up several locations at a time, America is a great place to go backpacking. In order to get the most from your trip we have written this guide on backpacking in the USA to let you know the best places to go as well as things you should know before travelling.
Places to visit
Route 66 starts in Chicago in Illinois and ends in Santa Monica in California. When travelling along here there are so many places to visit and pass through, such as Iowa, Nebraska, and Las Vegas. All in all, Route 66 takes around 30 hours to drive the length of and passes through around eight different states! The route is lined with old school motels, gas stations, diners and mom-and-pop shops. Why not stop off at some popular food spots on the way such as Big Texan in Amarillo which serves enormous 72oz steaks!
Las Vegas is one of the most famous places in the world, known for its clubs, casinos and outrageous nightlife; perfect for enjoying your trip! With such a large variety of hotels you will find something to suit your budget no matter where you are. Take a stroll down the strip, visit infamous casinos, catch a show and dance the night away down Fremont Street! We recommend spending a few days here to ensure that you can fit everything in and make your trip as memorable as possible.
LA and California
Home to the stars, movie sets and Hollywood, LA and California are on most people's bucket lists. Take a look around the infamous Rodeo Drive, visit the Farmer's Market in LA and gorge on cuisines from around the world and walk down the Walk of Fame, spotting celebrity stars as you go. If you're looking for something more relaxing you can always take a trip to Venice Beach and see the famous 'Muscle Beach', or visit Santa Monica Pier and enjoy the rides!
San Francisco is located in northern California and is well known for its hilly surroundings and year round fog. When visiting the booming city, you can expect to see Victorian houses, cable cars and of course the incredibly iconic Golden Gate Bridge. You can also see the infamous Alcatraz Island which was previously a federal prison. You can even book a visit in advance and have a tour!
New York is one of the most famous cities in the world. It is known for its tall city building, Broadway shows and incredible Times Square. Enjoy a spot of shopping at the Rockefeller Center or visit iconic areas such as Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. You might even come across some filming as New York is used thousands of times a year for movie shoots!
Mexico has a very strong and distinct culture which involves great music, food and festivals. Here you can go diving and explore the aquatic life or even swim with dolphins - something else to tick off your bucket list! Visit the Chichen Itza for some historical insights or take a trip to Cancun and enjoy the party lifestyle with reams of clubs.
Canada is the second largest country in the world with amazing untouched landscapes as far as the eye can see! Of course you can see Niagara Falls here, see an ice hockey game and try many different cuisines with a wide selection of eateries. As mentioned, Canada's landscape is part of the incredible culture. You can find isolated bright blue lakes nestled between mountains and forests and can even go skiing down the Canadian Rockies.
Things to see
The canyon has been created by the Colorado River in the state of Arizona. The Grand Canyon is an impressive 227 miles long and 18 miles wide and is around a mile deep! Commonly, people will take a helicopter tour of the canyon which can be boarded from Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park Airport and other areas. From the South Rim there are viewing areas as well as activities such as rafting and hiking.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is an incredible sculpture which is carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore itself. The sculpture features George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, representing the first 130 years of history of the United States. The carving took 14 years and ended in 1941. You can visit the monument, based in South Dakota, via vehicle, with only parking charges applying.
Niagara Falls is the most famous group of waterfalls in the world. Three waterfalls span across the border between Canada and the United States and are around 51 metres in height. You can visit the falls from the American side in which you can walk along the walkways where an observation tower and boat dock for the Maid of the Mist tour are. From the Canadian side you can utilise the underground walkways that lead to observation rooms as well as Skylon Tower's observation deck.
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is a large suspension bridge which connects San Francisco and Marin County. Up until 1964 it was the largest and longest suspension bridge in the world! The bridge charges a toll at $7 which is worth it for the breath taking views and incredible photographs you are able to take!
The White House
The White House is the residence and office of the President of the United States based in Washington D.C. The White House is visible from both Lafayette Square and The Ellipse with public access only allowing you around the house and not inside the grounds.
Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Central Park
The Statue of Liberty was created by a French sculptor and was gifted to the United States from France in 1886. The statue sits on Liberty Island which is accessible by ferry. After the September 11 attacks the statue was closed to the public and following recent refurbishments, the public are allowed to ascend the statue with only a limited number permitted each day. The impressive statue stands at 93 metres tall (from torch to ground) making it stand out over the waters.
The Empire State building is an impressive skyscraper in New York which stands at 443 metres high (from antenna to the ground). For nearly 40 years it was the tallest building in the world until the World Trade Center North Tower was constructed. Sadly, following the September 11 attacks, the Empire State stood again as the tallest tower in New York. You can find observation decks allowing you an incredible panoramic view of the city.
Central Park is an urban area set in New York City which is what makes it so unusual. The rest of the city is paved and filled with buildings, with Central Park almost looking like a mirage. You can find six areas of water including the large reservoir with bike rides, horse and carriage rides and other activities available to participate in.
Hollywood is very famous thanks to the radio, film and TV industry. It is home to the Walk of Fame which includes the names of famous celebrities on the pavement. You can also find many filming studios here such as Warner Bros Studios, Walt Disney Studios, Dreamworks, Paramount Studios and 20th Century Fox Studios. Take a trip around and learn about the history of media, you might even see some celebrities!
Visiting with a travel company vs travelling alone
When it comes to backpacking in the US, you will find many different companies that offer services and packages to make your dreams come true. Trek America provides many tours and destination visits across the United States where you will be put into a group with other travellers. This allows you to join other people who share your passion and make new friends along the way. You have a set itinerary which you will follow and only pay a set price for the trip (minus your spending money). Prices for these trips usually start at around £1,000 depending on where you would like to go and how long for. They also don't charge single person supplements!
Alternatively, you can look at travelling yourself. This way you will be able to go everywhere that you would like to without being tied to an itinerary. Using sites such as HostelWorld or HostelBookers will allow you to book cheap accommodation as well as meet new people as you'll be (usually) sharing with other people. You can also find cheap flights through gap year sites as well as getting last minute deal and using airline miles to reduce your trip price.
Things to know before you go
To enter the United States you will need a visa. If you have a British Passport, you will be allowed to stay in the US for 90 days once you have provided your details 72 hours before travelling. You should do this using the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA). Once you have done this you will be valid to travel in the US on multiple trips for two years after you have been approved.
Tipping is part of the American culture. Giving your waiter/waitress/driver or anyone else who serves you some small change as a tip will get you far. You may find that people will become offended if you do not tip them, so even if you have a spare dollar, throw it their way!
Jaywalking is where you cross the road in an undesignated area. You will find signs up that indicate you cannot cross the road without doing so on a crossing. These are usually a picture of a person stepping off the curb with a red circle and line through it. If you are caught jaywalking you will be fined.
In the United States the legal age for drinking alcohol is 21. It is illegal for you to purchase or drink alcohol below the age of 21 as well as it being illegal to use a false ID or someone else's. It is also illegal to take any form of hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin and a range of other substances.
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