The majority of visitors to the States arrive by air using either an international carrier or one of the several US airlines. The main international airports are situated in Boston, New York, Washington DC, Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Anchorage, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Orlando and there are connecting flights from these airports to hundreds of other US cities. You can also fly direct to many other cities but the flights are less frequent and usually they are more expensive too. As well as air travel, there are several overland border crossings between the US and Canada and Mexico.
The easiest way to make long journeys in the US is by plane. Of course it is also the most expensive. If you are visiting from outside the country, some airlines offer a discounted pass when you buy your transatlantic or transpacific flight. This pass, often under the name Visit USA, allows one-way travel from one US destination to the other at reduced prices. You must buy them with your international ticket and it is the quickest and easiest way to see the country at low cost. Another option is booking parts of your trip with one of the so-called ‘no frills airlines’. You will need to ask a travel agent for the best deals but they are well known for undercutting the major US carriers.
Most visitors to the States strongly recommend car hire as the most cost-effective and convenient way to see the country’s highlights. And, if you are over a certain age with a full drivers permit, it probably is. If you do decide to avail of this method of transportation you should be aware that rental rates vary greatly. The price depends on the car size, the length of time you have the car, where and when you pick it up and drop it off so if you sort all this out at the beginning you could save yourself quite a bit in the long run.
But, the reality for most backpackers, however, is that flying or driving around the country simply is not an option. The only national bus company, Greyhound, provides the cheapest way to get around and you should enquire about the New Americpass which offers unlimited travel to anywhere on its network. Unfortunately, for extremely long distance journeys it is slow and uncomfortable and not to be recommended.
Your final mode of transportation for getting around the US is Amtrak, the long distance train service. Again, it’s not an ideal service and most intercity services are not up to European standards. Limited routes and delays are frequent and a lot of the time the fares are not any lower than discount airfares so consider it carefully before availing of this particular service. Despite all of this they do offer a USA Railpass which offers unlimited travel on Amtrack depending on which region you buy the pass for meaning that if you are finding a journey a little long, you can hop off, refresh yourself for the night and catch another train the next day. It is an excellent service and does help the train system to redeem itself in the eyes of the backpacker.