18 Useful tips for traveling in the U.S. by car

Traveling around the United States by car is an unforgettable trip through America’s roads, cities, and parks that you will remember for a long time. To make it as interesting as possible, you should prepare well. Practical information and useful tips on some of the peculiarities of driving in the States will help you get accustomed to driving faster and see the sights and beautiful nature of America out-of-town. In this article, I am going to share 25 useful tips and recommendations for traveling around the States by car, based on my own experience of several road trips across various U.S. states in a rental car.

traveling in the U.S.

Useful Tips

  1. Renting a car in the USA is allowed with a Russian driver’s license, unlike in Thailand, you do not need an international driver’s license to rent a car. The driver must be over 20 years old and have at least 1 year of driving experience. Young drivers under 24 years old, regardless of driving experience, can only rent an inexpensive car and must purchase additional insurance. To rent a premium car like a Tesla, Lexus, Ford Mustang, or Chevrolet Camaro, you must have more than 3 years of driving experience.

To pre-book a car from rental agencies in the U.S., you need to find a suitable option (we look for it on Rentalcars.com) and choose a period to calculate prices. If you do not want to make an advance payment, then you do not have to specify in the special form of booking bank card details, which will be the amount required to pay for the rental. But the price, in this case, may be higher.

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  1. Plan your itinerary for your trip by car in advance, preparing a program for each day of your trip to the United States and working it out in as much detail as possible. It’s convenient to calculate distances and travel time with the help of Google Maps.
  2. It is more convenient to travel by car in America with a GPS navigator. To save on renting it (about 5 dollars a day), do not forget to take your own navigator in the States, or download offline maps to your smartphone beforehand.
  3. You’ll also need to rent child seats for trips with children. If you’ll be traveling around the U.S. by car for a long time, it will be more profitable to buy them in the store and then sell them at a discount.
  4. When traveling, it is very convenient to use paper maps of roads and regions you are traveling through, with landmarks marked on them. You can buy them in supermarkets across America and at many gas stations.


6. Keep in mind that some roads and bridges in the U.S. are tolled, such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. It is especially a lot of toll roads in major metropolitan areas and near them, It is convenient to pay tolls with a special transmitter – a transponder, which can be rented when renting a car. It is better not to take it for a single payment, but to study in advance the forthcoming route of the trip and be prepared to pay in cash (it is possible in some places), or to pay by card at special sites on the Internet within a few days after the passage.

7. It is always a good idea to carry cash dollars in small denominations, as well as coins (especially in quarters) for minor expenses and payment at various automatic machines (for example, for pumping up the tire at the gas station). You may also need these to pay for gas if your bank card doesn’t work at the pump (sometimes you have to enter a ZIP code, which may not work).

8. Always obey traffic rules, signs, and markings, including those concerning stopping and parking, as well as commands given by a traffic controller or flagman.

9. To avoid getting a ticket, do not exceed the maximum speed limit by more than 5 mph. The fine for speeding in the U.S. depends on how much you exceed it, and can be very high, up to several thousand dollars. Also never throw garbage out of the car through the window or on the side of the road, otherwise, you may face a fine of $2,000 (fines vary from state to state).

10. When parking your car, be sure to consider what kind of interference you may cause to other road users and pedestrians, especially in unfamiliar areas. If necessary, ask your fellow passengers to get out and help you park properly. Observe the rules of parking, including on a sloping road. In large cities, don’t forget to pay in advance to park your car using a parking meter so that you don’t get a fine. You can always park for free near large shopping malls or near restaurants and cafes and fast food outlets. You can use http://www.bestparking.com/ to find free parking spaces in the city.

11. In the U.S., there are quite a few wild animals near national parks and forests along the road (e.g., Grand Canyon Park) and grazing livestock. So if you see an appropriate warning sign, do not ignore it under any circumstances, but rather reduce your speed and focus your attention on the road and the environment around it. This is especially important at dusk when visibility is already quite poor and raccoons and deer are still awake.

wild animals near national parks

12. On the road, be correct to other road users and always allow pedestrians to pass (pay special attention to children). Keep a smooth and relaxed driving style, allow more maneuverable vehicles to pass, as well as those who are in a hurry or drive aggressively. Reduce speed on poorly visible or densely populated areas of the road. Be aware of the peculiarities of driving at night, in fog, rain or high winds, on mountain roads, and in dense traffic.

13. On long climbs (such as in Death Valley), it is recommended to temporarily turn off the air conditioner, so that the engine does not overheat and pulls better. And on descents to facilitate deceleration and to avoid excessive overheating of the brakes you can use engine braking, forcibly setting a lower gear, even in an automatic gearbox.

Useful tips for traveling

14. In small towns in the United States, it is quite common to encounter intersections with a STOP sign and stop line before intersections. Be sure to stop and proceed if you do not have an obstruction on your right. Sometimes at fairly busy intersections of this type, the rule applies that the first to go is the one who has approached the intersection first. So be especially careful and if you are not sure about the traffic situation, it is better to stop once more.

15. A school bus in the United States requires special attention from other drivers. The most important thing to do when you stop when there is a stop sign is to stop, even if you are going in the opposite direction, and wait until all the students get on or get off and the bus starts again. You should always pay extra attention to schoolchildren rushing on or off the school bus and be sure to slow down near their congestion.

 school bus in the United States

16. Always give way to cars with special signals and siren, in all circumstances. If a car with flashing lights catches up with you, it is better to slow down, giving him the advantage, and if necessary, even turn to the side of the road to let him pass.

17. If you are tired on the road or need to go to the bathroom, then keep in mind that you can not stop on the car during the trip directly on the highway. You either have to drive to the nearest town or wait for the Rest Area (parking + restrooms + vending machines) or Service Area (which also has eateries and coffee shops like McDonald’s, Subway, and Starbucks, as well as a gas station).

18. If you are stopped by a police officer, sheriff or ranger, do not get out of your car, but stay in it and wait until he/she comes to your car. Be polite and comply with all the requirements of the patrolman unquestioningly: show your car documents and explain the purpose of your trip, if he asks. If you do not speak English well, tell the policeman about it at once so that there are no misunderstandings.

This concludes my tips for traveling in the United States by car. Have a safe trip and the most interesting experiences of your trip by car in America, dear readers!