AUTHOR: RAHUL TYAGI
I am an Indian living in USA for almost 9 years now. Based on my experiences I have shared a few inputs which may be useful for anyone planning to visit USA for tourism, work or study for short or long durations. Check USA travel guide for details on ways to travel on a budget in USA, getting a mobile sim, accessing free internet, getting vegetarian food and many more relevant topics.
How to find good Restaurants in USA
In order to make sure that you are able to eat and have good options while you are travelling to USA please download a useful App called as “Yelp” which can help you find a restaurant near you or wherever you are going. You can also choose a specific cuisine you are looking for.
Vegetarian food in USA
You can get Vegetarian food at most restaurants in USA. Make sure that you ask the waiter that you are looking for something “without meat”. Also, a lot of times they can make a dish without meat if you ask them. Also note that in Indian Restaurants in USA, generally, you’ll get complimentary (Free) Rice with every dish you order.
Indian Grocery stores in USA
In the most major cities, you will find Indian grocery stores as well where you can get almost everything you will get in India.
How to get Free Internet in USA
You will find free WiFi at almost all Coffee Shops in USA. If you are travelling across USA search for the nearest Starbucks. They offer you free WiFi with no time limit and you do not need a phone number for connecting to the WiFI. Starbucks is pretty lenient with customers, you do not necessarily need to buy anything at Starbucks. You can just go inside Starbucks sit and connect to WiFi and enjoy.
Another place you can access free WiFi is public libraries, every city in the US has a public library where you can not only access free WiFi but also access to PC and printing services etc. and on top of that access to Public Library in any city is Free.
Free WiFi tips
Also, there is a retail chain across USA who provides free Access to WiFi. Check this link, https://www.thesimpledollar.com/ten-places-to-find-free-wi-fi-in-any-neighborhood/
These applications also can be used to find free WiFi Hotspots near your location. ‘WiFi Map’ & ‘Wiffinity’
Mobile Networks in USA
There are three major Wireless Operator in USA. Verizon (Only CDMA), AT&T (GSM) and T-mobile (GSM). Rest anyone who is selling you a SIM card is what is known as an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator). They are virtual operators using the physical network of the above three operators. Usually, MVNO’s are cheaper than AT&T, T-mobile as they buy data, voice and text services in bulk from these operators and pass the benefit to consumers. AT&T and T-mobile are equally good but T-mobile has a slightly better network, especially in remote areas.
Here are few MVNOs that can be good for your stay and provide the same connectivity as AT&T and T-Mobile will provide:
H20 Wireless [ Uses AT&T Network]
I use it. Benefits: Free calls to India. You can get this SIM for $1 directly at either Best Buy or Target or Walmart locations.
Plans: https://www.h2owirelessnow.com/mainControl.php?page=planMonth. It does say Monthly Plan but essentially it is a Prepaid Monthly with no commitment required.
Ultra Mobile [T-Mobile Network]
Needs to be ordered Online to avoid paying an extra activation fee
Cricket Wireless [ Uses AT&T Network]
You can get this SIM directly at either Best Buy or Target or Walmart locations.
Straight Talk [ Uses both AT&T & T-mobile]
You can get this SIM directly at either Best Buy or Target or Walmart locations
Other Helpful links
1. https://bestmvno.com/ (Dedicated for MVNO and Cheap Plans) and
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_mobile_virtual_network_operators [ List of MVNOin USA ]
Budget stay options in USA
You can use Couchsurfing to stay for free with locals. Airbnb is also very popular for staying with the locals in the USA. The good thing about Airbnb is that staying at an Airbnb is usually cheaper and comfortable than hotels. Please make sure that you are staying at an Airbnb which has a rating of 3 stars and above or else your stay can be really bad. The best is staying with people who are tagged as ‘Super Host’.
Free credit on AirBnb: Use www.airbnb.com/c/rahult27 to get $40 Credit with signup which you can use towards your stay.
Public Transport in USA
Most cities have good and some cities have a great Public Transport system. Boston and New York have a great Train/Subway/Metro system. You can usually buy Cards depending on the city for unlimited travel (for Ex. 2 Days, 14 Days, 30 Day pass) which gives you access to both Train and Bus (please check each city-specific information) for unlimited travel. Please make sure you check out the Public Transport website for the city where you are travelling.
Taxi or Uber!
If you plan on using Taxi, try leveraging either Uber or Lyft for getting from one place to another especially short distances. Also going into and out of Airports you usually have a service called as ‘Super Shuttle’ which will Pick you and Drop you off at the Airport depending on your address.
Buses in USA
Also, buses are really good and you can find cheap tickets if you book before time. Please make note that Bus Travel is not good for Long Distance Travel.
Useful Applications / Website
Budget Flights in USA
Frontier and Spirit Airlines are the two major low-cost airlines in the USA. To travel the long distances, flights are the best option. You can get really cheap tickets if you buy them in advance. Although there are a few other websites like airfarewatchdog.com and Skiplagged.com to get dirt cheap deals, alerts and tricked fares.
How to deal with the Emergencies
If you have an emergency like medical or theft or anything that requires immediate attention, call 911 immediately. 911 is a universal number for use across the USA for any kind of emergency. If you need help but is not an emergency and you have no other option, call 311 (please double check depending on City ). Also If you can’t figure out anything, go talk to a Police Officer (sitting in a Police car or if you see one) they are very helpful. Indians, in general, are really helpful, even if you don’t know them.
Medical emergency in USA
Medical expenses in USA are very high. Please make sure it is a good practice to cover yourself against any medical emergencies while you are in USA. Out of pocket medical is very high. I would advise you to get a Travel Insurance Plan for USA. You can also buy Medical Insurance before you travel from India but I would suggest picking provider who is local to USA as it would ease your claim and approval process.
Aggregator website that helps you compare different choices are listed below.
Square Mouth: https://www.squaremouth.com
Visitors Coverage: https://www.visitorscoverage.com/