7 things you should know about driving in the US
The USA is probably my favourite road trip destination… not because of its complete lack of a functioning public transport system but because the country is so diverse. It’s addicting, and so I keep returning. From the historical east coast to the chilled and sunny west coast, and from the quiet midwest to bustlin’ Florida. And don’t even get me started on the Natural Parks… they are INSANE. You can go from desert to snowy mountain peaks in a matter of hours. But if you’re planning a road trip in the country of endless highways, there’s 7 things you should know about driving in the US, my boss babe.
When you hire a car from a respected car rental company (Budget, Avis, Hertz, Europcar), all of the most important insurances are included in the price. This is, amongst others, a theft insurance and a collision damage waiver. You can choose to buy extras, such as insurance for your tires or to purchase your own deductible. This is your own choice, but as long as you’re not going any off road driving and you’re not auditioning to be in the next ‘Drive’, I’d say you’re probably not getting your money’s worth. I wouldn’t say ‘don’t get it’, because you should do what feels comfortable to you. If paying a little extra calms your nerves, then do it. I didn’t get it for my month long road trip and I was fine.
2) The Diamond Lane
Look at that traffic in front of you. Now look besides you. Is there a living person on the seat next to you? If the answer to the last question is ‘yes’, you’re allowed to use the so called ‘diamond lane’. This is a carpool lane for cars with two or more people in it. Be mindful though: some places ask for a minimum of three people in the car. Diamonds really are a girls best friend, eh?!
Be very mindful of the parking regulations in the US. Were you aware you could not park your car facing the other direction? Neither were we. BAM. We got a £45 parking fine for this in Los Angeles. God knows I love the US, but logic really isn’t their strongest feat.
One morning we drove our car out of the dusty little town of Beatty, on our way to Yosemite National Park. About thirty minutes into our drive we noticed our tank was only half full, but that surely would take us to the next gas station, right? After multiple calculations we found out the nearest station was over 150 km away and way outside of our route! A chance we couldn’t take in the middle of the burning desert. And so we returned. As Europeans we can’t imagine the vastness of the United States, but man, it’s big. You can easily drive for hours trough the desert without seeing one gas station (seems unsafe, but ok). Always check for the nearest gas station before your set out on long drives!
5) Stop signs
Technically a stop has a pretty clear meaning: you have to stop. But let’s not kid around: nobody actually stops at one of those signs in the middle of a deserted road when there’s clearly no traffic. Except for Americans. And they better too, because during my trip I’ve spotted cops lurking in side streets, MULTIPLE times, waiting for someone who forgot to stop at the sign.
6) Sat Nav (we used TomTom)
The rental company will try to sell you everything: upgrades, more radio channels, a gps system, an empty tank-return, their firstborn, you name it. Have you got your own navigation-system? You can just go to their website, download a country specific map for a small fee and install it on your device. Works like a charm.
7) The traffic lights
After some 24 hrs of exhausting flights Mister and I drove down the streets of Las Vegas, on our way from the airport to our hotel. We were beyond excited by the start of our month long trip, as well as deadly tired. The first intersection we encountered, Mister pulled up right to the traffic lights (like in Europe) and stopped right in the centre of the intersection. This is until we screamed when we realized the traffic lights were on the opposite side of the intersection. Thankfully it was one o’ clock at night, somewhere on a deserted road outside of Vegas, but dear lord. WHY?
Flights to the US can be really cheap, NYC and Miami are usually cheapest to fly into!