Transportation in the USA
America is a large place, and getting around the country may seem like a challenge, especially for international students. Whether you are living on or off campus, in a city or suburb, you are going to need to be able to get around easily and efficiently. You will probably not want to buy a car just for your time in the States, so you’ll want to learn about the many public transportation options available to you for getting around in your new country.
Depending on where you attend school, you may find a variety of public transportation systems. These options include:
- Trains and Subways
A bicycle can be a great way to get around your campus and your local area. Whether your campus is based in the middle of a city or in the suburbs, a bike is relatively inexpensive, and it’s a good way to get some exercise. Whenever riding your bike, always take care to observe the law of the road, and always wear a helmet. It is now a law in some states that helmets must be worn. As with any personal property, take care to lock your bike up when you are not using it. Most college campuses provide a bike rack for that purpose outside of many buildings on campus. A good lock does not usually cost very much, and it’s a small price to pay for the security of your bike.
If you are living in a city, the bus system will likely be pretty extensive, as with most of the public transportation systems in large urban areas. However, if you live in the suburbs, buses will not run as often and you may have to find alternative methods to get around. On longer routes, Greyhound runs an extensive bus system across the USA which is an inexpensive way to travel, but it can take a long time to get from one place to another. Most city bus systems now offer smartphone apps that allow you to keep track of when your next bus is coming, which can be extremely useful.
Taxis can be extremely expensive for students, and are good for longer journeys that are either too far for walking or by bicycle, or there is no bus or subway system where you want to go. Always remember to check your driver has a valid ID card which should be displayed (if not ask to see it) and make sure the meter is running. Never enter a taxi where the driver has asked for a set fee!
A less expensive alternative to taxis is ridesharing services such as Uber. With these services, you can enter your location and your destination in an app on your phone, and a driver will pick you up and deliver you to your destination for a much lower fee than a taxi would require.
Trains and Subways
Subways will be found in most major cities in the USA, such as New York, Boston, and Chicago, and they are a cheap way to travel around. When moving to a big city, you will want to familiarize yourself with the subway system, as it is likely to be your most common way of getting around. Trains, on the other hand, are good for traveling throughout the USA. They are slightly more expensive than traveling by bus, but it is much quicker. If you are planning on going on a long trip, you might consider looking into train tickets. However, they are generally not the best way of travelling short distances.
At least once during your time in the US, you will probably want to travel. If you and your friends are planning a road trip during vacation, you might be surprised by reasonable vehicle rentals can be. Many car rental companies are happy to rent vehicles to international students; all you need is an appropriate driver’s license. If you’re planning a long drive, it is probably a good idea to make sure that you have more than one qualified driver in the car, and that you have invested in proper insurance.
Plenty of college student run car pools for getting around during the holidays—many schools even offer services that help put together car pools. This makes it easy to find a cheap ride with people going to the same place as you. However, students should always be cautious when accompanying someone they don’t know very well.
Much of the way you travel will depend on where you are living. Check out our Accommodation page for information about different living arrangements in the US.