The USA is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It attracts millions of people each year, many of whom are visitors coming to meet their relatives. Traveling to the US can be an intimidating experience for anyone due to the infamously strict airport checking and a slew of other security-related checks that visitors are subjected to. While the US and its citizens are quite nice in general, they are extremely careful and protective of their nation against terrorism and other such elements. This makes the USA a comparatively tough country to get into.
In recent years, a considerable number of students and employees have emerged from India to study and settle in the US. All the difficulties get multiplied manifolds when Indian parents have to travel to the US to meet their child/children.
But it does not have to be that way. First-time travel to USA can be an exceptionally exciting experience with a little preparation and attention. Here are a few tips for Indian parents who are visiting the USA for the first time to make their journey and stay a pleasant and comfortable experience:
Pre Departure Tips:
Preparation begins well before the plane takes off for your first-time travel to USA. You can take these steps well in advance to ensure a smooth and hassle-free journey-
Ensure that you have your passports handy and its multiple copies strategically kept in files and luggage.
Apply for a visitor’s visa if you haven’t already and prepare for an interview with a visa officer. Be confident during the entirety of the interview and state your purpose of the visit clearly.
– Flight and Tickets
Make sure to book the tickets well in advance to grab the best price. Flights to the USA can be quite tiring as they take at least 15 hours. Ensure that you book your flight as per leg space and other available comforts and luggage allowance. You should prefer wearing comfortable clothes to negate or reduce uneasiness while on the flight. Do not keep dangerous items like power banks in your check-in luggage.
– Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is an often ignored department when booking long route flights. It is a necessity for older parents as the risk of incurring medical expenses is higher for senior parents and American medical bills tend to be quite hefty.
Speaking and understanding American English is not everyone’s forte even if they are well versed with the language. The difference in accents can pose to be quite a challenge. Make sure to get familiar with the American accent to prepare yourself for your journey and stay and for an enhanced and comfortable experience.
Airports can tend to get hectic and confusing, especially it’s your first-time travel to USA. You can ring up the airport or your flight carrier to ask for assistance on the day of your flight. They can arrange for special assistance at minimal charges when you travel abroad.
Passengers are allowed to carry prescription medication along with them, as long as it is in its original packaging. Try to carry all prescribed medicines, if any and carry surplus as it might not be available in the USA.
– Keep Track of important details
Things like the address you’ll be staying at, the office address and contact details of your children, local police and ambulance helplines should be kept handy.
Rupees won’t work as soon as you board your flight. Currency exchange will become crucial once you enter the US. One can either get a prepaid Forex card or buy dollars online in cash. In order to buy foreign currency, you would have to check the prevailing exchange rates and buy USD accordingly. A prepaid Forex card is great option as it acts as your debit card and can make payments, transfer money or act as an ATM card using one or more currencies. Ensure that you buy dollars online adequately to prevent last moment hassles.
As you land:
-Customs Immigration Form
This form will be provided to you right before the plane touches American soil and you’ll be required to fill basic details regarding Passport, flight details, Forex, and types of goods you are carrying into the country. All this information will be verified at the immigration desk once you land.
The immigration counter/desk is usually one of the busiest parts of an airport in the US where you might have to spend upwards of 30 minutes in the queue, so be prepared. You should use the restrooms on the plane before landing. The counters are divided into two – one for citizens and green card holders, and the other for visitors.
Do not shy away from asking for wheelchair assistance if your health does not allow you to put strain on your body by walking. Many parents visiting their children abroad tend to ask for wheelchair assistance as this not only reduces the hassles of walking, but also has a shorter line for the immigration check. The person accompanying you with the wheelchair will accompany you till the drop off point. Keep in mind that wheelchair assistance needs to be requested while booking the flight ticket and again at your port of boarding. However, you might have to wait in line to get a wheelchair assigned as many others also try to avail this facility.
-Keep Passport Handy
Your passport is your best friend and your identification as soon as you land in the US. Make sure to keep it handy at the airport as you’ll be often asked to show it to concerned authorities.
–Be confident and polite
You’ll be asked some questions at the immigration counter, such as the purpose of your visit and the location you’ll be staying at. These would be general in nature. You should maintain your composure and be confident while answering the questions. Politeness is key. This questionnaire will be followed by biometrics and cross-checking of the details you filled in the customs immigration form. There might be a technical delay so do not panic if you are asked to wait in a separate room. Ensure that you fill in the right details in the form and did not hide anything from the authorities. You might be asked to open your luggage and explain some food items you are carrying.
Once you are done with the customs, you’ll go to baggage claim to get your luggage. Here you can either choose to carry your own belongings or you can hire a porter to carry your luggage for you till the exit doors or lobby where your relatives and children would be waiting for you with open arms!
Once you land after your first time travel to USA, you’ll need to acclimatize yourself to your surroundings. Here is how you can manage it:
– Brace for a cultural shock
The first thing that will hit your senses is the cultural gap. Cultural shocks are ordinary for first-time travelers. You should be able to get a hold of yourself and understand that people live differently in different parts of the world. Just because they act differently does not mean they are being rude or impolite. Similarly, make sure to not make any gestures that might be considered offensive in the US but are normal in India. It might be difficult to come at terms with the hybrid lifestyle of the USA. Familiarize yourself with the culture of the US to get a better grasp of living there.
– Jet lag
Jet Lags can be brutal, especially when it is your first-time travel to USA or just another time zone in particular. Disruption in the sleeping patterns can be a cause of annoyance and the body to go out of sync. Take adequate rest once you land.
– Invest in a Prepaid Forex card
If you plan on doing expenditures during your stay, it is safer to opt for a prepaid Forex card that is bundled with additional benefits. Optionally, you can opt for currency exchange and buy US dollars online for the best Forex rates.
– Travel Around
The USA is a beautiful country full of surprises at each nook and corner. Take your time to explore your surroundings and travel instead of staying indoors. Planning and budgeting can get more convenient if you have a prepaid Forex card.
– Maps and Public Transport
Traveling might require you to go places without your children or relatives who are familiar with the area. You can familiarize yourself with the local maps and public transport through the internet or by asking around. It is imperative to gather enough knowledge about the area and commuting options so that you don’t get lost.
– Stay Healthy
It can be challenging to adapt to the climate of the USA. Buy additional clothing if required. Falling ill abroad can not only spoil the mood but might lead to bank-breaking medical bills. Buy a good travel insurance beforehand.
These are some of the important tips and tricks to ensure a safe and comfortable travel experience for first-time travel to USA. Currency plays a crucial role in such scenarios so ensure that you buy USD or opt to buy dollars online for the best currency exchange rates.