11 Rookie Mistakes Tourists Make When Visiting America


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In 2023, a whopping 62.8 million international visitors landed in the States, and chances are, half of them were stepping onto American soil for the first time. This translates to many social faux pas and mistakes by tourists who get to experience the land of the free for the first time. Here we selected the 11 pitfalls that first-time visitors to America that are annoying or amusing for the locals to witness.

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1. Not Tipping Appropriately

For tourists, the tipping culture in the US can be a maze. Unlike many places, tipping here isn’t optional—it’s essential as hospitality workers rely on that extra 15-20% not just as a bonus, but as a crucial part of their wage.

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2. Eating Only in Chain Restaurants

“American food is so unhealthy and fattening, no wonder there is an epidemic of obesity in the country,” is a common refrain heard from many international visitors as they step away from the counters of Popeye’s, Burger King, or “You Name It” Chain. Tourists dining only at chain restaurants don’t get to experience true American food but commercialized one. 

As of 2023, there were 136,216 chain restaurant businesses in the US, compared to 140,185 single-location full-service restaurant businesses. Yes, America is the cradle of chain restaurants, but it’s also a melting pot of culinary diversity, offering a display of flavors that can satisfy even the palates of the pickiest foreigners. 

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3. Overlooking How Big The United States Really Is

Every born-and-raised American knows that traveling across the United States can feel like traveling to another continent, given that coast-to-coast flights can take up to six hours. However, tourists—often Europeans—tend to overlook the humongous size of the US and try to squeeze in New York, California, and Florida all in one week, spending much of their American holiday on planes.

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4. Only Falling for Touristy Destinations

Another rookie mistake tourists make is visiting only the most hyped destinations, such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, among others, thereby missing the full picture of “America the Beautiful.” The heart of America beats not just on the typical tourist trail but also in its numerous national parks that offer wild beauty, and cities from coast to coast buzzing with unique cultures.

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5. Ignoring American Drinking Laws

Tourists, especially those from countries with looser or no alcohol laws, roam the streets with a beer in hand, not realizing that a hefty fine might be just around the corner. The US has relatively strict alcohol laws, and public consumption is generally prohibited everywhere. 

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6. Overlooking Public Transport

Getting around in any big city in America often puts visitors in a limbo of either walking until they drop or hemorrhaging cash on Uber and Lyft. Granted, American public transport may sound confusing and overwhelming at first glance, with its myriad routes and schedules. However, every born-and-raised American knows that, aside from driving yourself everywhere, subways, trains, and buses are the ultimate no-fuss options for getting from point A to point B.

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6. Underestimating American Friendliness

Americans are extremely friendly and polite. Chatting with strangers, sharing a laugh, and then just moving on—it’s the American way. However,  tourists from places where people are a bit more reserved might feel reluctant to engage in these friendly chit-chats with locals and often appear rude and indifferent.  

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7. Visiting Without Travel Insurance

Here’s a pricey mistake a lot of tourists make: Skipping out on travel insurance and just crossing their fingers, hoping nothing goes wrong. Americans themselves know all too well how pricey healthcare can get in the US and can advise visitors that going without coverage isn’t the best idea.

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8. Assuming Credit Cards are Accepted Everywhere.

You can swipe or tap your card pretty much everywhere in America, but walking around without a penny and assuming that everyone accepts cards is ill-advised, and a common oversight many tourists make. Some places, especially the little mom-and-pop shops, either prefer cash or that’s all they’ll take. 

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9. Ignoring Weather Variations

Once again, America is huge, so the climate varies widely from region to region. Tourists often pack inappropriate clothing, not realizing, for example, that deserts can be cold at night or that Florida can be quite humid and rainy in the summer.

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10. Misunderstanding Sales Tax

Unlike countries where taxes are factored into the displayed price, America tacks on sales tax at checkout. This subtle distinction often catches visitors off guard, resulting in sometimes a nasty surprise at the final bill. Remember this little detail when planning your budget to avoid any unexpected expenses.

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11. Jaywalking

Another blunder tourists often pull in America is jaywalking–crossing the street outside of designated crosswalks or against traffic signals. While this might seem harmless in some places, it’s actually a legal offense in many US jurisdictions, and authorities enforce it strictly.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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