Transportation Guide to the USA


8 minutes

Before you embark on your journey to the U.S., it's important to learn a little more about the city or town, state, and general region in which you will be living. The U.S. is a very diverse and expansive country and is made up of major cities, convenient suburbs, and rural communities. The more familiar you are with your host city, the easier it will be to learn your way around!

Big City Living

Examples: New York, Boston, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

What to Expect: Depending on where you live, there will most likely be multiple options for transportation. Most major cities have a subway system to get around the city quickly and easily. Most will also have an extensive bus system. It is up to you to find the best option for your commuting needs. Check out some of the resources at the bottom of this post to figure out how to get to your office. It's also a good idea to ask your supervisor or co-workers or friends in the area what they recommend in terms of getting around the city.

Suburban Spots

Examples: Bethesda (Maryland), Westchester County, New Jersey and Long Island (New York), and Evanston (Illinois)

What to Expect: If living and interning/training in a suburb and not close to a major bus line, commuter train, or subway stop, you will most likely need a car. Most people who live in the suburbs drive everywhere because they don't live close enough to walk where they need to go, and public transportation is more limited. If you're not sure how close the suburb is to a major city and you will need to commute to the city, it's a good idea to check with your Host Employer and find out where most people at the company live and how they get to work. It may be possible to ride a bike or take a bus to a larger train station for your commute into the city. If you are living in a suburb and working in a suburb, a car is probably your best bet since the public transit system in suburbs are usually designed to get people back and forth to the city center—not around the suburb itself. If you are living in a major city but interning/training in a suburb, you will do what is called reverse commuting and can probably take a train or bus to your office outside the city.  If your office is not close to a bus or train stop, you may need to drive or use a combination of bus/train and walking/biking.

Rural Regions

Examples: The Midwest, Southern States, Northern Florida, Pennsylvania

What to Expect: Some of the most beautiful places in the U.S. are in the countryside. Living in a rural area is a great way to immerse yourself in American culture and meet locals. People in the countryside are known to be the friendliest Americans. You will almost certainly need to have a car if your program is in a rural area. Even if there is public transportation such as a bus line, it may not run often enough to get you where you need to go. Also, if you plan to explore the area and not just go to work and home, you will need a car to get to places uch as restaurants, grocery stores, and local entertainment. Ask your co-workers how they get to work. Some companies may have carpools, meaning people take turns driving each other to and from work.

Types of Transportation in the U.S.

Subway/Metrorail 

Only major cities in the U.S. have subway systems, and how modern and efficient they are depends on the city. If you will be living and interning/training in a major city, this is most likely the way you will get to work. Subway fares depend on the city, but most will have options to purchase weekly or monthly passes, a certain number of trips at a time, or a specific dollar amount. You can do a Google search to find a subway map for your city, and tourism centers will also have maps.

Local Bus

Depending where you live, taking a bus to your host employer's office or to get around town might be the best option. The majority of major cities will have bus lines, but the frequency and routes of the buses will vary. Generally you can buy a pass or ticket for the bus, but if you pay cash, you will almost always need to give the driver change (coins). 

Car

Unless you live in or close to a major city, you will probably need access to a car. If you do plan on driving in the U.S., it is recommended that you get an international driver's license before you arrive, as you cannot get one in the U.S. While driving in the U.S., you must always understand and adhere to the laws regarding driving. The best resource for this and for obtaining a driver's license is the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) for the specific state in which you will be driving. It is a good idea to download the DMV Fact Sheet for more information on how to obtain a license while in the U.S. InterExchange has also created a helpful resource for driving, buying, insuring, and registering a car in the U.S. Please click here to read the full article. There is also the American Automobile Association, also known as AAA or Triple A, which is a membership organization that provides services such as travel and automotive support (if your car breaks down) and insurance.

For those of you who do not need a car everyday, a good option is to rent a car when you need one. If you decide you want to get away for the weekend or perhaps explore some of America's scenic drives, then renting a car for just a few days is probably your best bet. Just like buying a car, you will want to do your research and compare prices at different rental agencies to make sure you get the best price on a rental. Many big cities also have car-sharing programs like ZipCar that will allow you to get a car for a few hours if you need one. The nice thing about renting or sharing a car is that most companies will provide car insurance to their customers, and you do not need to worry about registering the vehicle. As long as you have a valid license, then you should be eligible to rent or share a car.

For additional driving resources, please visit:

Specifically for Foreign Exchange Visitors: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Foreign-Visitors-Driving.shtml

Biking

Riding a bike is a wonderful and environmentally friendly way to get around. Always wear a helmet and be aware of your surroundings. Always ride in the direction of traffic and wear reflective clothing and lights when riding at night. It's also important to ride in designated bike lanes. You should have a bike lock, too, to keep your bike safe while you are at your internship.

For InterExchange's guide to Bike Safety, please click here.

For more information:

http://www.nhtsa.gov/Bicycles

Long Distance Bus

For traveling to other cities or distances under 8 hours by car, you may want to consider taking the bus. This is a great, inexpensive way to travel between cities without taking a train or plane, which can be costly. Some of these companies have low-fare specials. You will book your ticket online and print it out for easy boarding. Here are some of the most popular lines:

Train

While train prices have risen significantly in the past several years, trains are a fast and more comfortable way to get from city to city. The nationwide train system is Amtrak. Enter your departure and destination cities and see your options for travel. There are also regional train systems that you should research for your specific area. Each region will have its own train service provider. 

Air

If you're looking to travel long distances, flying generally makes the most sense. If you book your ticket far enough in advance, you can usually get a good deal, however flying is definitely the most expensive form of transportation. The websites below are great resources for booking flights because they compare multiple airlines at once.

Please note that if you are a current InterExchange Career Training USA Participant and are planning to travel internationally during your program, you need to get your DS-2019 form signed by InterExchange before you go. Please email training@interexchange.org for further information on how to obtain the Travel Validation Signature. 

Travel Deals

Some of these discount websites, besides offering deals for your city or town, offer trips for discounted prices in the U.S. and around the world:

Maps and Directions

HopStop: http://hopstop.com/

A fantastic resource for transit directions within cities! Enter your starting address and destination address and choose from a variety of modes of transportation (and even combine modes) to get where you are going. You can even have the directions sent to your mobile device or email.

Google Maps: http://maps.google.com

Perhaps the most commonly utilized map and direction website on the Internet. Type in any address, and Google will show you the most efficient and convenient ways of getting there. It is also very helpful in terms of seeing what's nearby.

Yahoo Maps: http://maps.yahoo.com/

Yahoo is another great website for finding directions. You can also re-route the directions based on tolls and traffic.

InterExchange Career Training USA is a top J-1 Visa sponsor for university students and young professionals who have already secured internships or training programs with companies in the U.S. If you still need to find an internship or training program in the U.S., check out our resources and start the J-1 Visa sponsorship process early.

Ani Kington Ani Kington

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ani is a fan of exploring new places through photography and the local cuisine. After earning her BFA in photography from NYU and gaining communications experience at International Planned Parenthood Federation, she joined InterExchange in 2012, and worked as the Marketing Producer until 2016.

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