Skip to main content

Getting around the U.S.

The U.S. is big, and you’ll need fast, convenient transport to travel from place to place. Find out below the best ways of getting around.

Local travel

Those used to extensive public transportation networks across their home countries are in for a surprise once they settle in the U.S.. That’s not to say that public transport doesn’t exist in some parts of America — it does. It’s simply that the distribution of the network is patchy.

New York, for example, has an excellent bus and subway system, as do Chicago and Atlanta. San Francisco has its iconic trams for cross-city travel and there’s also an excellent light-rail network. Boston and Seattle have invested heavily in their urban and suburban transportation systems and, Washington DC has an expanding metro that also covers Maryland and Virginia. As the capital is said to have the most congested roads in the country, the Metro links are a great time saver.

Los Angeles has a public transport system including shuttles, light rail buses and subways. The city is trying to encourage its citizens and visitors to relinquish their cars and explore the city on foot, by bike and by using the public transportation network.

On the other hand, according to travel reviewers, Dallas, Miami and Atlanta have appalling public transport systems.

National travel

Domestic flights

For interstate travel, do as most Americans do and catch a domestic flight. Most areas are very well served by local airports, and there are numerous online websites where cheap airline tickets are available. If you book with the airline directly, you’ll be able to collect loyalty points and get further reductions through air miles. The ticket prices for domestic air travel do vary and it pays to shop around.

Travelling the highway

If you wish to travel from New York to Chicago along the 1-80 W, a distance of around 796 miles, the journey will take round 12 hours, so it’s easy to understand why domestic flights are so popular. Nevertheless, most Americans have an enduring love affair with their cars and will also use these for their daily commute. Cars are relatively cheap, as this list from 2017 demonstrates. You can pick up a 2017 Nissan Versa for $11,999 — the price would be considerably higher in the UK and Europe or Canada. Petrol or gas is also cheap, with a litre of the black stuff working out at $0.73 when prices across the world were as high as $1.49.

American roads used to be excellent, but a lack of maintenance in recent years has led to crumbling tarmac and numerous potholes. A report from American Society of Civil Engineers graded the state of U.S. highways a miserable D- and claimed that the country is facing a highway infrastructure crisis.

Recognising the problem, U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to invest $200 billion of federal funds to promote $1.5 trillion of investments from private companies, individual state and tribal funds, and he plans to invest in America’s declining rural infrastructure. As of April 2019, the expected investment has yet to materialise and although Congress does plan to remedy the problem, politics and lack of finance mean that some of America’s highways are still in an appalling condition.

Taking the train

The national rail carrier, Amtrak, has the widest rail network across the U.S., but long train journeys aren’t as popular here as in other parts of the world. If you’re planning to travel from one part of the country to another the train is a wonderful way of looking at the landscape — the viewing windows on the train are fantastic. The journey will take time and can be expensive, but it will be memorable for all the right reasons. Make sure that you book your sleeper in advance and then sit back and enjoy the ride in your air-conditioned carriage.

If you want to take the 69-hour journey from Los Angeles’ Union Station to New York with Amtrak, you can expect to pay $241 for a value one-way ticket. Some of the rail stations themselves are stunning; LA’s Union Station dates back to 1939 and is worth a visit simply to admire its outstanding architectural beauty. New York’s Grand Central Station is also stunning, and you’ll probably recognise it as it’s been used as a backdrop in scores of films.

Catching a bus

Many Americans use buses to travel the country. Greyhound, Peter Pan and Trailways are the most popular bus companies. This method of transport is cost-effective and comfortable. You’ll be offered plenty of stops for food and comfort breaks. If you have time and want to see more of rural America, this could prove to be a charming albeit slow method of exploring the country.

In some cities in the U.S., you take your life into your hands if you want a healthy commute, or if you simply want some exercise. This, though, is changing and certain parts of the country actively encourage both cyclists and pedestrians

If you’re yet to decide where in the U.S. to live, check out our guide to three of the best cities for expats.

Prices correct April 2019.

Aetna® is a trademark of Aetna Inc. and is protected throughout the world by trademark registrations and treaties.

We use cookies to give you the best possible online experience. See our cookie policy for more information on how we use cookies and how you can manage them. If you continue to use this website, you are consenting to our policy and for your web browser to receive cookies from our website.