No matter how many articles I read and how many YouTube Videos I saw, I never knew these small things which I understood only after staying here for a month. Often at times I was too scared to do something cause of the fear of looking Stupid, But well I lived and learnt.
1. LAW: America is a great place but be sure to follow the law. You cannot bribe an officer right and left if you commit a crime and If you are convicted. Be sure to end in a jail or deported right back. ( This I didn't have to go through fortunately :) ) Every state has a different law. Would advice to know the basic laws of the state if you get a chance.
2. ARRIVING Getting a VISA does not guarantee an entry to United States. When you reach there you will have to go through an Immigration or Customs and Border Patrol Officer. He /She needs to be sure you are entering for valid reasons as allowed as per your VISA. So be sure to be genuine. If they suspect anything, they have the Authority to Send you right back to INDIA or where ever you are coming from on the next flight.
3. Your check-in luggage is available after CBP checkpoint so in case you have any imp documents which you might need to show the CBP officer , keep them with you in your cabin baggage.
4. FOOD: Large Departmental stores are available and so are fast food places. If you need to save money go to a Dunkin Donut, Its everywhere or a Wal-Mart. You might also find prepacked Indian food at Wal-Mart just double the prices but still RAJMA CHAWAL! Can't miss it. Also visit a super mart to stock up once you are there. You can get buy comfortably on $25-30$ for whole day of food . 15$-20$ if you don't want to have a large meal.
5. MONEY. If you are planning to carry cash when u travel locally buy one of those prepaid cards.( NOT GIFT CARDS but called as RELOADABLE CARDS) However be ADVISED you cannot reload them no matter what they say. All of them need a SSN for registration which we don't have so load it once and use it. You will also not be able to use it online. So buy one for 500$ in cash. It will take anywhere between $1-$5 activation fees. On Swiping it select it as Credit card. I have used AMEX Serve and it works great. they don't charge for every transaction like a lot do. Most places would frown upon on accepting a $100 bill some even a $50 as its not trusted cause of fake currency. Carry majorly $1 and $5 and some $10 & $20 notes. Don't carry more than $200 on your person at a time. Until you are shopping freak , You can buy most of the things for your need in that amount. Your Indian AMEX, MasterCard and Visa Credit and Debit Card works here. They don't ask for PIN when swiping. Make sure to select it as Credit card. Also if you are using an Indian card there will be 3-5% markup charge by your Indian bank for currency conversion.
6.LIVING.- Most hotels for budget travelers in USA work with very less staff like HOLIDAY INN or MARIOTT's Low priced venture Fairfield INN . The rooms are well equipped and most have a refrigerator and coffee machines. They do serve Breakfast but after that the kitchen shuts down. So you can't really order anything for food. Make sure you are well stocked for food or you have a place to go out and dine. Also make sure to check before opening your door. Most Budget hotels don't have guards to check who is coming in all the time.
7. PHONE & COMMUNICATION. Your Indian phone and Android phone will work here. If you are getting a Local SIM get a T-Mobile or GSM sim. They are cheap and the net is super fast. I went for T-mobile $60 plan with unlimited monthly calling and 5GB data cap. YUP THEY CAP TOO! Also the cheapest way I have found is using Google Voice. It cost 1Cent a minute to call INDIA. There are other providers too but well for 10$ you will have 1000 minutes/16hours. You can load it up through your Google wallet.
8. MANNERS. Americans are very polite people. They don't like screaming and shouting. So be courteous to whoever and start saying THANK YOU to even your rickshawala or maid for practice before coming here. No matter if you are a fresher or a CEO trust me everyone is same here. They respect you for working not for throwing your weight around. So if you eat on a fast food or serve yourself place do clean your table after you eat and if you drop anything, pick it up and throw it in the dustbin. Also once again I cannot emphasize the importance of being polite. Also keep the phone on low ring volume or vibration.
9. BE SAFE : Don't go in the night walking in shady neighborhoods. The Police works great but well why take the risk. Don't carry large amount of cash. Also always carry a colored copy of your Passport as long as the original is nearby or locally. I scanned , shrieked, printed and laminated mine to fit it in my wallet. If you are travelling carry the original. Also most public places are strict NO SMOKING. But most have a place outside for it.
10. TIPS, A 15-20% is a standard for tipping is expected in restaurants, taxis and most places where they offer your service. The servers work hard and are mostly college students, so they make it through tips.
11. GETTING AROUND. I would not advise people going for a short trip( Up to a month) to go renting a car. For one no matter how good a driver you are you will never get used to the right side driving concept in a short time. If at all, possible use UBER ( CHECK ONLINE FOR UBER COUPONS) or local taxis or public transportation. Not all places have great public transportation. Check for it before you go. If at all you do have to rent go for Enterprise car rental some do or some don't accept your Indian Driving License but they do accept an International Driving License which can be procured in India from your RTO. They are the Cheapest. Also if you have to travel locally by Air, the Security checkpoint is manned by TSA agents. You will be asked to remove your watch, shoes, belt, wallet, phone, passport, keys, change well everything apart from your clothes. So do it before getting in line to speed up. Before every trip empty your cabin baggage and rearrange so to make sure you are not carrying any prohibited items. Don't cross roads as we do back home from anywhere. There is a dedicated pathway on a crossing for that. It took me some time to understand how it works.
12. Don't make any political comments on Religion or Ethnicity of someone in a public place, you not only will be stared upon but if someone report you, you might get into trouble. Don't go out approaching strangers either for bhaichara. Most don't like it.
13. If you are one of that Do-it-Yourself kind of guy or a girl Do make sure to visit Home Depot or Lowes. Your creative buds will turn on like anything.
14. COUPONS & SAVING MONEY: Be vigilant and search online or local news paper for coupons. you will be amazed how much you save with them. Also install a bar code scanner. you can scan it in the store and search it online so you will know if you are saving. Most stores also offer price match guarantee. If you show them something sold anywhere even online same thing at lower prices.
15.. No matter if you are a fresher or a CEO trust me everyone is same here. They respect you for working not for throwing your weight around. So if you eat on a fast food or serve yourself place do clean your table after you eat and if you drop anything, pick it up and throw it in the dustbin. Also once again I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being polite.
16. ELECTRONICS. Most laptop and mobile charges work right as they are here as they are designed for ( 85~265V AC) You just need a US plug convertor. Get one before you arrive. They are cheap in India.
17. Things to carry from India for your stay: America is a very clean place so don't carry a lot of clothes. Seriously! A pair of jeans can go unwashed for 2 Weeks. Also anyone carrying a large suitcase locally looks silly. Check out those minimalist packing videos on YouTube. They do help a lot. Your electronics, Chargers, Money, Copies of passport in every bag, Cards. Things you are bringing for gifting your or your friend's brother sister or relatives. Some prepacked food ( If you have space left. Try those MTR ones they taste great) . Never carry anything for someone t be given here without asking them what it is. You might be held at airport and your baggage searched and if you say you don't know, well u might get into trouble.
Well there seems to be a long list of Don'ts so on a positive side have a great trip take loads of pictures and enjoy your American Adventure. Do let me know if I can be of any help.
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