QuestionsHere you will find the answers to the questions frequently asked by potential tour participants, as well as information that can be useful for anyone planning to travel in the USA. The questions are answered by Katya Belykh.

USA — is it really expensive? How to deal with a language barrier? How safe is traveling in the States? What’s there to see in USA? How easy is it to travel independently? The answer to these and other questions can be found in this article.

USA — is it really expensive?

“It’s definitely not as cheap as Thailand, but it’s not all that expensive either, that being intensified by the recent decrease in the dollar value and economic growth in other countries. USA is much cheaper than countries like Australia, Canada, Japan and many others. Pricing of hotels, food and car rental varies greatly between cities and seasons, but a good rule of the thumb is that the earlier you plan your trip, the more money you can save. A general advice for all travelers: look at the calendar and avoid visiting during the week prior to, and after major American holidays. Those are peak travel times for the locals, and everything becomes crowded and overpriced.”

Language barrier

“You will need to know at least some English to travel independently. The “broken English” that is common elsewhere in the world will probably be hard for locals to understand. But most Americans are pretty friendly and patient and will try their hardest to understand you, so good luck! Prepare for a possible hard time comprehending their speech as well, because Americans tend to talk fast and use a unique pronunciation.”

How safe is it to travel in the States?

“USA is a fairly safe country. That being said, the possibility still exists that your stuff will get stolen, especially in big cities. It does not apply to hotels and resorts, but caution should definitely be used when on the streets and/or in a crowd. The same rules as everywhere apply: don’t carry your wallet in the back pocket of your pants, don’t leave valuables exposed in a parked car, etc. In small towns, national parks and all the “middle-of-nowhere” places the possibility of theft is minimal, and that’s been proven to me time and again during my travels. Large cities tend to have “criminal” neighborhoods which tourists are advised to steer clear of due to high theft and robbery rates. Whether to go there or not will be up to you. I’ve been to the worst neighborhoods of New York City on many occasions and nothing ever happened. However, shall you decide to visit Downtown LA or South Bronx in the middle of the night, you will probably be better off not carrying wads of cash and all your electronic devices with you.”

What should I see in USA?

“Tourism in the US is different from tourism in Europe: in Europe, you’re mostly visiting cities. Here, you will find some interesting cities as well, but they differ greatly from the European ones, and if one was to compare them it wouldn’t play out well for the former. America is a country of wild nature, vast expanses and exotic landscapes that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Now that’s something Europe doesn’t have. Add to all of that the well-maintained roads, making everything easily accessible no matter how wild or remote the location is.

Cities

— have very different architecture, layout and energy from European ones. In my personal opinion, there are a few interesting cities worth visiting (listed in order of appeal): San Francisco, Honolulu, New Orleans, New York, Las Vegas, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles. Not sure about the rest, so choose your route with care. There are also small towns that are very cute and cozy, but they are deeply ingrained in the surrounding landscapes and cannot be viewed separately from the nature.

National parks

— are the reason to visit the United States, in my opinion. The nature here is endlessly beautiful and diverse. In a few hours (sometimes only 1-2) of driving you can get from a desert to a dense forest, from a temperate climate to the subtropics, etc. Since the roads here are so well-maintained, you can get to the most remote places by simply renting a car. And the existence of roads will not mean you’ll encounter tourist crowds, although that can happen sometimes.

The majority of Americans do not like traveling by foot, and that is why even in the busiest tourist destinations (such as Grand Canyon National Park) all you have to do to get peace and quiet is walk away from the main road. You might meet some people on the remote trails, but there are very few and they usually are nature and privacy enthusiasts just like us, so they tend to be quiet and keep to themselves.

That being said, despite all the wilderness, vast expanses and remoteness of the national parks there are detailed maps of all the trails and foot paths available to everyone. If you have a good sense of direction you can go into the wilderness alone for days on end without getting lost.

There is no trash in the national parks, forests and beaches. That is not because somebody cleans it up, but rather due to the fact that people understand they have to pick it up and take it away. People who litter are usually uneducated city residents; they are also the ones who drive out to picnics and leave a mess behind. Luckily, they mostly do it in designated areas which get cleaned after they leave. People like that do not fancy walking, so they never get to the beautiful and remote spots.

Seasons —

— the best times to visit America’s national parks are spring and autumn. But there are other places of interest, with things to do all year round. In Hawaii, for example, the season lasts all year, and the Northern states are beautiful in the summer. There are also places in some Southern states where you can trek during the winter. Our traditional Wild West tour during the Christmas vacation is a good example of how fun and pleasant it can be to explore the deserts and valleys of the South-West during that season.

How easy is it to travel independently?

“It’s pretty easy if you speak English and can drive a car. Traveling without a car, unfortunately, is only possible in some cities — New York, San Francisco, Chicago. To leave the city, you still need to rent a car or order a tour. There are many detailed guidebooks and maps, and the locals are friendly and helpful, including the policemen and park rangers. There are lots of hotels, camping sites and restaurants everywhere, but be warned: out in the province, the only businesses open after 8pm will probably be a McDonalds and a gas station. If you are far away from the main roads, there may not be anything open at all.”

~If everything is so easy, comfortable and accessible, why travel with us?

“I’ll try to list a few of the many reasons:

Money.  If it’s you and three of your friends, doing a similar route on your own might come out cheaper. But if you are traveling alone, with a friend or in a large group — we will save you some serious money.

Time. To organize a trip as interesting and eventful as ours, you will need to spend hours upon hours doing Internet research and reading guide books. Then you would have to organize everything, making phone calls and reservations, etc. Traveling with us, you won’t have to waste time working out the itinerary and planning everything. The only thing you will need to do is voice your interests and preferences, and we will consider them while planning your tour.

The exclusiveness of the route. We’ve been traveling these trails for 15 years and, having a deep knowledge of and fondness for these places, we carefully gather knowledge and gladly share it with our guests. We don’t mind waking up before the crack of dawn, gathering up the group and heading out to arrive at that ONE special spot at that ONE special moment for a great experience or a beautiful view. Experience shows that even if you provide people with detailed instructions, they either cannot make it or end up lacking motivation. A lot of the places we go to are hard to find, and most people don’t even know that they are worth going to anyway. This is exactly why you need a guide.

The culture of indigenous people.  The USA is populated by many Native American tribes. Unlike many other nationalities, they don’t really like sharing their culture — as a tourist, the most you will get to see is a market or a pow-wow (if you are lucky enough to find out where and when they happen) . A pow-wow is a cultural festival of the Native Americans where you can see their dances and songs. We’ve been working with Native American guides for many years, and when traveling with us you will get a chance to see way more than you would when traveling by yourself. With us, you will be able to learn about the culture, hang out in a casual friendly atmosphere or participate in some of the Northern Native American ceremonies. Why us? — because we’ve been friends with them for many years and we don’t get treated like the rest of the tourists.

Safety.  Some of our tours, like trekking to the bottom of Grand Canyon, require an experienced guide even if you’re done many other hikes before. Trekking the desert (Grand Canyon is considered a desert landscape) is completely different from trekking the mountains or the forest. We’ve done it many times, and we can show and teach you everything so you won’t have to learn from your own mistakes: in places like these mistakes can be too costly, and we’ve witnessed it plenty of times.

E.t.c. There are many secondary reasons, like the fact that we know the best local restaurant and which time of year works the best for visiting a certain spot, we take our group to some places at night (you have to agree, going at night to an unfamiliar place can be a dangerous journey which most will not take unless they’ve been there before, which we have) because night hiking can be magical, and we have many local friends, giving you the opportunity to communicate with them. Our idea of a tour is: giving you a general feeling of the place, feeling its energy, the rhythm of life, load you with information and perhaps passing on some of our love and appreciation. The list goes on…

Come visit us!

 

 


Ursa Travel Corp.

2449 Bryunswick Rd Wallkill, NY 12589 USA

E-mail: katya888belykh@gmail.com

Skype: katya.belykh

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