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Travel Guide > North America > USA

USA Getting in & out

  
 
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By plane

Most visitors from outside Canada and Mexico arrive in the United States by plane. While many medium sized inland cities have an international airport, there are limited flights to most of these and most travelers find themselves entering the U.S. at one of the major entry points along the coasts.

Note that the United States requires entry formalities even for international transit, and the current state of international affairs means that this is not going to change anytime soon. You must have a valid visa to enter the United States if required by your citizenship, even if you are immediately continuing on a flight to a different country. If your citizenship requires a visa to enter the U.S., avoid transiting through the U.S. unless you want to spend time and money to obtain a C-1 transit visa. Further, when booking flights to the U.S. note that you will be required to clear customs and immigration at your first U.S. stop, not at your final destination, even if you have an onward flight. Allow at least 2 hours of stop-over (ideally more than 3) at your first U.S. stop.

By car

Traffic travels on the right hand side (as it does in Canada and Mexico).

If you are entering under the Visa Waiver Program, you will need to pay a US$6 fee, in cash, at the point of entry. No fee is payable if you are simply re-entering and already have the Visa Waiver slip in your passport.

The US-Canada & US-Mexico borders are two of the most frequently crossed borders with millions of crossings daily. Average wait times are 0-30 minutes, but some of the most heavily travelled border crossings may have considerable delays—approaching 1-2 hours at peak times (weekends, holidays). Current wait times (updated hourly) are available on the U.S. customs service website The US-Mexico border is lucrative for drug trafficking, so vehicles crossing may be x-rayed or searched by drug-sniffing dog. If there is suspicion, your vehicle may be searched. Since this is an all-too-common event, expect little patience from border agents.

By boat

Entering the U.S. by sea, other than on a registered cruise ship, may be difficult. The most common entry points for private boats are Los Angeles and the surrounding area, Florida, and the Eastern coastal states.

Some passenger ferries exist between Canada and the U.S., notably from the Atlantic Provinces to New England, and from Victoria, British Columbia to Seattle.

Cunard offers transatlantic ship travel between the United Kingdom and New York City.

By train

Amtrak offers international service from the Canadian cities of Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal into the U.S.

By foot

There are many border crossings in urban areas which can be crossed by pedestrians. Crossings such as those in/near Niagara, Detroit, Tijuana, Nogales, & El Paso are popular for persons wishing to spend a day on the other side of the border. In some cases, this may be ideal for day-trippers as crossing by car can be a much longer wait.





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