5 Things To Budget For When Travelling To The US

Video Transcription:

Welcome to another edition of Travelstart FAQ Friday with me, Nick Paul. Last week we were asked a couple of questions about the USA , this is obviously a very popular destinations for South African’s.

We thought we would look at 5 things to budget for when travelling to the US:

1. Visas

The US visa costs 160 USD, which is roughly around R1700 currently.

2. Flights

Flights are probably going to be your biggest expense. Let’s have a look at prices into the different parts of the US:

  • Washington, D.C.: R9000+ find cheap flights here
  • New York City: R9000+ find cheap flights here
  • Florida: R12 000+ find cheap flights here
  • Texas: R11 000+ find cheap flights here
  • Chicago: R9000+ find cheap flights here
  • Los Angeles: R12 000+ find cheap flights here
  • San Francisco: R12 000+ find cheap flights here
  • Hawaii: R15 000+ find cheap flights here
  • Alaska: R15 000+ find cheap flights here

These are prices from Johannesburg for a round-trip ticket and include taxes. If you are departing from places like Cape Town or Durban you can add R1000 – R2000 on to the ticket price.

3. Car Hire

I highly recommend doing a road trip in the US. The prices pretty much go New York vs. everywhere else. New York prices for a cheap car will be around R4500 per week. If you are looking at other cities outside of New York such as Florida, prices will be around R2500 per week.

One of the great things about America is difference in price between an entry-level car and an SUV can be only a couple of hundred Rand on a weeks trip. I would highly recommended getting a bit of a nicer car. Petrol is not too expensive at around R11 a liter and you will feel a lot more comfortable and confident in a bigger car.

4. Hotel

Once again New York is probably the most expensive city in terms of hotels. Expect to pay around R3000 per night for a hotel in a decent area in downtown New York. If you look for a hotel slightly out of town expect to pay R1200+ for a room per night. For most other US cities expect to pay R2000+ for a decent hotel in a decent location.

I would also suggest, if you adventurous enough, and want to stay with locals try Airbnb. Prices go down to as little as R1000 per room per night for a 2 sleeper. In some cases you will be staying in a room within someone else’s house, so just bear that in mind.

5. Tax & Tipping

In the US Tax is added at the point of payment for groceries, restaurant bills and clothing etc. It ranges from 0% for mandatory tax in certain states such as Montana, Delaware, New Hampshire and Oregon. It can go up to 12% in states such as Arkansas, but most states are between 8% and 11%.

When tipping a waiter you are expected to pay 15% – 20% on top of the bill. This is obviously a lot more than in South Africa so be prepared to budget for this.

That’s it from me, 5 things to budget for when travelling to the US. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel if you have any other travel related questions ask them in the comments below. Who knows, next week we may turn it into a video.


Our Readers Comments

  1. This is very useful information I will prefer you do the same with Europe and advise tour bus operators

  2. My husband and I were in the States last year and your tips are very accurate on what to be aware of when travelling to the US 🙂

  3. These tips helps a lot

  4. Stayed in New York 3 weeks ago. The tax is quite high in Manhattan. However, we did some shopping in New Jersey and not only is the tax lower they also have no tax on clothing purchases. So try to do most of your shopping in New Jersey. Found a great outlet mall called Jersey Gardens

  5. can I please have some information about hiring of RV’s. a reputable company, is it all inclusive or do you have to hire bedding etc.

  6. Just on the tail end of a 3 week US trip (2 adults and 3 children 9, 13, 15), including a visit to some major cities, an RV trip and a visit to some national parks. June/July flight costs booked 1.5 months in advance were about double what you quoted above with only the 9 year old qualifying for a small discount (Emirates from Durban). SAA offering for same period was much higher. July and August are US vacation months so all costs are higher – in some cases 30% or more (often peak). Over and above the taxation that varies by state it is also common for there to be some kind of levy (state and/or city) on accommodation which can be equal to the tax rate – so a quoted room cost can go up by 20% with tax and levy included. Also with car hire most web sites are not clear about insurance costs with the need to take out comprehensive insurance a car hire a bill can go up by anything between 10 USD and 15 USD a day from the quoted prices. Hiring a gps device can also be 10 USD a day so bring your own. There are also fees for not delivering the vehicle back to the original pick up point. Most hotels treat children over 9 as adults in costs although there are some deals to be found. With three kids we mostly had to book double queen rooms with a sleeper couch in hotels with rates from anything from 150 USD (excluding tax and levies) through to 300 USD plus in bigger cities. Rooms with 1 double/queen and two or three single beds were almost impossible to find. Accommodation in national parks was generally quite reasonable but hard to come by in the peak season. Also note that in places like Disneyland LA a meal of 5 pizza slices, salads and cool drinks for 5 can set you back 80-100 USD (a pain as one is generally going to be there for many hours and probably in need of more than one meal). Paying 5 USD for a bottle of cold water in the theme parks was also painful but had to be done as water from drinking fountains was warm and tasted unpleasant. Despite all of the unexpected costs a great time was had. A real trip of a lifetime.

  7. Hi, We going to be in Springfield Missouri for a conference in a few days –
    1.From there we need to get to Kansas where we will be visiting some friends for a week and then to Florida for another week
    2. what would be the cheapest means of Transport to both places and also to do some sight seeing while travelling

  8. You do not have information on emergency visa, perchance and flight costs to Boston Massachussets?

  9. Thanks for the information very useful as I am planning to go the USA with my boys

  10. We went to New York last year and used Airbnb. We stayed in a bachelor apartment in Manhattan for about R1000 per day. Highly recommend.

  11. We always stay in self catering units and it is like staying in your own house or rather apartment. Much much cheaper and private. Car hire is very affordable and you have unlimited miles. Attending sales pitches is boring but sit through it and you get tickets to the Disney parks or some places you get a cash “gift”. Orlando Florida (Disney world !) the best place to visit. They get up to 50 million visitors per year

  12. Another great tip which worked for us. We stayed in New Jersey and travelled by bus to NYC everyday. The cost of the bus tickets for the week still worked out cheaper should we have stayed in Central New York and you get to see places. To get around NYC make use of their subway.
    Please give us tips about cell phone rentals or sim purchases. What to look out for while in the USA. Thanks

  13. Another great tip which worked for ys. We stayed in New Jersey and travelled by bus to NYC everyday. The cost of the bus tickets for the week still worked out cheaper should we have stayed in Central New York and you get to see places. To get around NYC make use of their subway.
    Please give us tips about cell phone rentals or sim purchases. What to look out for while in the USA. Thanks

  14. HOw much is it to travel to Atlanta, Georgia?

  15. Thanks for you information its soo useful. Little did i know its expensive to travel to united states. 10grand muscot!

  16. Don’t forget to budget a minimum of USD 50, one way, taxi fare from airport to hotel.

  17. Would like to visit a number of places/states before going to San Antonio. Is there any package that one can look.

  18. We have been living in the USA for the past 18 months and have found Hotwire.com very helpful in finding more affordable accommodation. Prices can be anything up to half price. Stayed in a 6 sleeper just outside Washington last week for around R1000 a night. Very good value.

  19. Looking for a cruise along South America to North America if there is something like that.

  20. Thanks, wasn’t aware of the affordability of bigger cars. Would really like to see a video on what to look out for or include when planning a trip to Disneyworld for the family.

    • Andre, On a trip I took with my family we were able to get discounts of up to 50% on self catering accommodation which was decent and comparable to SA Protea hotels. Plus we got 4 sets of park tickets for free. The catch to this was we had to attend a 2 hour timeshare presentation at the hotel we stayed at. All we did was listen to sales pitch and said no thank you. They provided breakfast/snacks so that was an added bonus. In the end we rejected all offers and got our 4 set of Disney park tickets (which at the time cost USD60 to USD70 each). Something worth considering if you want to save a little cash.

      Oh yes what this page says about big cars being only slightly more expensive is totally true , extra hundred rand and move from cramp sedan to big ass American car.

      good luck planning

    • Andre, did you receive any further useful tips? And Dave, where did you get this deal? We are looking at going next year.

  21. Cheapest way of a 5 week trip from C.T taking in New York San Francisco / Las Vegas /Grand Canyon / Los Angeles.

  22. Looking for cruise in western mediterrinean

  23. Keep on informing me about the specials on flights, car hire and hotels.

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