Business travel has officially resumed in most parts of the world, and that means millions of professionals will be dusting off their luggage and getting back into the swing of things over the next few months. And if your international travels take you to the United States, there are a few things you should know.
5 Things to Know About Business Travel in the U.S.
If you’ve never been to the United States, then you’re probably unsure of what to expect. Is it the same US that you see depicted in movies and on social media? Is everyone loud and overweight? Are there really McDonald’s and Starbucks on every street corner?
For the most part, you’ll find that America only faintly resembles the dramatic image that movies and TV shows present. Outside of a few major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the U.S. has a much slower pace than most people assume. However, you still need to be prepared.
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Here are several suggestions for smooth business travel in the US:
Get Your Paperwork Squared Away
The very first thing you want to do is get your paperwork figured out. More specifically, pay attention to the following:
- Passport. When traveling to the US, you’ll most likely need at least six months’ worth of remaining validity on your passport. (However, there are certain countries where citizens only need enough validity for the length of the stay. Check your country’s government travel website to learn more.)
- Visa. It’s also important to do your research as it relates to visas. If you’re in a country that cooperates with the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), you can enter for tourism or visitor purposes for up to 90 days without a visa. However, in order to qualify in a VWP country, you still need a valid passport and ESTA authorization. And for those traveling to the US on business, a non-immigrant visa is required.
If you don’t figure out these two documents, you won’t make it past the customs desk at the airport. We recommend having them squared away weeks before traveling.
This isn’t necessarily a US-specific piece of travel advice, but it’s worth mentioning. When you learn how to travel light during business trips, you save yourself a lot of hassle and stress. Not only do you have less to tote around, but you can avoid having to check baggage (which leads to issues like lost luggage when flights are delayed).
Prepare for Tipping Culture
In case you haven’t heard, the US loves a good tip. While there are certainly some nuances to when you should and shouldn’t tip, here are a few general rules of thumb:
- Always tip in a restaurant if you sit down at a table and a waiter comes to take your order/bring you your food. (15-20% is customary, though you can give a little more or less depending on your experience.)
- Tips are also common for bartenders (usually $1 per drink).
- Tips valets, hotel bagmen, and the concierge desk a few bucks (if you have a difficult request)
Figure Out Ground Transportation
Outside of major cities like New York, Boston, San Francisco, D.C., Chicago, and half a dozen other urban areas, the United States is lightyears behind most other nations with established mass transit systems. That’s why we recommend doing some research and figuring out ground transportation plans ahead of time. Thankfully, the Uber app is really easy to use (and has a presence in almost every city or town – regardless of size).
Embrace the Business Culture
If you’ve never been to a business meeting with Americans, you’ll want to do a little research beforehand. Americans are big on first impressions and have very specific expectations. For example, punctuality is key. Always show up on time – early if possible. Small talk is encouraged, as is hand-shaking and eye contact. By mastering introductions, you’ll set the table for more effective meetings.
Whether you’re just passing through for 48 hours worth of meetings or staying for an entire month, the United States is an exciting place to do business. And as long as you do your research ahead of time, you’ll find it’s quite enjoyable. Here’s to productive business meetings and safe travels!