This is written for the Malaysian or any international newbies who just came to United States of America in less than six months. Of course, if you are someone who has been in the States for a couple of years, this information is very common-sensical and basic but they are very useful for those who are rookies to living in the USA.
Anyway, here are a list of transportation you would need to know when you live in the United States. You will find that certain means of transportation are different from what you are accustomed to in Malaysia. This is NOT a complete guide of towards American transportation system, but it is more than enough to get you by.
Should you ever be in doubt, ASK SOMEONE! Most people in the States are generally friendly and helpful.
Information on buses routes may be obtained from the local bus company or brochures inside the bus. If they are not available, ask the bus driver. Buses in the US do not have conductors or ticket attendants. The fares are usually the same regardless of the distance you travel.
You must stand in line when waiting for a bus. Upon boarding the bus, you must deposit your money in the fare box next to the driver. The driver DOES NOT carry change. You MUST have the exact fare.
2. Bus Transfers
Should you need to take more than one bus to arrive to your destination, you may request a transfer ticket from the driver. This ticket will permit you to ride the next bus without having to pay the full fare.Transfer are usually free.
If you are a regular bus rider, you may obtain monthly or semester passes from the bus company. In some bigger cities, you can even buy bus day pass at the local grocery stores or online.
It is always great to make friends with some locals around (i.e., the cashier at the nearest convenience store, bankers, etc.) to learn you way around the town or city that you are settling down.
3. Campus Buses
Campus buses are common on large campuses, especially the ones that are located in bigger cities. They shuttle students to and from classes, as well as to the area that is saturated with student housing apartments. Usually, they are free for students as long as you carry your Student ID with you. But, in some places, they do not really check for ID and they usually allow anyone who look like students to get on board for free. So, dressing up like a college student/graduate student is not a bad idea if your job does not require a specific uniform.
4. Outstation Buses
Greyhound is the most commonly used outstation bus company. It serves all cities nationwide and is very inexpensive means of travel. Tickets may be purchased from the local Greyhound bus station or you can certainly reserve tickets from Greyhound official website. Make sure that you check as some smaller stations do not provide online purchase of their tickets to avoid overflowing reservation. Their Office hours vary according to the size of the city.
An expensive way to travel. “Cabs” may be hailed on the street or called to your home. Drivers are tipped 15% of the fare on the meter and $0.50 – $1.00 per bag if he/she has to handle your luggage. But of course, you are just looking to hang out around the downtown area of any big cities without worrying about traffic, expensive parking fees and high taxis fares, you can definitely utilize the transportation service provided by recently popular Smartphones Apps, Uber, Sidecar and Lyft to haul you around.
6. Trains/Subway (within the city)
Commonly found in the large metropolitan cities like New York, Chicago, San Franciso, and Washington, DC. Fares are dependant on the distance you travel. If you should need to take a bus to your final destination, bus transfers may be available at the subway stations.
Should you miss your stop, DON’T PANIC! Just get off at the next stop and catch another train going back to your stop. It will not cost you anything. You may obtain a schedule from the information booth at any situation. The routes are color coded and trains run every few minutes. However, the rates may vary during the time of the day. (It normally costs more to ride during rush hours, eg. 6am – 8am). Rates are usually posted at the entrance to the station near the ticket machines.
7. Trains (long distance travel)
AMTRAK is the train system which services continental America. It is an expensive means of travel (though generally cheaper than flying) and it takes longer time, and stations are found in specific cities only. If you have a lot of time to travel, this is one of the best ways to see America.
Believe it or not, this is one of the cheaper ways to travel besides driving. There are many domestic airlines serving the US and they often offer “Super Saver” fares during certain seasons or if you make your reservations one month ahead of time, Airlines are usually served by toll-free numbers and are open 24 hours. But, generally, it is cheaper to book online nowadays rather than booking it over the phone. And sometimes, it is cheaper to book through a third party website like Priceline and Expedia. Especially for Priceline, if you are not picky about your flight time and you don’t mind waking up early to catch a 6AM flight or having long hours of layover, you can save from 32% – 40% from the regular listed market price by Naming Your Own Price here.
9. Car Rental
Often requires credit card for a deposit. Rates vary from company to company and the availibity of cars. Some of the nationwide car rental companies are Avis, Budget, Hertz, National and Thrifty. If you are underage (younger than 25 years old), they will normally charge you a young renter’s fee ranging from $15 – $25 a day.
For those of you who have SSN#, there is a trick that you can do to save some bucks. Get yourself a USAA online membership so that they can waive off the young renter’s fee and provide you some discount by using the USAA promotion codes. Don’t worry, you do not need to be enrolled in a US Military or a US citizen to be an online member of USAA. And, it is FREE to register as long as you have a SSN#.
If you are studying in a huge university, you will find that you will do a lot of walking on campus. However, when you are on the street, be careful and stay on the sidewalks and crosswalks. Some cities are known to impose fines of up to $250 for those caught jaywalking.
If you decide to own a bicycle, you have to also have a lock and chain to prevent theft. Bicycle rails are found througout the campus and you will be required to chain you bike to these racks. Bikes costs anywhere from $50 to $1,000, depending on your budget and your purpose of biking. To save some money, you may also find information on used bikes for sale in your campus newpapers’ classified ads or the bulletin boards.
One of the disadvantages of depending on bicycles is that it is limited to the warmer season only, unless you do mind bundle up yourself with layers of clothes and jacket when you bike during the Winter.
Motorcycles, mopeds, and scooters are fast becoming a common sight on campus. However, to own one of these machines, you will need a licence as well as insurance coverage. The weather also makes the use of these vehicles impractical in some locations of the U.S. because of winter weather and heavey snow. Of course, it would be fun for you if you are into something that is very American like Harley Davidson’s.
13. Private Car
This is the most expansive option for private transportation. You will be required to have a valid driver’s licence as well as insurance. Regulations vary from states to states so make sure you are informed of the rules and regulations when you cross state lines.
*** Should you need a ride to another town, they are actually students from your college or university who own a car and offer rides to other students. They in return, request you to pay your part of the gasoline. You may find this carpooling opportunities at the student center or student union on your campus or in the campus newpaper.
For those of you who are interested in purchasing a used car, our team is putting together a detailed guide on How To Buy An Affordable Used Car in the US.
So, stay tuned with us to find out more!
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