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In the USA for the fist time - Need advice

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In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 04 Apr 2008, 21:31
Expert's post
Hi! GMATClubbers!!!

I'm going to be in the USA for the fist time during 25 April - 9 May.

Target cities:
New York
Boston (Harvard)
Washington,
Detroit,
Chicago,
San-Francisco
Las-Vegas

Need your advice for the following topic:
1. rent a car.
2. cities' traffic
3. what is worth to see (maybe in other cities)
4. holes (I'd like average-price hotels with clean single/double rooms)
5. "do" and "do not"
6. Cheap GSM-package with EDGE/GPRS internet traffic.
7. any other thoughts ...

Thank all in advance!

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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 05 Apr 2008, 05:18
If you are in NYC or Boston, I wouldnt recomend renting a car...parking is a nightmare! plus expensive. Public transportation is cheap and efficient.

Chicago: you can rent a car...
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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 05 Apr 2008, 07:11
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fresinha12 wrote:
If you are in NYC or Boston, I wouldnt recomend renting a car...parking is a nightmare! plus expensive. Public transportation is cheap and efficient.

Chicago: you can rent a car...


Thanks! I'm going rent a car for travel between cities, I knew that NYC and a car is incompatible but Boston.... :?

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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 05 Apr 2008, 16:10
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Regarding DC - if you are planning on staying with in proper DC, you don't need a car. Most sights with in DC are accessible by Metro. Parking in DC is expensive, so I don't recommend a car. Depending on what you want to do, here are a few suggestions:

Bookmark the Washington Metro site: http://wmata.com/ You can plan your itinerary from this site. It's quite useful.

Shopping/Walk around:
1. Visit Georgetown: has many shops, coffee-shops, bookstore, restaurants. Good to visit both during day and late evening (shops are open till 9). 5 - 10 minute walk to closest metro (don't remember the name of the station though.)
2. Adams morgan: has many shops but is mainly known for restaurants and bars. Perfect to visit during night. Has a metro stop. Don't drive here. Parking situation is horrible.
3. Dupont Circle: Shops, restaurant, coffee, bars, etc. Visit day or night. Don't drive. Take metro to Dupont Circle Station. You can walk to nearby neighbourhoods, such as 17th st. which also has shops and restaurants.
4. Chinatown: A small neighborhood but has nice bars and restaurants, especially some nice upscale restaurants. Again, parking is bad so take metro.

Museums (see : http://www.museumspot.com/cities/dc.htm)
1. Air and Space: This is quite popular with visitors (though it's not my cup of tea.)
2. National Gallery of Art: Awesome. Do go here if you like museums or even if you don't. Love the bldg.
3. Hirshorn museum: Sculpture mueseum.

Monuments:
I really like DC monuments at night. If you follow my advice and want to explore them at night, I highly recommend the following:
1. Lincoln memorial.
2. Roosevelt.
3. National Monument
4. WW memorial.

There are many nice restaurants, which I am assuming you can easily find online but if you want specific recommendations, let me know. Let me know if you have any other specific questions. I have been living in DC for 6 years now.

HTH and enjoy your visit.
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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 05 Apr 2008, 16:25
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Rvajpeyi, thanks! :thanks

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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 07 Apr 2008, 11:49
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For hotels, you can find good deals on Priceline.com - you can first check prices and then bid on rooms at (sometimes) up to 50% off rates. You will not earn any loyalty points, but savings will be good.

The same applies to rental cars - you can check the price on priceline, or you can also check some deals on the car rental sites - many airlines will give you 50% coupons for a weekend rental or sometimes a tank of gas (e.g. Hertz, National, Budget, etc). You will need a valid credit card for a rental. Not sure if any special rules apply to international rentals, but you can find it on the website for each agency.

As mentioned, some places you will be visiting may be easier not to have a rental. NY and SF come to mind right away, but it depends on where you are staying. If somewhere far out, then you definitely should. For Airport to Hotel transportation, some hotels have shuttles if they are within several miles from the airport, free of charge. For others, there are ride-share vans such as supper shuttle or prime time shuttle - they will take you right to the hotel for a fee less than a cab - you need to book in advance. There are also more generic ones that just have a set route, such as this one: (http://www.nyairportservice.com/fares.html)

Las Vegas is just 4 hrs away from LA and is an easy drive - you may want to consider that as an option. LA - SF is about 7 hours realistically, though it can be done in 5 (don't try this). LA definitely requires a car even though traffic is not pleasant - you just have no other choice.

Good Luck - this sounds like an exciting trip.

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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 07 Apr 2008, 16:54
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Thanks a lot!!! :good

I consider possibility to drive from LA to SF not along the route 5 but along the a way through Santa Barbara, Santa Maria to see the ocean. What do you think it is worth?

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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 07 Apr 2008, 17:03
walky,

use mass transport in DC,NY, Boston and Chicago man , if u r traveling for short distances. (after all isnt mass transport the way to go :-D ).
And hey, dont walk alone in any of those downtowns late nights.

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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 07 Apr 2008, 17:23
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vscid wrote:
walky,

use mass transport in DC,NY, Boston and Chicago man , if u r traveling for short distances. (after all isnt mass transport the way to go :-D ).

Ok :)

vscid wrote:
And hey, dont walk alone in any of those downtowns late nights.

thanks! I'll be careful

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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 07 Apr 2008, 18:20
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Cell ph: U can buy a prepaid (nokia) phone from Walmart ( 20-40$)
Cingular or Tmobile -both GSM - local stores will have temp packages. They may ask address and other proofs.Keep that info ready.
911(is emergency police #) from cell phone
411 (local directory assistance)
OR borrow a good cell phone from friends( iphone type of smart phone with internet will be very very useful).

Try to go out with friends(have some company always); never loiter alone (in nights in downtown etc)
If you are not used to driving in US , you should be careful- you can encounter very aggressive driving on highways(merging onto highways can be dangerous for new comers)
Of course, you must have a valid international driving license to drive. Also, never drive while drunk ( penalties under DUI will be severe).

Have a usable credit card and photo id ready.
Take a backup of imp data
Keep imp phone /contact info on the web (in email )

check/plan for weather.


Places to visit> you can pretty much pull out from yahoo, msn or google sites

Have a pleasant and safe stay, have a great time!


walker wrote:
Hi! GMATClubbers!!!

I'm going to be in the USA for the fist time during 25 April - 9 May.

Target cities:
New York
Boston (Harvard)
Washington,
Detroit,
Chicago,
San-Francisco
Las-Vegas

Need your advice for the following topic:
1. rent a car.
2. cities' traffic
3. what is worth to see (maybe in other cities)
4. holes (I'd like average-price hotels with clean single/double rooms)
5. "do" and "do not"
6. Cheap GSM-package with EDGE/GPRS internet traffic.
7. any other thoughts ...

Thank all in advance!
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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 07 Apr 2008, 20:11
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walker wrote:
Thanks a lot!!! :good

I consider possibility to drive from LA to SF not along the route 5 but along the a way through Santa Barbara, Santa Maria to see the ocean. What do you think it is worth?


That's a beautiful route. If you really wanted to make it pretty, You can take 10 W until it turns into PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) and then drive through Malibu and very beautiful coastline, then go through Oxnard and merge with 101, head over to Santa Barbara and then up north. The only drawback to this route is that you will take 8-9 hours to get to SF vs. 6-7 if you took the 5 Freeway. 101 turns into just 2 lines at a number of places, but it is much prettier than driving through farmland via the 5, and it definitely smells better.

There are many pretty towns along the way - Monterey is nice, there is Hearst Castle (http://www.hearstcastle.com/), Big Sur (very very beautiful), etc - but many of those places require you taking the PCH rather than the 101, and that's even slower, esp. if you get stuck behind an RV that's driving 40 MPH on a winedy road.

What I would do, probably drive through Malibu (you can stop at Paradise Cove Restaurant for a breakfast, but they require minimum spend of $25 to avoid paying a parking charge of $25 :shock:), right before Oxnard jump on the 101, go through Santa Barbara (take Garden St exit and follow the signs for downtown or State Street). Drive around the State Street - it is beautiful and will only take 20 mins in and out even with all the traffic. Get back on the 101. Then you can cut over to the PCH (1) by taking the 46 Road when you hit Templeton and drive through the Big Sur area. (Photo attached). Then get back on the 101 around Monterey. This will be a long and draining drive though, but you will see some of the most beautiful places. (By the way, you can use this site to compare rental car prices: http://www.sidestep.com/cars). Keep in mind, that they actually fluctuate quite a bit and since you don't need a credit card to reserve with most companies, you can switch back and forth, just check them every couple of days. (Priceline, however, requires pre-payment and no cancelation).

Attachments

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BigSur.jpg [ 74.41 KiB | Viewed 840 times ]


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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 07 Apr 2008, 20:40
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40plusOnVerbal wrote:
Cell ph: U can buy a prepaid (nokia) phone from Walmart ( 20-40$)
Cingular or Tmobile -both GSM - local stores will have temp packages. They may ask address and other proofs.Keep that info ready.
911(is emergency police #) from cell phone
411 (local directory assistance)
OR borrow a good cell phone from friends( iphone type of smart phone with internet will be very very useful).


Actually, I have a cell phone E-ten M700 and I'd like to find suitable GSM-package that guarantees a good coverage on both coasts and a cheap Edge/GPRS traffic, I hope to use Skype and google maps with GPS-navigation.

40plusOnVerbal wrote:
Try to go out with friends(have some company always); never loiter alone (in nights in downtown etc)


40plusOnVerbal wrote:
If you are not used to driving in US , you should be careful- you can encounter very aggressive driving on highways(merging onto highways can be dangerous for new comers)
Of course, you must have a valid international driving license to drive. Also, never drive while drunk ( penalties under DUI will be severe).

:shock: What is a reason of such aggression? How should I drive to avoid such mad drivers?

40plusOnVerbal wrote:
Have a usable credit card and photo id ready.
Take a backup of imp data
Keep imp phone /contact info on the web (in email )

check/plan for weather.

Places to visit> you can pretty much pull out from yahoo, msn or google sites


Thanks a lot, 40plusOnVerbal!

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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 07 Apr 2008, 20:45
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bb wrote:
That's a beautiful route. If you really wanted to make it pretty, You can take 10 W until it turns into PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) and then drive through Malibu and very beautiful coastline, then go through Oxnard and merge with 101, head over to Santa Barbara and then up north. The only drawback to this route is that you will take 8-9 hours to get to SF vs. 6-7 if you took the 5 Freeway. 101 turns into just 2 lines at a number of places, but it is much prettier than driving through farmland via the 5, and it definitely smells better.

There are many pretty towns along the way - Monterey is nice, there is Hearst Castle (http://www.hearstcastle.com/), Big Sur (very very beautiful), etc - but many of those places require you taking the PCH rather than the 101, and that's even slower, esp. if you get stuck behind an RV that's driving 40 MPH on a winedy road.

What I would do, probably drive through Malibu (you can stop at Paradise Cove Restaurant for a breakfast, but they require minimum spend of $25 to avoid paying a parking charge of $25 :shock:), right before Oxnard jump on the 101, go through Santa Barbara (take Garden St exit and follow the signs for downtown or State Street). Drive around the State Street - it is beautiful and will only take 20 mins in and out even with all the traffic. Get back on the 101. Then you can cut over to the PCH (1) by taking the 46 Road when you hit Templeton and drive through the Big Sur area. (Photo attached). Then get back on the 101 around Monterey. This will be a long and draining drive though, but you will see some of the most beautiful places. (By the way, you can use this site to compare rental car prices: http://www.sidestep.com/cars). Keep in mind, that they actually fluctuate quite a bit and since you don't need a credit card to reserve with most companies, you can switch back and forth, just check them every couple of days. (Priceline, however, requires pre-payment and no cancelation).


Now, I have no doubt to go along the West coast, your photo is perfect! Thanks for your help and information in detail!

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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 07 Apr 2008, 22:28
walker wrote:
bb wrote:
That's a beautiful route. If you really wanted to make it pretty, You can take 10 W until it turns into PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) and then drive through Malibu and very beautiful coastline, then go through Oxnard and merge with 101, head over to Santa Barbara and then up north. The only drawback to this route is that you will take 8-9 hours to get to SF vs. 6-7 if you took the 5 Freeway. 101 turns into just 2 lines at a number of places, but it is much prettier than driving through farmland via the 5, and it definitely smells better.

There are many pretty towns along the way - Monterey is nice, there is Hearst Castle (http://www.hearstcastle.com/), Big Sur (very very beautiful), etc - but many of those places require you taking the PCH rather than the 101, and that's even slower, esp. if you get stuck behind an RV that's driving 40 MPH on a winedy road.

What I would do, probably drive through Malibu (you can stop at Paradise Cove Restaurant for a breakfast, but they require minimum spend of $25 to avoid paying a parking charge of $25 :shock:), right before Oxnard jump on the 101, go through Santa Barbara (take Garden St exit and follow the signs for downtown or State Street). Drive around the State Street - it is beautiful and will only take 20 mins in and out even with all the traffic. Get back on the 101. Then you can cut over to the PCH (1) by taking the 46 Road when you hit Templeton and drive through the Big Sur area. (Photo attached). Then get back on the 101 around Monterey. This will be a long and draining drive though, but you will see some of the most beautiful places. (By the way, you can use this site to compare rental car prices: http://www.sidestep.com/cars). Keep in mind, that they actually fluctuate quite a bit and since you don't need a credit card to reserve with most companies, you can switch back and forth, just check them every couple of days. (Priceline, however, requires pre-payment and no cancelation).


Now, I have no doubt to go along the West coast, your photo is perfect! Thanks for your help and information in detail!


It will be an awesome drive!!!! You will love it!!!!!!! These are the places one ought to see...

When in DC I would recommend visiting Washington mansion:
http://www.mountvernon.org/visit/plan/index.cfm/pid/530/ We ordered a guided tour there. I loved it - very cultural thing.
Town of Alexandria is worth to see.
You can also visit Capitol: http://www.aoc.gov/cc/visit/index.cfm. Tickets are free but there is usually a big line. Well, I would wait to get in :wink: National gallery is must unless you do not like art or have no spare time :)
You will definitely like Air and Space museum.

Last edited by chica on 07 Apr 2008, 23:04, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 07 Apr 2008, 23:01
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chica, thanks!!!

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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 08 Apr 2008, 07:58
walker wrote:
Thanks a lot!!! :good

I consider possibility to drive from LA to SF not along the route 5 but along the a way through Santa Barbara, Santa Maria to see the ocean. What do you think it is worth?




DO NOT TAKE ROUTE 5 from SF to LA. This will take you through the middle of the state where all you'll see is mountains and cows.
If you want to drive by the ocean, you take 101 and where possible 1. I suggest taking 1 from SF Golden Gate Bridge down to Monteray (this will be all by the coast), then go on 101 and drive down to Santa Barbara and then when you reach Oxnard, turn west towards the ocean until you reach 1, then you'll drive by the Malibu beaches for 25+ miles. Once you hit Santa Monica take 10 east to LA.

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Last edited by chineseburned on 08 Apr 2008, 10:13, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 08 Apr 2008, 09:23
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Thanks! :-D It is very good that I asked you about route 5/ocean way !!! :-D

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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 08 Apr 2008, 10:19
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Guys, what a hotel can you recommend to stay in NYC and Boston? Maybe you have a good experience...

Price ~ up to 150$/person, level 3* - 4*, a clean single and a double rooms

Thanks in advance!

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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 08 Apr 2008, 15:34
hotel:
orbitz.com
travelocity.com
expedia.com
hotels.com

generaly they all quote the same price.
i find orbitz a tad better.
others may have better options to offer.

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Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice [#permalink] New post 08 Apr 2008, 16:05
Chinese burned has the BEST route. good combo of speed/scenery. My family is in monterey and I went to school in LA so I know all the routes well. there is NO reason to go on 5 unless that 2 hours is really important to you. might be nice to hit up monterey/carmel area (not really out of the way) but the "beauty" of the winding drive gets old really fast. especially since there are no good places to cut across to 101. 101 does however have some NICE coastal stretches, particularly in the san luis obispo-santa barbara stretch.

One odd thing to note: as you drive south on 101 there aren't many gas stations visible from the freeway clear through LA. I don't know why this is. Anyhow, unless you enjoy weaving around through small neighborhoods for 30 minutes looking for one, start looking in the san luis obispo area and you will easily make it to LA where there is one on every corner near any hotel!
Re: In the USA for the fist time - Need advice   [#permalink] 08 Apr 2008, 16:05
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