Safety and security

Crime

Take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your property against petty crime. Don’t leave passports in rental cars, especially in the boot, as there have been a high number of thefts by gangs targeting the vehicles of those who appear to be tourists.

Violent crime, including gun crime, rarely involves tourists, but you should take care when travelling in unfamiliar areas. Crime associated with the illegal drugs trade is a major issue in Mexican states bordering Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. Some foreign nationals have been among the victims of crime in the border regions, but there is no evidence to suggest they have been targeted because of their nationality. Research your destination before travelling, be vigilant, and follow the advice of local authorities.

Road travel

If you’re planning to drive in the United States, check the driving rules in the state(s) you’ll be visiting. Provisional licenses aren’t accepted. International Driving Permits are generally not required in the US but it is helpful to carry one, and they are only valid in conjunction with a full UK driving licence. The United States doesn’t issue International Driving Permits to foreign visitors, so you’ll need to obtain this document before you travel. Check requirements with your vehicle rental company.

US traffic laws can vary from state to state. Speed and drink driving limits, as well as information on disabled permits, can be found through the individual state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website.

Most car rental companies offer electronic toll fee payment facilities which will allow you to automatically pay for your toll fees. These toll fee payment facilities must be hired for the duration of your rental and will allow you to use the electronic lanes on toll roads. Be sure to discuss with your rental car company their policy on toll fees.

Check the weather conditions before embarking on a long journey, particularly in mountainous and isolated areas where there is increased likelihood of snowfall, or in dry desert areas where you may need extra water and petrol stations could be scarce. Do not sleep in your car by the roadside or in rest areas and avoid leaving any items on display in your car. Try to stay on main roads and use well-lit car parks. If you’re hit from behind while driving, indicate to the other driver to follow you to a public place and call 911 for the police.

Petrol stations that do not display the price of fuel usually charge considerably more than the national average for a gallon of fuel. They’re are often found close to tourist destinations and airports, and notoriously near to Orlando International Airport.

Air travel

Before you travel, check the security measures you are likely to face at the airport on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website. The TSA has a helpline number to help passengers with disabilities and medical conditions before they fly.

Don’t make flippant remarks about bombs or terrorism, especially when passing through US airports.

All travellers arriving from Ebola affected areas in West Africa (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) must arrive at one of the following 5 airports in order to undergo health screening: Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) Washington DC, O’Hare International Airport (ORD) Chicago, John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) New York, Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) New York, or Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) Atlanta. For more information see the US Department of Homeland Security website.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has issued security directives to all US and international air carriers with inbound flights to the US. If you’re travelling from or through nations that are considered state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest you will need to go through enhanced screening. For a list of the countries affected visit the TSA website.