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USA & Canada travel guide

The USA and Canada are both mythic and wondrous, with skyscraper cities and panoramic landscapes – when you visit, it'll be like stepping into a Hollywood movie that you wrote the script for.

Where to go in the USA and Canada

These two enormous countries can serve up sensational holiday experiences for every interest. See for yourself:

  • overdosing on art in New York City to Big Easy jazz in Louisiana
  • wandering the Smithsonian in Washington DC to lounging in Vancouver's Stanley Park
  • enjoying the iconic architecture of Chicago to the French chic of Quebec
  • seeing the grand coastal scenery of Big Sur to the northern lights in Alaska
  • skiing in Whistler to hugging Redwoods in Yosemite
  • getting soaked at Niagara Falls to gaping at the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Right down to the Museum of Velvet Art in Los Angeles and partying till dawn in Las Vegas ­– whatever it is you’ve got a hankering to see or do, you can see and do it here.

Once you get your first taste of this chunk of the world – that first bagel in a Toronto deli, that first poolside cocktail in the mid-century modernist wonderland of Palm Springs, that first beer in hip Portland, that first warming chowder at Seattle’s Pike Place Market – you’ll leave hungry for more.

Don’t underestimate the size of these countries – tailor your itinerary to your time available or you’ll spend too much time in too many airports. If you’re heading home to visit your friends and family, don’t skip on insurance – you don’t want to miss out on that big family gathering!

United States and Canada tips and travel advice

There are a lot of adventures to be had in the United States and Canada, and you want to stay healthy so you can enjoy all of it. However, there's no reciprocal medical agreement with Australia so make sure you have travel insurance to cover your butt. Here are some tips and advice for your trip:

Tipping tips

Tipping is a standard practice in Canada, and absolutely expected in the USA. Tip wait staff 15% to 20%, bartenders US$1 per drink, cab drivers 10% to 15%, and hotel cleaning staff US$2 to US$4 a day.

How to road trip right

If you’re driving in the US, remember you drive on the right side of the road, and the steering wheel is on the left of the car. It can take a bit of getting used to! Make sure you have a valid home licence and an International Driving Permit. Arrange it in advance, as fraudulent permits are a popular scam from some companies.

When to go

From November, it can get bitterly cold and dark in Canada. June to August is the most pleasant period, weather-wise, both there and in the US, although America’s weather is milder and less extreme. October is peak time for leaf peepers.

Medications and prescriptions

Some over-the-counter medications may be prescription-only in the US and Canada. Make sure you have insurance because, if you do need to visit a doctor to replace a lost or stolen prescription, it can be cripplingly expensive without it.

United States and Canada travel risks and warnings

Before you head off, check the government's Smart Traveller website for current travel warnings for United States and Canada

Visas/security requirements

Current visa entry requirements to the USA are highly subject to change as security measures evolve. The US State Department keeps the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on visa requirements. Do your research before you leave!

Crime in the USA and Canada

Canada is a generally safe country, the USA somewhat less so with high rates of gun crime. Use your common sense as you would at home and avoid areas that have a warranted notoriety. Use credit card defenders to avoid getting skimmed.

Cold exposure in Canada

Do not underestimate the ferocity of the cold, especially in the northern parts of the country. Hypothermia is a very real risk, so keep thoroughly wrapped up. Signs of hypothermia setting in include slurred speech, confusion and lack of coordination.

Choose CGU travel insurance for your trip to the US and Canada

It's important to get travel insurance before you go to the United States and Canada. If an emergency happens when you're there you can contact us at anytime on our hotline +61 2 8895 0698. You can even reverse the charges.

If something happens that's not an emergency, for example your golf clubs are stolen, give us a call when you get home on 13 24 80, at any time. We'll set you up with your own claims specialist who'll support you throughout your claim.

It makes sense to have travel insurance so that you're protected from the unexpected. It's not the best holiday yarn if you've got a hefty medical bill to pay.