Travel advice United States of America

Travel advice: 20-06-2019 United States of America


The British Embassies in the USA maintain and develop relations between the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The travel advice they give is based on information from embassies, intelligence services and representatives of other countries such as local authorities, companies and other organizations. The main goal is to inform the traveler about the safety in a country. The travel advices are carefully designed. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs takes no responsibility for any harm resulting from your use of a travel advice. The motto is and remains that you are solely responsible for your own safety.

The services of the British Consuls involve dealing with a wide range of political, commercial, security and economic questions of interest to the UK and the regions of the United States. They also provide consular assistance to British nationals in the regions.
The ambassador is responsible for the direction and work of the embassy and its consulates and he is also responsible for press and cultural relations and for the consular services. The consuls keep the ambassador aware of political, economic and other developments in their consular districts.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office ( FCO ) wrote the foreign travel checklist  to help the traveler to prepare for his foreign travel and to stay save. The safety of the traveler is the main concern. But as said: only the traveler can decide whether it’s safe for him/ her to travel. If the FCO judges that te level of risk to British nationals has become unacceptably high, you can read that on te travel page of that country.

Consular fees

The British Embassies charge fees for some of their services. See the full list of consular fees in the USA.
In the following chapters you can read a number of notable things that has as main objective to inform the traveler about his safety when he visits the country.

The incalculable nature

In the United States it’s now the season of the hurricanes, tropical storms and gigantic forest fires.
The forest and brush fires ( wild fires )  occur mainly on the west coast ( California ) and are a danger in the dry areas. Areas of high risk are canyons, hills and forests. The high winds cause fires to spread very rapidly.The air quality may be affected. People with respiratory problems such as asthma must take precautions in these areas. For more information about the current air quality in California: read the website the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the English-language website of CAL FIRE .

The Atlantic and Northern Pacific hurricane season runs from June to November and can hit the coastal regions of Hawaii en Guam. The South Pacific tropical cyclone runs from November to May and can hit the American Samoa.

The tornado is common in the middle of the United States (March to June). Do you like the winter sports then take care of the avalanches and snow storms. These storms can cause delays and cancellations for the whole airline hubs in the USA.

If you are faced with  natural violence we recommend you: follow the advice of the local authorities and your tour operator! Tune your radio to the local stations and follow the news.

For more information about the weather you can go to the following Web sites:

  • Federal Aviation Administration
  • National Interagency Fire Centre
  • US Geospatial Multi-Agency Coordination Group
  • US National Weather Service
  • California Fire Weather;
  • California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection;
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency;
  • National Hurricane Center.


As a result of the private possession of firearms in the United States there is a lot of violent gun crime across the country. Even at the schools armed security guards walk around since the mass shooting incidents. These armed attacks are mostly focused on the private community and not on tourists. We advice the traveler to take precautions to protect themselves and their property.  Avoid walking through less travelled areas alone especially at night and don’t let your valuables behind in your rental car or caravan! Thieves are targeting the vehicles of those who appear to be tourists.
In the large cities are many unsafe neighbourhoods: the so-called ' no go areas '. We advise you to investigate if your hotel is in a safe area. Major roads in the cities are relatively safe and if you park do it at well-lit parking spaces. The State of Florida has a high crime rate. Be careful by shopping in the large shopping centers and sunbathing on the beaches and in the amusement  and theme parks. The regulations are not uniform across the US. Be aware!

Drug trafficking is a very big problem and a major issue in many States of America. Among the victims of crime related to drug trafficking are some foreign nationals. The many druggangs use violence. Stay tuned and follow the instructions of the local authorities if you are traveling in these areas. Use, possession and trafficking in narcotic drugs is severely punished in the United States. Involvement in drug trafficking outside the United States may lead to an arrest.

A list of all types of controlled substances, as listed under the Controlled Substances Act, can be found on the US Department of Justice website.
Details of the assistance offered by the British Embassy and Consulates to British nationals if arrested or detained in the USA is available on GOV.UK.


Unfortunately, there are also terrorist attacks in the United States. In New York (Manhattan) in 2017 two attacks took place. Also in New Jersey and Minnesota  and Orlando in 2016  and in San Bernardino in 2015. The ' terror ' threat is comparable to the situation in the other Western countries. The main threat comes from individuals who may have been inspired by terrorist groups ( Daesh and al Qaeda) or motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria to carry out so-called ‘lone actor’ attacks targeting public events or places.
The website ' National Terrorism Advisory System' gives official warnings and advisories from the U.S. Government. Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in the USA. You should monitor the media and follow the instructions of the local authorities
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides public information about credible threats. visit the DHS website.


Each country has its own laws, rules and practices. These can be quite different than in the UK. If you visit a country, obey all local laws, rules and practices. Just as the inhabitants of the country itself. If you do not, you can be in serious trouble.
If you go with your boyfriend or girlfriend to the United States please be aware that homosexuality is not widely accepted. There are States where sex between adults of the same sex is prohibited by law. The US is an extremely diverse society and the attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people differ hugely across the country. Before travelling please read our general travel advice for the LGBT community. You can find more detail on LGBT issues in the US on the website of the Human Rights Campaign

Evacuation at medical problems

Medical facilities abroad may be limited and very expensive. If you have an accident or become ill, you may need medical evacuation. For example to a country in the neighbourhood. The cost of a medical evacuation or treatment are high. Keep this in mind and consult your travel insurance prior to your trip. These costs are not covered by your health care provider? Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
Should you go to the doctor or a hospital ? Your basic health insurance covers these costs usually. The amount that is covered, is up to equal to the cost of the treatment in the home country. It is therefore important to be sure that the extra costs will be paid by your basic health insurance. We recommend to visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 911 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website. Hospitals may ask to pay a deposit or ‘good faith’ payment on admittance. We advice: contact your travel insurance provider.

What to do in an emergency

Are you in the country and there is an emergency? Always follow the instructions of the local authorities. If you have an organized trip, please contact your travel agency. If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy or consulate.
If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

British Embassy Washington
If you’re in District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia or West Virginia and you need urgent help (for example, you’ve been attacked, arrested or someone has died), call +1 202 588 6500. If you’re in the UK and worried about a British national in the USA, call 020 7008 1500.

British Consulate General Atlanta
If you’re in Atlanta, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina or Tennessee and you need urgent help (for example, you’ve been attacked, arrested or someone has died), call +1 404 954 7700. If you’re in the UK and worried about a British national in the USA, call 020 7008 1500.

British Consulate General Boston
If you’re in Connecticut (except Fairfield County), Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island or Vermont and you need urgent help (for example, you’ve been attacked, arrested or someone has died), call +1 617 245 4500. If you’re in the UK and worried about a British national in the USA, call 020 7008 1500.

British Consulate General Chicago
If you’re in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin and you need urgent help (for example, you’ve been attacked, arrested or someone has died), call +1 312 970 3800. If you’re in the UK and worried about a British national in the USA, call 020 7008 1500.

British Consulate General Houston
If you’re in Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico or Oaklahoma and you need urgent help (for example, you’ve been attacked, arrested or someone has died), call +1 713 210 4000. If you’re in the UK and worried about a British national in the USA, call 020 7008 1500.

British Consulate General Miami    
If you’re in Florida, Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands and you need urgent help (for example, you’ve been attacked, arrested or someone has died), call +1 305 400 6400. If you’re in the UK and worried about a British national in the USA, call 020 7008 1500.

British Consulate General New York
If you’re in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Fairfield County in Connecticut and you need urgent help (for example, you’ve been attacked, arrested or someone has died), call +1 212 745 0200. If you’re in the UK and worried about a British national in the USA, call 020 7008 1500.

British Consulate General San Francisco
f you’re in Northern California, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington or Wyoming and you need urgent help (for example, you’ve been attacked, arrested or someone has died), call +1 415 617 1300. If you’re in the UK and worried about a British national in the USA, call 020 7008 1500.

British Consulate General Los Angeles
If you’re in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, Utah, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands or American Samoa and you need urgent help (for example, you’ve been attacked, arrested or someone has died), call +1 310 789 0031. If you’re in the UK and worried about a British national in the USA, call 020 7008 1500.

Travel documents and visas

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel documents . Unless otherwise stated this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The US authorities determine which requirements you must meet in order to travel in the United States. These requirements may change. View before travelling exactly what you need and what requirements you must meet in order to be able to travel into the country.
For all your trips abroad you need to have a valid travel document. In addition, you also need an e-  visa for some countries. The rules for travel to the US can change. Therefore ask before you go the requirements you must meet. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
You’ll need prior authorisation to enter the United States using a British passport, either through a visa, a Permanent Resident Card, or the Visa Waiver Programme. It’s your responsibility to know and understand the entry rules before you travel.

Visa Waiver Programme (VWP)

Most passport holders can get an ESTA ( Electronic System for Travel Authorisation ) through the Visa Waiver Programme which allows travel to the US for up to 90 days. The types of journey allowed under the VWP include tourism, certain types of business visit and transit to another country.

You’ll generally qualify to enter the USA using the VWP if your British passport describes your nationality as a ‘British Citizen’ and your passport is an e-passport with the internationally recognised symbol on the front cover. The other requirements you got to meet are that you have received authorisation from the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) and that you haven’t been arrested for certain crimes and that you are not a dual national of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria and that you haven’t travelled to Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen since March 2011 and that you can show that you have enough funds available on arrival to support yourself during your stay, even if you’re staying with family and friends.

You should complete an online pre-registration form on the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) website before you travel. The US Customs and Border Patrol recommends that you do this at least 72 hours before departure. Applying for and securing an ESTA is a separate process to providing your airline with advance passenger information (details of your passport, country of residence, address of your first night’s accommodation in the US etc). For more information, and to apply online, visit the official ESTA website.

The VWP is intended to be used for occasional, short visits to the US. If a US immigration officer thinks you’re trying to ‘reset’ the clock by making a short trip out of the US and re-entering for another 90-day period, you can be denied entry.

If you travel from the US to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean you can usually re-enter using the ESTA and admission stamp you were issued when you first arrived in the US, although the time you spend outside of the country is included in the 90 days allotted for your visit. Make sure you’re clear about the length of time the immigration officer has authorised you to remain in the US if you re-enter under the same ESTA.

If your current British passport is not an ePassport you can contact Her Majesty’s Passport office for a replacement to allow you to use the VWP. Otherwise, you’ll need to apply for a visa to enter the United States on your current passport.
Visa requirements If you don’t meet the requirements under the VWP, and don’t have a US Permanent Resident Card, you should apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate before travelling.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) aren’t valid for entry into the United States or transit through the United States on an ESTA under the Visa Waiver Programme. If you’re planning to enter or transit through the US using an ETD you must apply for a visa from the nearest US embassy or consulate before you travel, which may take a number of days, or hold a valid lawful permanent resident card (often referred to as a ‘green card’), which you must have with you on arrival. You can leave the US using an ETD that has been issued in the United States.

Bringing medicines into the US

 On the import of certain prescription drugs into the US there are restrictions and prohibitions.

Travelling with children

If you are under the age of 18 and you travel with only one parent or someone who isn’t a parent or legal guardian, you may be asked to provide certain documents at the border.

Travelling to the US from Cuba

It’s possible to travel to the United States after you’ve been to Cuba. However, you may wish to take supporting documents about the purpose of your trip to Cuba in case you’re questioned by US immigration officials at the port of entry on arrival in the US. If you have any further questions or concerns, contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.

Emergency request

You can apply for an emergency travel document if you’re abroad and your passport has been lost or stolen, damaged or expired, and you can’t get a new or replacement passport in time to travel.

Apply online for an emergency travel document

If the person needing the emergency travel document is under 16, a parent or guardian should apply on their behalf.

Road travel

From state to state there are no uniform traffic laws. If you’re planning to drive in the United States, check the driving rules in the state(s) you’ll be visiting. In most states a full UK driving licence is sufficient. However, some states may also require an International Driving Permit. The United States doesn’t issue International Driving Permits to foreign visitors, so you’ll need to obtain this document before you travel. Provisional licences aren’t accepted. Check requirements with your vehicle rental company. Driving is on the right hand side of the road.
Check before you go on the road the weather conditions. In the hurricane season it can be dangerous to travel in the moutains and isolated areas. Floods or snowfall can destroy te roads. If ou travel in dry areas you may need extra water and petrol. Try to stay on main roads and use well-lit car parks. If you’re hit 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 often found close to tourist destinations and airports, and notoriously near to Orlando International Airport.

Latest Tips

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

Take care for a good preparation for your trip. That will prevent many problems. For example, make a good travel insurance that also covers all extra costs.
Make clear agreements with the persons at home and inform them about your travel plans, your accessibility, your travel documents. Take care for a contact in the home country who knows all the ' ins and outs ' of your voyage.
Take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and ticks. There are occasional outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases including West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis, Dengue fever, Chikungunya virus, and tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease.
UK health authorities have classified the United States as having a risk of Zika virus transmission in Florida, Texas (Cameron County and Hidalgo County only), Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands
There are no special security risks to travel to the United States. For more information about road safety in the United States. The phone number for AAA’s Emergency Road Service is 1-800-AAA-HELP (1-800-222-4357) within the U.S. or Canada only. Your service call will be routed to the appropriate territory based on where you are located. You will be required to show your current home club membership card in order to obtain services from AAA.
Stay reachable in crisis situations!

ESTA: apply now