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Travel Advice and Health Information for the USA

Within this section we cover three important areas in relation to travelling to the USA which are:

Travel Safety

It's worth pointing out the obvious straight away - since the events of September 11 2001 and the war in Iraq, the US is in a state of high security alert and the authorities, particularly in airports, are not in the mood for messing about. Don't even think about jokingly saying that you've got a bomb in your luggage - it's not funny and it will land you in serious trouble for wasting everybody's time. Here is some more advice when visiting the USA and things to be aware of:

Things to watch out for in the cities

When travelling in America make sure that you know where your valuables are and always be careful if somebody looks like they're deliberately trying to distract you or invade your personal space. It's probably not them you should be watching, but their friend with the wandering hands! In the very rare event that someone does try and mug you, just hand over whatever they want. Nothing you have in your pockets is worth risking life and limb for.


Be aware that there are always risks in a country where it is a citizen’s right to ‘keep and bear arms’. Never get yourself into a situation where a gun is involved and you put yourself or others at risk.

Staying Safe in the Great Outdoors

When you are travelling outdoors in the US here are some quick tips on some potential dangers that you may face:

  • Outdoor Plants. It is important to look out for poison ivy especially when you are hiking and it can cause nasty skin irritations. Poison ivy creeps up trees just like British ivy but each branch has three dark shiny leaves. If you think you have touched some then wash the touched area with soap and water. If it’s in your eyes then contact a doctor. Remember… “leaves three, leave it be”!
  • Wild Animals. America is home to numerous dangerous wild animals such as snakes, bears and mountain lions. The most important advice is to avoid areas where you think one of these animals may be and also don’t encourage them to come to you by leaving food or litter lying around.
  • Desert Dangers. Deserts in the USA are some of the hottest and driest places on earth so when you are travelling out there beware of rattlesnakes. Also always carry enough water for you and your car and take precautions for heat-strokes and sunburn.
  • Mid-West Tornadoes. It is amazing how storms in America’s flat Mid-West can whip up from nowhere. Make sure you watch the weather and stay alert of any changes. If you do get caught in a storm then try to get underground and find someone who has a basement. If you're driving, the best place to be is tucked right under a bridge (get out of your car - tornadoes can easily pick them up and throw them!). And if there's really nothing about that is secure enough to hide under, lie flat on your face as low on the ground as you can.

Health Information

The public healthcare system is practically non-existent in the United States and private healthcare costs A LOT. If you’re planning on skiing, snowboarding, white water rafting or anything else that runs the risk of bodily injury - get insured. Take out a policy that covers you for all eventualities, including immediate expenses (you have to pay for medicine and care upfront) and emergency repatriation. To find about more about insurance policies for gap years read our insurance section.


An embassy or consulate is in charge of looking after their citizens’ interests in foreign countries. Washington DC, as the capital of the USA, is home to the embassies of Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Ireland. If you run into serious trouble while you are away, contact your embassy or consular representative. As a preventative measure, you could check out the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at www.fco.gov.uk/travel

Australian Embassy

1601 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington DC 20036

202 797 3424


British Embassy

3100 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington DC 20008

202 588 6500


Irish Embassy

2234 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington DC 20008

202 462 3939


New Zealand Embassy

37 Observatory Circle, Washington DC 20008

202 328 4800