Tommy Lloyd
Author: Tommy Lloyd, Managing Director

Tommy has over 15 years experience within the insurance industry, and his primary focus is helping travellers find the right cover for their medical conditions.

8 min read

What do you need to travel to America?

When travelling to America on a full British citizen passport, there are a few things you’ll need to have in place to ensure your trip can go ahead. When travelling to the USA as a British citizen, you need to have:

  • Passport: a passport that is valid for the entirety of your proposed stay. Unlike when travelling elsewhere, you do not need extra validity beyond your proposed stay.
  • ESTA/VISA: an ESTA or a visa to enter the USA as a visitor. For most people, an ESTA will suffice; however, some circumstances will require a visa. More on that in the next section.

Under 18s: As well as the above, under 18s should also ensure they have information on the length and purpose of their trip in case immigration officials request to see it and if they are travelling alone, with one parent, or with someone else who is not a parent or guardian, written consent from one or both parents/guardians. For more information about under-18s travelling to the USA, we recommend you read this guide by the US Government.

Do I need an ESTA to travel to the USA?

Yes, to travel to the USA, you’ll need either an ESTA or a visa.

An ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), also known as a visa waiver, is not a complete visa but grants you the authorisation you need to travel. An ESTA is sufficient for most people travelling to the USA for tourism, business and transit purposes; for larger trips, such as to study or work, a full visa is needed.

There are occasions when a person wouldn’t be able to get an ESTA and would instead need a visa. These include but aren’t limited to:

  • If you’ve travelled to countries including Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen since 2011, or Cuba since 2021.

  • If you’ve been arrested or have a criminal record (we dive deeper into travelling to the USA with a criminal record later in this article).

  • If you’ve previously been either refused admission to or deported from the USA.

  • If you’ve previously outstayed an ESTA.

For more information on ESTAs, be sure to read the ESTA FAQs on the US Customs and Border Protection website.

Do I need vaccines to travel to the USA?

Although there are recommended vaccines for the USA, there are no required vaccines for travel here.

It’s recommended that travellers have a COVID-19, tetanus and polio vaccine. It is also recommended that those who might come in contact with animals or who are high-risk have a rabies vaccine.

READ MORE: What vaccines do you need for travelling abroad?

Do I need insurance to travel to the USA?

Although travel insurance for the USA is not compulsory, it is something we highly recommend. The United States is known for having notoriously high medical bills, so ensuring you have the proper coverage, from travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions to travel insurance for over 50s with medical conditions, means you don’t need to worry about the financial risk of falling ill.

What’s more, travel insurance for the USA will mean you are covered in case of holiday cancellation, repatriation, lost luggage and much, much more. Having travel insurance for any trip means you can have peace of mind that, should something go wrong, you’ll be covered.

Travel Insurance for the USA
View of Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

Can you travel to America with a criminal record?

Having a criminal record does not automatically mean you will be unable to travel to the USA, but it might make it more difficult.

One of the main challenges those who have been arrested before or have a criminal record will face is not being able to apply for an ESTA and needing to apply for a full visa instead. The process of applying for a visa is both longer and more expensive than an ESTA. However, people with a criminal record have been able to do so and successfully get granted permission to enter the USA.

Can you travel to America with a GBH conviction?

Although you are able to apply for a visa and you might be successful, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to travel to the USA with a GBH conviction.

 Even for a spent conviction where a full sentence has been carried out, for convictions like GBH, it can be incredibly challenging to get a visa approved to the USA. If you are very keen to travel to the States with a conviction, such as GBH, there are organisations such as Unlock who are able to help with your application and advise you further on the chance of success.  

Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone National Park

When and Where to Travel in America

When is the best time to visit the USA?

As the USA is such a vast country made up of a wealth of incredible states, there is no one best time to visit America. It’ll depend on what you’re looking for from your trip and where in the US you wish to travel.

 As with most destinations, if you are looking to visit outside of peak times, experiencing the “shoulder seasons” can mean saved costs and fewer crowds to contend with in the popular attractions. For the USA, these shoulder seasons tend to occur in spring and autumn.

The purpose of your trip should dictate the time of year you choose to travel to the USA. If you are looking for a warm-weather getaway, then opting to visit the likes of Hawaii or Florida in the summer months is a must. Alternatively, if you want a ski holiday or a winter getaway, then why not opt for a trip to Aspen in the colder months or check out stunning New York for the holidays?

READ MORE: When is the Best Time to Visit the Caribbean?

When is the cheapest time to visit the USA?

Although there are a wide range of factors that will play into the cost of your trip to America, it’s generally thought that you’ll be able to find the cheapest in the winter months – barring the festive season – with February thought to be the cheapest month to fly in.

However, there are many components that make up the cost of a trip, from flights and hotels to attraction costs and travel insurance costs, so you should consider all of these things when budgeting for your trip, especially when you are travelling on a set budget. The location you choose to visit will also have a high impact on costs, with popular cities being cheaper and easier to access but more likely to have higher living costs once you’re there.

Where to visit in the USA?

There is no one perfect place to visit in the USA, and where you choose to visit will depend on what you’re looking for from your trip. Below, we offer some recommendations for locations depending on the type of holiday you want:

  • City Breaks: Consider cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

  • Beach Holidays: Consider locations like Miami, Maui and Malibu.

  • Nature Breaks: Consider locations like Joshua Tree, Yosemite and Yellowstone.

  • Winter Sports Holidays: Consider locations like Aspen, Vail and Park City.

When it comes to travel in the USA, the opportunities are endless as the 50 states offer a range of amazing holidays. Whether you are looking for a beach holiday or want a romantic city break, you’ll find your dream vacation by travelling Stateside.

If you’re looking for more travel advice, the answer to popular travel questions, destination guides and more, be sure to check out our travel blog.

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