USA Travel Guide – Tips for First Time Travel to USA

HomeUS Visa & ImmigrationUSA Travel Guide – Tips for First Time Travel to USA

Traveling to the USA can be exciting – but can also be stressful if you aren’t prepare. Doing your homework before your flight can help your trip go smoothly. Here are some useful travel tips that will act a travel guide.

Planning a Trip to the US?

Arm yourself with travel medical insurance before you board your flight

Travel Guide for Flying to USA

Watch this video to understand the complete process of flying to the USA, including the US immigration process at the time of arrival in the USA.

  • Sample immigration and customs forms
  • Pre-filled customs form
  • What to do at the port of entry

Download a printable travel guide to USA

Tips for Prior to Traveling

  • Make sure you and your family have proper Visitor’s Coverage
  • Choose the flight best suited for you and your travel plans
  • Try to get the best deal on your tickets. Use comparison websites to compare flight costs from different airlines.
  • Booking tickets through a travel agent is an option to consider. Agents may be able to provide discounts.
  • When you book your ticket, mention your food preferences if your flight provides meal options.
  • Many airlines allow you to book your seat when you purchase your ticket. Be sure to inquire about seating options so you can get your preferred seating accordingly. This may be important to you, especially on a long flight.
  • Make sure the date and time of travel on your ticket is correct. You can check your flight information online on your airline’s website or you can call their customer support phone number.
  • You should also confirm the luggage limit that you can carry (the weight and number of bags for both cabin and check in luggage).
  • Make sure that you are in the right terminal for your airline’s departure after going through flight security.
  • Try to reach the airport at least 3 hours before your departure. This will account for check-in, security checks, and will be helpful in case the airport is busy.
  • Each piece of luggage should have your name and address tag so your luggage can be identified at the destination airport, especially if it gets lost.
  • Get money in the currency of your destination country. You can exchange currency from an authorized bank, e.g. State Bank Of India, etc., or from organizations like Thomas Cook. Normally, they have currency exchange counters at the airport too. They also make an entry on your passport.

Manage Your Luggage

  • Carry-on luggage: This is what you can carry with you on the plane. It will be placed in the overheat big space on the airplane. Check your airline’s regulations on carry-on luggage – it will need to be a certain size in order to qualify. Many airlines allow one carry-on bag and one small personal item, such as a purse or satchel.
  • Since the allowed luggage size and weight is restricted, it is recommended to keep only important and handy items in your carry-on luggage, like important documents, one pair of clothes, sweater, medicines, etc. Before you pack your carry-on, check the airport’s regulations on what items are approved to bring with you through security.
  • Check-in luggage: This is the larger luggage that you will have to hand over at the airline’s check-in counter. Most airlines allow 2 luggages for check-in under a certain weight, typically around 50 pounds.

*This is only generalized information, it may differ from airline to airline. Check with your airline for more information on their regulations/requirements.

While at the Departure Airport

Before boarding, you will need to go through a few steps.

Step 1:

You need to scan your check-in luggage in the X-ray machine near your airline’s check-in counter. Here, the person in charge will put a safety-checked sticker on the luggage if it is all clear.

Step 2:

Keep your passport, ticket and a pen handy.

Step 3:

At the check-in counter, hand over your luggage for check-in. Receive your boarding pass, ask about your seat preference (if you haven’t resolved this beforehand), ask for transit details (if you have any flight changes in between), and take receipt of your checked-in luggage.

You will receive an India Departure Embarkation form here. Fill it out carefully and in all capital letters clearly. Ask the airline staff if you need any assistance.

Now, you may proceed to the immigration counter.

Step 4:

Next, you will undergo an immigration check. Here, the immigration officer will ask for your passport, ticket, boarding pass and the Embarkation form. They might also ask few questions about your journey, visa, purpose of travel, etc. They will then take the Embarkation form, and will return everything else back to you after stamping your passport. Now, proceed to the customs counter.

Step 5:

If you have lots of jewelry or any other expensive items with you, you can declare it at the customs counter and get it endorsed on your passport. This is helpful when you return, so that you do not have to face any customs hassles. Here, the customs officer will stamp your boarding pass. Now, proceed to the security checkpoint.

Step 6:

Here, you will have to X-ray your carry-on luggage, purse, or anything that you are carrying on hand. Then, you have to pass through a metal detector, where a personal security check will be done. The officer in charge will put a “security checked” stamp on your boarding pass. Collect back all your stuff.
Now you are all set to board the plane.

Step 7:

Check for the departure gate number written on your boarding pass, and go to that gate. Now wait until the boarding for your flight is announced. Boarding typically occurs 30-45 minutes before your flight’s scheduled departure time.

Step 8:

Once you are on the flight, look for the seat number written on your boarding pass. Once you locate your seat, put your luggage in the overhead bin above your row. You may also want to read over the safety instruction booklet located in the backseat pocket. On the plane, you will be served food, snacks, drinks etc., from time to time. You will be given a blanket and a pillow (depending on your airline).
*Important: In case of any problem during your flight, don’t hesitate to ask the airline staff.

At the Intermediate/Transit Airport

If you have to change flights at a layover airport, here are some steps to follow.

Step 1:

As soon as you reach the intermediate/transit airport, the first thing you must do is to look for the terminal and gate number of your next flight.

Step 2:

All airports normally have a very good map and direction instructions. But in case of any problems, ask the airport staff.

Step 3:

Once you find your gate, then depending on the time you have, you can relax or shop at the airport. Plan to be at your gate 40 minutes prior to the flight time, as they usually begin boarding 30-45 minutes before your flight’s departure time.

*In case you have to change terminals, first find out information about the connecting airport shuttle to the respective terminal. It is always advisable to find out such information beforehand, as in some countries, you may need a transit visa to leave one airport, to go to the other one.

Before You Reach Your Destination

In Flight

A few hours before arrival, the flight attendants will give you a US customs form. Fill out the form very carefully.
Sample: this is what a USA Custom Form looks like.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask any co-passengers or staff for assistance in filling out your customers forms.

When You Reach Your Destination Airport in the USA

Your fingerprint and picture will be taken at the immigration counter.

You will collect your baggage from baggage claim.

See the complete details and process of entering into the USA here.


If you are questioned by the airport officers, answer them accurately and clearly. There should not be any discrepancy in the information stated in your documents and your answers to any questions.

Making a Call from the Airport

Before you leave your home country, it is advised to call your cell phone provider to ask about international calls. You can set up international calling with your current provider.
A international calling card can also be purchased at most intermediate airports. You can inquire about it at the information counter at the airport.

Useful Tips During Your Travel

Here is some useful English language terminology you may use during your flight or at the airport. Specifically, if your destination is the USA and you are traveling via a USA airline.

Indian EnglishAmerican English
Air HostessFlight Attendant
Soft drinkSoda
Dollar NoteDollar Bill
TeaHot Tea
Milk for Tea or CoffeeCreamer
Plain waterWater with no ice

Frequently Asked Questions

What if at the last moment, they ask you to give your cabin bag as check-in luggage?

Sometimes, it happens that at the last minute, you may be asked to check-in your cabin bag. This can be due to there being so space left in the overhead bins on the plane. Checking in your carry-on bag may be necessary, and if so, don’t panic. Your luggage will follow you on the same flight as you. If you have items that are critical to your health or well-being in your carry-on that your need during your flight, speak to a flight attendant or airline staff member.

What if you lose your luggage?

Normally, this doesn’t happen. In case you do not find your check-in luggage at the baggage claim, head to the help desk in the baggage claim area. If it is misplaced during transit, then it will be delivered to your given home address in a few days. If it is delayed for more than 2 days or so, You may ask for compensation to buy necessary items until you get your luggage back. If it cannot be found, they will compensate you according to their rules and regulations.

What if your flight is delayed or canceled?

If your flight is delayed due to bad weather, or any other reason, airlines might offer you food vouchers or and make arrangements for your stay. See the check-in desk at your gate for more information.

What if you miss your flight?

Talk to the airline’s staff or authorities at the airport. They should be able to rebook you on the next available flight, or make some alternative arrangements.

How can I arrange transportation once I arrive at the airport?

When you arrive at the airport in the US, there will be designated areas that are specifically for taxis and rideshare apps. Uber and Lyft applications for your phone are great options, or you can call a taxi at the airport. Other transportation can also be arranged if you visit the airport’s help desk.

Bon Voyage!

Related Links:

Need a Travel Companion?

Are traveling for the first time and need a travel companion? It’s a great idea to find someone who is traveling on the same flight to travel together with. This can give you more confidence and comfort when traveling overseas.
Post your Ad here on Path2USA for a travel companion. This will help you find a travel companion for yourself or a family member for travel in the near future.


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