Every year, Cougar Ridge welcomes travelers from around the world looking to experience Southern Utah. With several major international airports just a few hour’s drive away, and a variety of unique landscapes to discover, it’s no surprise that the region is a popular choice for first time visitors to the U.S.
Planning a visit to the U.S. for the first time? Keep reading to learn what international travelers need to know about Southern Utah and the U.S. in general ahead of their trip.
Check to See if You Need a Visa or ESTA
Thanks to the Visa Waiver Program, visitors from certain countries do not need a visa to visit the U.S., as long as they are visiting for tourism or business and staying for 90 days or less. Some countries that are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program include:
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
- South Korea
You can find the full list of eligible countries here. Those visiting from other countries will need to apply for a visa ahead of their visit. This process can take anywhere from 3 to 5 weeks, so you’ll want to plan to apply at least a couple of months ahead of your trip.
However, even if you are not required to obtain a visa, you’ll still need to have a valid ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization. This is a web-based system that determines your eligibility for the Visa Waiver Program and should be completed a few days before your trip.
Plan to Rent a Car or Book Private Transportation
If you’re visiting from a country where you can frequently rely on public transportation or trains to get from one destination to the next, you might be expecting the same to be true in the U.S. However, public transportation is often limited to major cities. While there are some passenger trains available, these are often slow, costly to ride, and may not reach the destinations that you’re hoping to visit, including much of Southern Utah.
Instead, renting a car or hiring private transportation is often the best choice, especially if you’re hoping to visit some of Southern Utah’s national and state parks and other more remote destinations.
Car rentals are the more affordable option. You’ll need to be at least 25 to rent one, and will need to check with the car rental company about whether or not your home driver’s license will be accepted. Unless you have car insurance that is accepted overseas, you’ll likely want to pay for a policy through the rental company to avoid a costly bill should something go wrong. Car rentals are available in every major airport in the U.S.
Know That Some National Parks Charge an Entry Fee
Planning to visit several national parks during your visit to Southern Utah? It’s important to note that many charge an entrance fee. These range from $5 per car to as much as $35 per car, and allow entry into that park for up to 7 consecutive days.
If you know that you’re going to be visiting multiple national parks with an entrance fee during your trip, you can purchase an America The Beautiful Pass. These cost $80 and provide entry into all national parks for the cardholder and 3 additional occupants of their vehicle. These passes are available at the entrances to any national parks that charge an entrance fee and are good for one full year from the time of purchase.
Expect Plenty of Weather and Temperature Changes
Southern Utah is home to a variety of unique and distinct landscapes. There are mountains that remain covered in snow well into the summer months, as well as desert regions that frequently see triple-digit temperatures. If you’re going to be exploring during your trip, you’ll likely experience at least a few of these landscapes, as well as the weather and temperature changes that come with them. Even if you’re only planning to venture into Capitol Reef National Park for the day, you may find that the temperatures you experience in the morning are drastically different just a few hours later.
To ensure that you’re safe and comfortable during your visit, plan to pack a variety of types of clothing that you can easily layer. Down jackets, sweaters, and coats in the winter months will protect you from snow and freezing temperatures, while moisture-wicking fabrics are a great choice if you plan to do any hiking in warmer weather.
Do Some Research on Common Laws and Practices
Depending on where you’re visiting from, laws in the U.S. may differ from what you’re used to. In some cases, laws in the U.S. may vary from one state to the next. This is particularly true of traffic laws. For instance, in some states, you can make a right turn at an intersection when the light is red, as long as you’ve stopped and made sure that there are no oncoming vehicles, but in other states, this may be illegal.
While some states in the U.S. have legalized marijuana for recreational use, most have not. Additionally, in the U.S the legal drinking age is 21.
Other things that international travelers should be aware of during their first visit to the U.S. include:
- The prices listed for products in stores usually don’t include sales tax. This is an additional percentage that may range anywhere from 0% to nearly 10% of the purchase price.
- In most restaurants and service locations, like coffee shops and hair salons, as well as on tours, tipping is expected, though not required. Some locations may automatically apply a gratuity to your check, especially if you’re dining in a group of 6 or more.
- Many states have made texting or even holding a phone while driving illegal. However, many modern rental cars feature Bluetooth capabilities so that you can make calls and sometimes even text by voice activation.
- Littering is illegal and may be punishable by fines or even jail time.
Planning a Visit to Southern Utah
If you’re ready to plan your first visit to the U.S. or Southern Utah, these tips can help make sure that your visit is safe and enjoyable.