North America Travel Guide

north america travel guide

When Columbus first reached the islands next to the then unknown continent in 1492, he couldn’t have imagined how vast and picturesque this land really is. The seafarers were looking for a short way to India, but actually discovered something more important that was yet to be realized.

North America embraces the glaciers of the Arctic Circle and hot beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. It divides the Atlantic, the Arctic and Pacific Oceans.

Mexico is great because of cheap accommodation, delicious food and cultural heritage. While prices in Mexico are lower than in the USA you can find quite the same service quality. Buzzing nightlife of Cancun can be mixed with visiting lost civilizations of Maya and Aztec.

Canada has amazing northern nature and enormous size. Take a road trip across Canada to find out how big it really is. From the bread basket of Saskatchewan to the Yukon’s icy tundra, Canada offers great opportunities for camping in the wild, visiting national parks and meet lots of friendly people.

The United States is a country that has everything from soup to nuts. You can’t say you have visited it by only sticking to one or two cities. As the vast majority of Americans travel by car within the country, there is no better way to get acquainted with the U.S. culture than by driving around or taking some cross-country tours. California, Florida, Texas, Hawaii, New York, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco and Los Angeles, each of these states and cities has its own spirit, food and breathtaking attractions. North America has a diverse geography with so many things to do and places to visit.

DESTINATION GUIDES FOR NORTH AMERICA

Dominican republic Canada Mexico United States
North America Location

Getting Around in North America

With so many means of transport to travel in the US, you may discover that some of them are quite expensive. Flying is your best bet if you are in a hurry, but might eat your money really fast. While train routes in the USA cover all popular destinations, there are still spots that can be reached only by bus or car. Besides, trains are almost always more expensive than buses. To reduce your transportation expenses in the US stick to bus services like Greyhound or hire a car that is usually a worthwhile investment since you can share fuel cost and gain a freedom when your destination is difficult to get to.

Mexico can be best seen from the window of the bus. You can use them at any time, almost everywhere. With a large network of bus routes, the only thing you should do is to pick a destination and the bus class. First class buses are equipped with A/C, TV and a WC and offer long distance bus services. When travelling over-night first class buses can get really cool. Have a pullover handy. Second class buses with the windows wide open and music playing normally connect cities and villages, use bumpy side roads and generally cheaper. These buses are great if you want to feel the spirit of Mexico. Major cities have subway systems. Flights are widely available in Mexico and sometimes costs less than long-distance buses.

Canada is a big country and getting around can be tough. Youth backpackers and students can take advantage of their age and get a discount for bus or train. Buses are great value but they don’t always stop near the place you need outside big cities. They are still comfortable and noticeably cheaper than trains, however. Buses are usually the only option in less densely populated areas. You can find bus companies ranging small family-run businesses to large international subsidiaries. Greyhound runs most of the long-distance routes. If you rent a car, try to share fuel costs. Hitchhiking is available almost everywhere (except some highways), but usually practiced near ski and hiking resorts.

Food In North America

Mexico is a food delicious destination. After Asia, Mexico has the nicest street food in the world. To get authentic Mexican food like tacos, enchiladas, tamales and guacamole stick to small family run eateries. Tourist restaurants are usually quite expensive by comparison. The set menu and meal of the day allow you to cut some food expenses. Mexico has plenty of fast food restaurant chains, both Mexican and American and supermarkets, which offer excellent bakeries, so eating cheaply on the move is easy.

Meals in the USA can be quite cheap if you stick to fast food or ethnic cuisine. Major cities like New York or LA will offer the complete blend of food ranging from cheap eateries to decent mid-range sit-down restaurants. In tiny towns, you can find roadside diners with deep-fried fast food. Portions are immensely large. Most restaurants (except for some fast food) offer complimentary water and soft drinks, which are often free in bars if bought with alcohol. You may expect your final bill to be higher because they add 15-20 percent and local sales tax. Cooking your own meals would always be cheaper and allows to save some extra money.

Food in Canada can be cheap if you prefer street vendors and homemade foods. Falafels, hot dogs, pizza slices and doner kebab come for less than 5 USD. Food beyond the Arctic Circle is more expensive. Supermarkets in major cities can be found everywhere, providing possibilities to cook your own. Expect to pay around 57 USD per week than.

Accommodation in North America

The US has plentiful accommodation options, but not always they are cheap. With high standards even in hostels, dorm rooms cost between 25-40 USD per night. Hostels usually have free Wi-Fi and breakfast. Hotels and motels are usually the only options outside major cities. In motels expect to pay around 40-70 USD. Budget hotels range from 70-100 USD depending on your location.

You can find both cheap hostels and campsite accommodation in Canada. Staying at a hostel will cost you on average 22-27 USD per night in a dorm room and up to 50 USD for a single room. You can expect paying 35-40 USD for a night at the campsite. This price will usually include food that you have to cook on your own. Larger cities set their price higher than smaller ones. In tiny towns you won’t find an abundance of good accommodation but generally family-run hotels allow to save greatly on accommodation. Airbnb is widely available throughout the country.

Hostels in Mexico are really cheap. Thus, you can find some cozy hostels for around 8-15 USD per night in a dorm room. Privates come between 18-30 USD. Hostels usually have free Wi-Fi and breakfast. Budget hotels start from 17-20 and go up from there. Some really cheap hostels in Mexico might be noisy and sometimes dirty, so a more expensive option usually solves this problem. Shared rooms through Airbnb can be found for around 13 USD, while studio apartments start from 35 USD.

How To Do North America On a Budget

Share Your Costs

When you travel across the United States, rent a car and stay in roadside motels with friends who will help you lower your final bill. Originally, prices might seem low, but after they include tax the prices might double if not triple this way. Additionally, you can monitor services where people share their vehicles to find somebody traveling in your direction.

Take a Bus Ride

All big North American countries can be done on a budget if you stick to buses. Fares are much lower as you go to the South, and predictably higher in the USA. Flights and trains are generally the most expensive way to get around.

Stick to Market Food

Street and market food allow you to fill up for less money. Markets in Mexico also offer great a chance to stock up on food for your day trips.

Ask For Free Water in the Restaurants

This is actually a great way to save money while in the USA. Most restaurants offer complimentary water, so the only thing you have to do is to ask them for it.

Enjoy The National Parks in Canada

Well, not just national parks actually! Any outdoor activities in Canada can be of a great fun and cost just a few dollars. With a wide range of activities like hiking, kayaking, cycling and skiing, your expenses will only be limited by equipment rental.

Attend Free Walking Tours

Major cities like Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto offer free walking tours. These tours are held along different paths, which allow you to feel the vibe of the city, learn its history and sometimes get acquainted with some hidden places. However, you may tip your guide in the end if you feel their work was worth to you.

Couchsurf

You not just save money, but get acquainted with awesome people from around the globe by getting your accommodation for free. Despite the fact that you still have to tip your hosts a little amount, they will show you some secret places only locals know, so this tipping is a worthwhile investment.

Enjoy Inland Mexico

Prices are noticeably lower when you go off the beaten path in Mexico. While most travelers flock to the coasts, the inland area is usually missed. Get lower prices, meet locals and feel the spirit of Mexico.

Top Things To See and Places to Visit in North America

Enjoy the Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park

The first National Park in the United States was founded in 1872 and it was Yellowstone. The hot springs and geysers like Excelsior and Old Faithful are the reasons to come here. The columns of boiling water and steam can shoot to a height of 50 meters (160 feet). Mineral deposits that are brought to the surface by streams of water form quaint terrace formations. Apart from it, Yellowstone has rivers, waterfalls, caves and amazing hiking trails. If you go hiking and camping here make sure to bring your sleeping mats and bags as it can get really cold even in the summer. Campsites are abundant ranging between 15 USD to 50 USD if you’re on RV.

See Ruby Falls

If Johnny Cash didn’t care to see Ruby falls, I bet it is definitely worth seeing. Located within Lookout mountain, this 45-meter underground waterfall attracts travelers with its stunning beauty. Sightseeing begins by descending to 260 feet (80 m) in an elevator to a cave where you can stroll through the cave, explore the rocks and various historical finds. With the incredible view of the waterfall and the underground lake, the entire site looks great in the neon lights. Admission is around 20 USD.

Hike in the Mount Rushmore area

The granite sculpture carved into the Mount Rushmore is one of the most popular sights in the US. The bas-relief in South Dakota depicts four American presidents – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson who were immortalized in stone, as they contributed to the establishment of democracy, independence and the abolition of slavery in the country. The surroundings of the mount Rushmore provide great opportunities for hiking.

Visit Grand Canyon

Another iconic place and must do in the United States. With millions of tourists coming here each year, the Grand Canyon is truly a miracle of nature. While the Skywalk glass bridge is rather touristy spot around here, you may want to hike down the bottom to see the Colorado river. The earlier you leave your camp and go hiking, the quieter your trails will be and you’ll enjoy spectacular views. Make sure you take plenty of breaks as you return back up when scorching sun make you feel really exhausted.

Visit Parliament Hill in Ottawa

The Neo-Gothic building of the Canadian Parliament is divided into western, eastern and central blocks. Make sure to visit the Memorial Chamber and the Peace Tower with observation deck beneath the clock. You can attend the tour around Parliament for free, however you should book it in advance. Apart from beautiful Halls you can go for a picnic near the perpetual flame, see the The Famous Five sculpture and relax in the Summer Gazebo.

Niagara Falls

Located on the Niagara River, the Falls can be found between the Erie and Ontario lakes. While the river is a borderline between the United States and Canada the waterfall can be viewed both from the American side and from the Canadian side. I have visited Niagara Falls many times, and enjoyed it from both sides. They say that the view of the waterfall from the Canadian side is more picturesque than the one from the American side, but I can say that the side really doesn’t matter as each one has its own advantages.

Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal

Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica is located in the historic district of Montreal and is thought to be the most beautiful church in Canada. The neo-Gothic cathedral, which once served as a landmark and adorned with 70-meter high bell towers, has survived practically unchanged until the present day. Like almost 200 years ago, it is decorated with gilt sculptures and carved wooden figures. The inner vaults painted in a deep blue color with the golden stars shining on it. Admission is free for prayer, otherwise it is around 5 USD.

Hike the Banff National Park

Exploring the most picturesque and oldest National Parks in the world on foot is the best way to immerse yourself in the literally breathtaking landscape. Avoid the same old mistake of rushing through most of it in just one day. Take your time, hike the area near the Lakes Louise and Moraine, enjoy The Bow Falls, or maybe take a helicopter ride, which is a bit pricey I think. By setting Calgary as your base you can explore the park within two or three days. With so many campsites around Banff, make reservations in advance during peak season. Airbnb is available in the town of Banff as well.

Relax in Puerto Vallarta

A wild mix of Mexican culture and buzzing nightlife, Puerto Vallarta has much to offer to the budget traveler. I love Vallarta. The narrow cobblestone streets and red tiled roofs give shelter to quirky shops, tortillas food stands and cheap family-run restaurants. With one of the most enticing coastlines in the world and being really LGBT-friendly, Vallarta is a great destination for those short on time but still willing to get some decent tacos, Mexican beer and glimpse of the culture.

Chichen Itza

This UNESCO Site is one of the must do in Mexico. The ruins of a largest pre-Columbian city built by the Maya civilization are now attracting millions of travelers from around the world to stroll through the ancient alleys. Located in the north of the Yucatan Peninsula it can be easily reached by bus from Merida, Cancun or Playa Del Carmen. Any trip here is a great fun due to elaborate wall carvings, the Grand Ball Court and Temple of Kukulkan also known as Castillo. On your way to the pyramids you will pass many stalls selling trinkets. You can save extra money by bargaining with the sellers.

Wander Through Yucatan Peninsula

This is a large piece of land with countless things to do. Famous for its coastline, ancient Mayan ruins and adventure activities, Yucatan has plenty of options for travelers looking to get a little further off the beaten path and large resort cities such as Cancun to enjoy the bustling nightlife. Located in the Eastern Mexico it offers opportunity to explore numerous cenotes (make sure to visit Grand Cenote in Tulum and Suytun Cenote outside Valladolid), hang out at the beaches, appreciate the unique geology and natural beauty. There is never enough time to visit every site in Yucatan!

See the Copper Canyon

The Copper Canyon consists of several smaller interconnected gorges formed millions years ago by the rivers. The entire national park is four times as big as the Grand Canyon in the United States. It gained its name not because of copper that wasn’t actually mined here, but because of green moss that covers the slopes of the canyon. Located between Chihuahua and Los Mochis, it can be reached by El Chepe train. I started exploring the canyon from the small town of Creel, which consists of several streets with gift shops, restaurants and decent hotels. Prices are affordable. Town of Creel is conveniently situated and serves as a starting point for most hiking trails leading to the waterfalls, Valley of the Monks and the Valley of the Mushrooms and Frogs. Creel is also a great place to get acquainted with Rarámuri people.

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