The size of the U.S. and the distance separating major cities make air the dominant mode of travel for short-term travelers. If you have time, travel by car, bus, or rail can be interesting.
The quickest and often the most convenient way of long-distance intercity travel in the U.S. is by plane. Coast-to-coast travel takes about 6 hours from east to west, and 5 hours from west to east (varying due to winds), compared to the days necessary for land transportation. Most cities in the U.S. are served by one or two airports; many small towns also have some passenger air service, although you may need to detour through a major hub airport to get there. Depending on where you are starting, it may be cheaper to drive to a nearby large city and fly or, conversely, to fly to a large city near your destination and rent a car.
Major carriers compete for business on major routes, and travelers willing to book two or more weeks in advance can get bargains. However most smaller destinations are served by only one or two regional carriers, and prices there can be expensive.
There are several types of airlines flying in the United States today:
-Mainline or legacy carriers - Due to bankruptcies and acquisitions, there are only four major and two minor legacy carriers left: Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, and US Airways, plus Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. These carriers used to be full service, although are increasingly taking after carriers like Ryanair and becoming "no-frills". On a domestic flight in economy class, expect to pay extra for anything beyond a seat, 1 or 2 carry-on bags, and soft drinks. Some flights to/from Hawaii or Alaska still offer a few perks, but check for your particular airline and flight.
-Low-cost carriers have grown over the past decade. The most famous of these is ubiquitous Southwest Airlines, favorite of leisure and business travelers alike, with Frontier, Spirit, and others becoming formidable competitors. Amenities vary greatly by carrier. On one end, Southwest is the only airline in the United States that lets passengers check two bags free of charge, and have done away with some of the formality of air travel - with no travel agents (all reservations are through their website or call center), assigned seating or buy-on-board programs (free soft drinks and snacks for all passengers.) At the other side of the Spectrum, Spirit Airlines sells seats as low as $9, but charges for everything beyond the seat: checked and hand luggage, advance seat assignments, checking in at the airport (you must check in online to avoid the fee), on board refreshments, etc....
-Hybrid carriers offer more amenities than low cost airlines but with fares lower than the legacies. The most famous of these is JetBlue Airways which has an extensive network covering primarily major airports, one free checked bag, 34 inches between seats (very generous for an American airline) and free satellite TV in every seat. A relative newcomer is the trendy brainchild of Sir Richard Branson: Virgin America which also offers a low-priced (comparatively anyway) First Class option.
Here is a run down of services that may incur additional fees, as well as strategies for avoiding them if they aren't a service you need or want. Even baggage fees can be avoided with careful planning:
-Checking in with an agent: A few airlines are charging an additional fee ($3-10) for checking in with an actual human being, and Spirit Airlines also charges you for using the airport kiosk instead of checking in online. Unless you need to check in with an agent (e.g., if you have specialized equipment that qualifies for a baggage fee waiver) you should check in online and print your boarding pass at home to save time and avoid additional charges. Some airlines will let you use your iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry as a boarding pass, either by showing an e-mail with a barcode to security and the gate agent, or through a specialized app, although many smaller and regional airports do not support mobile boarding passes yet.
-Checked baggage: Though prices vary by airline, you're generally looking at between $25 and $35 to check a single bag, an additional $50 for a second bag, and up to $100 or more for a third bag. Bags that are oversized or overweight will easily double or triple these fees.
You're allowed to carry on one small suitcase or garment bag and one personal item (like a briefcase, backpack, or purse) free of charge+. If you can get everything in your carry-ons, this is the best way to avoid baggage fees. Due to ongoing security restrictions, liquids, gels, shaving creams, and similar items must be under 3.4oz (100ml) and be presented to security inside a zip-lock bag. Razor blades, electric shavers, scissors, or anything else with a blade or sharp edge can never be placed in your carry-on.
Pre-paying baggage charges online may give you a slight discount on some carriers.
-Food: Most airlines offer some small snacks (e.g., peanuts, potato chips, cookies) free of charge on all flights. On flights longer than 1.5–2 hours, a buy-on-board option may be offered where you can purchase prepackaged sandwiches, snacks, and occasionally hot food at inflated prices. Flights from the east coast to Alaska, Hawaii and US Pacific territories (which can be over 8 hours each way) generally still feature traditional meal service.
-Drinks: Beverage service is one thing the airline industry hasn't done away with, and even the shortest regional jet flights still feature complimentary coffee, tea, water, juice and soda - an exception is ultra low fare carrier Spirit, who charges for anything other than water. If you'd like something stronger, you can pay $5–7 to pick among a decent selection of beer, two or three varieties of wine, and a couple of basic cocktails that can be mixed easily and quickly (e.g. gin and tonic).
-In-flight WiFi: Delta, JetBlue and Southwest offer in-flight WiFi on nearly all their domestic fleets - US Airways and United offer it on select flights. Prices range from $5-10, depending on the airline, length of flight, and device (tablets and smartphones get a discount as they use less data). Most airlines do not offer power ports in economy, so be sure you're charged up or have extra batteries for your device.
Ironically, America's discount airlines, such as JetBlue, Southwest, and Virgin America sometimes have more amenities than the legacy carriers, and for many people may be a much better experience. Jet Blue offers over 45 channels of satellite television, non-alcoholic beverages and real snacks for free on every flight; Virgin America also has satellite TV, in addition to on demand dining (even in economy). On Jet Blue your first checked bag is free ($35 for a second bag), and Southwest is the only U.S. carrier to still offer two checked bags per passenger free of charge. Virgin America charges for checked bags, but their fees are considerably lower than the legacies.
Except for certain densely populated corridors, passenger trains in the United States can be surprisingly scarce and relatively expensive. The national rail system, Amtrak (http://www.amtrak.com/
), provides service to many cities, offering exceptional sightseeing opportunities, but not particularly efficient inter-city travel. In more urban locations, Amtrak can be very efficient and comfortable, but in rural areas delays are common. Plan ahead to ensure train travel between your destinations is available and/or convenient. They have promotional discounts of 15% for students and seniors, and a 30-day U.S. Rail Pass for international travelers only. If you plan to buy a regular ticket within a week of traveling, it pays to check the website for sometimes significant "weekly specials".
Separate from Amtrak, many major cities offer very reliable commuter trains that carry passengers to and from the suburbs or other relatively close-by areas.
Amtrak offers many amenities and services that are lacking from other modes of transport. Amtrak offers many routes that traverse some of America's most beautiful areas. Travelers with limited time may not find travel by train to be convenient, simply because the country is big, and the "bigness" is particularly evident in many of the scenic areas. For those with ample time, though, train travel offers an unparalleled view of America's scenic beauty, without the trouble and long-term discomfort of a rental (hire) car or the hassle of flying.
If you miss an Amtrak connection because your first train is late, Amtrak will book you onto the next available train (or in rare cases a bus) to your final destination. If your destination is on the Northeast Corridor, this isn't a big deal (departures are every hour) but in other parts of the country the next train may not be until tomorrow. If your reservations involved sleeper accommodations (Amtrak's First Class on their long-distance overnight trains) on either your late-arriving train or your missed connection, you will get a hotel voucher for the unplanned overnight stay.
A major Amtrak line in regular daily use by Americans themselves is the Acela Express line, running between Boston and Washington, D.C. It stops in New York City, New Haven, Philadelphia and many other cities on the way. This line is electrified, with top speeds of 150 miles per hour (though the average speed is a good deal slower). The Acela Express has first class service, but can be quite expensive. Given the difficulty and expense of getting from the center of some of the major Northeastern cities to their respective airports, trains can sometimes be more convenient than air travel. There are also frequent but slower regional trains covering the same stations along the Northeast Corridor for lower fares.
All Amtrak trains in the northeast as well as all long-distance trains now require reservations. The only routes that don't require reservations are Hiawatha trains between Chicago and Milwaukee, Keystone Service trains between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, and Capital Corridor (Sacramento-Oakland-San Jose), and Pacific Surfliner (San Diego-Los Angeles-Santa Barbara) trains in California. During usual American vacation times, some long-distance trains can sell out weeks or even months in advance, so it pays to book early if you plan on using the long-distance trains. Booking early also results in generally lower fares for all trains since they tend to increase as trains become fuller.
One major scenic long-distance train route, the California Zephyr, runs from Emeryville in the Bay Area of California to Chicago, via Reno, Salt Lake City and Denver. The full trip takes around 60 hours, but has incredible views of the Western deserts, the Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains, things that you just cannot see if you fly. Many of the sights on this route are simply inaccessible to cars. The trains run only once per day, and they usually sell out well in advance.
Amtrak's single most popular long-distance train is the Chicago-Seattle/Portland "Empire Builder" train via Milwaukee, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Fargo, Minot, Glacier National Park, Whitefish, and Spokane. In FY2007, this train alone carried over 503,000 passengers.
Amtrak also provides reasonably speedy daily round trips between Seattle and Vancouver, Canada and several daily trips between Seattle and Eugene, Oregon on the Amtrak Cascades line.
Passengers traveling long distances on Amtrak may reserve a seat in coach (Economy class) or pay extra for an upgrade to a private sleeping compartment (there are no shared rooms), which also includes all meals in the dining car. Amtrak trains in the West feature a lounge car with floor to ceiling windows, which are perfect for sightseeing.
America has the largest system of inland waterways of any country in the world. It is entirely possible to navigate around within the United States by boat. Your choices of watercraft range from self-propelled canoes and kayaks to elaborate houseboats and riverboat cruises.
Rivers and canals were key to developing the country, and traversing by boat gives you a unique perspective on the nation and some one of a kind scenery. Some examples of waterways open to recreational boating and/or scheduled cruises are:
-The Erie Canal System of New York State operates four canal systems consisting of 524 miles waterway open for recreational and commercial use. The most famous of these canals is the Erie Canal, starts around Albany and heads west to Buffalo. By navigating up the Hudson River from New York City, it is possible to go all the way to the Great Lakes and beyond via these waterways. Side trips, to the Finger Lakes in Western New York, or to Lake Champlain and Vermont, are possible. Small watercraft, including canoes and kayaks, are welcome on these canals.
-The St. Lawrence Seaway is now the primary port of entry for large ships into North America. Recreational boaters are welcome, however, the Seaway is designed for very large craft and a minimum boat length of 6 meters applies. The Seaway starts in eastern Canada and goes to the Great Lakes.
-The Mississippi River There are two channels of navigation from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi. The Mississippi affords north-south access through the interior of the U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico and connects with all major interior waterways, including the Missouri River.
Each year, many first time and beginning boaters successfully navigate these waterways. Do remember that any kind of boating requires some preparation and planning. In general, the Coast Guard, Canal and Seaway authorities go out of their way to help recreational boaters. They will also at times give instructions which you are expected to immediately obey. For example, small craft may be asked to give way to larger craft on canals, and weather conditions may require you to stop or change your route.
America's love affair with the automobile is legendary, and most Americans use a car traveling within their city, and when traveling to nearby cities in their state or region.
Generally speaking, American cities were built for the automobile, meaning that most of the time, renting your own car is the best way to get around. This applies even to very large cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta and Miami, where public transport is very limited and having a rented car is the most practical way of getting around. The exceptions are New York City, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., in which having your own car is not only unnecessary, but discouraged. In most medium-sized American cities, particularly in the west and south, cities are very spread out and public transportation thin. Taxis are often available, but except at airports you may have to phone for one and wait a half-hour or so to be picked up, and make similar arrangements to return. While most Americans are happy to give driving directions, don't be surprised if many aren't as familiar with the local public transport options available.
Gas stations have traditionally sold regional and national maps. Online maps are directions are available on several websites including MapQuest and Google Maps. Drivers can obtain directions in the midst of their travels by calling 1-800-Free411, which will provide text message directions. GPS navigation systems can be purchased for around $100.
Great American Road Trip
A romantic appeal is attached to the idea of long-distance car travel; many Americans will tell you that you can't see the "real" America except by car. Given the dearth of public transportation within most American cities, the loss of time traveling between cities by car rather than flying can be made up by the convenience of driving around within cities once you arrive. In addition, many of the country's major natural attractions, such as the Grand Canyon, are almost impossible to get to without an automobile. If you have the time, a classic American road trip with a rented car (see below) is very easy to achieve. Just keep in mind that because of the distances, this kind of travel can mean many long days behind the wheel, so pay attention to the comfort of the car you use.
The United States is covered with a convenient system of Interstate and U.S. highways. With very few exceptions, Interstates are always freeways (controlled access with no grade crossings, i.e., the equivalent of what Europeans call a "motorway"), while U.S. Highways may be freeways on some sections and not on others. These roads network between major (and minor) population centers, and can make it easy to cover long distances – or get to the other side of a large city – quickly. Primary Interstates have one- or two-digit numbers, with odd ones running north-south (e.g. I-5) and even ones running east-west (e.g. I-80). Three-digit interstate numbers designate shorter, secondary freeways. An odd first digit signifies a "spur" into or away from a city; an even first digit signifies a "loop" around a large city. The second two digits remain the same as the primary Interstate that travels nearby. The U.S. Highways are generally older routes that lead through town centers. In many cases, Interstates were constructed roughly parallel to U.S. Highways to expedite traffic that wishes to bypass the city.
Speed limits on the interstate highways can vary from state to state, and also according to geography (for example, slower on mountain passes and within cities than on long straight rural sections). Posted speed limits can range from as low as 45 miles per hour to up to 80 miles per hour. The speed limits are usually clearly posted on Interstates.
American drivers often drive 5 to 15 miles per hour over the posted speed limit -- driving slower than the speed limit can even be dangerous. A good rule of thumb is to avoid driving much faster than 5 to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit -- and be sure that some other cars are always passing you; avoid being the fastest or the slowest vehicle. If you are pulled over by police for speeding, the excuse "Everyone else is speeding too" will not help. Highway Patrol officers are usually most concerned with the fastest drivers, so ensuring you are slower than the fastest speeders is one way to avoid their attention. If you are pulled over, be respectful, address the officer as "Officer," and express heartfelt regret at your excessive speed.
The vast majority of interstates do not charge tolls, but those that do are also known as turnpikes. Most of the turnpikes predate the interstate highway system and were grandfathered in. Tolls are also frequently levied for crossing notably large bridges or tunnels.
Commercial rest areas were outlawed on the interstate system by the federal government. As a result, the vast majority of rest areas are state-operated rest areas with public toilets, parking, tourist information, vending machines, and a small picnic area, but no restaurants, gas stations, or stores. The only exceptions, which do offer many commercial services, are on turnpikes that predated the interstate system and were grandfathered in. Therefore, on the vast majority of interstate highways, at least every few miles there will be an exit to a road which is populated by multiple gas stations and fast food restaurants. Signs on the highway will indicate the services available at upcoming exits, including gas, food, lodging, and camping, so you can choose a stopping point as you're driving.
As with the rest of North America, Americans drive on the right in left-hand drive vehicles and pass on the left. White lines separate traffic moving in the same direction and yellow lines separate opposing traffic. Right turn on red after coming to a complete stop is legal (unless a sign prohibits it) in nearly all states and cities, though New York City is a notable exception. Red lights and stop signs are always enforced at all hours in nearly all U.S. jurisdictions. Only Puerto Rico (like many developing countries) allows red-light running late at night to cut down on the risk of carjackings.
Most American drivers tend to drive calmly and safely in the sprawling residential suburban neighborhoods where the majority of Americans live. However, freeways around the central areas of big cities often become crowded with a significant proportion of "hurried" drivers — who will exceed speed limits, make unsafe lane changes, or follow other cars at unsafe close distances (known as "tailgating"). Enforcement of posted speed limits is somewhat unpredictable and varies widely from state to state. Not exceeding the pace of other drivers will usually avoid a troublesome citation. Beware of small towns along otherwise high-speed rural roads (and medium-speed suburban roads); the reduced speed limits found while going through such towns are strictly enforced.
Driving law is primarily a matter of state law and is enforced by state and local police. Fortunately, widespread adoption of provisions of the Uniform Vehicle Code, and federal regulation of traffic signs under the Highway Safety Act means that most driving laws do not vary much from one state to the next. All states publish an official driver's handbook which summarizes state driving laws in plain English. These handbooks are usually available both on the Web and at many government offices.
International visitors aged 18 and older can usually drive on their foreign driver's license for up to a year, depending on state law. Licenses that are not in English must be accompanied by an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a certified translation. Persons who will be in the United States for more than a year must obtain a driver's license from the state they are residing in. Written and practical driving tests are required, but are usually waived for holders of valid Canadian, Mexican, and some European licenses.
Traffic signs often depend on the ability to read English words. Drivers who can read English will find most signs self-explanatory. The country has gradually begun adopting signs with internationally understood symbols, with English "translations" for those not yet familiar with them. However, progress is very slow. Distances and speeds will almost always be given in miles and miles/hour, without these units specified. Some areas near the Canadian border may feature road signs with distances in both miles and kilometers.
Renting a car in the U.S. usually runs anywhere from $20 and $100 per day for a basic sedan, depending on the type of car and location, with some discounts for week-long rentals. The major rental agencies are Enterprise Rent-A-Car (+1 800 RENT-A-CAR); Hertz (+1 800 230 4898); Avis (+1 800 230 4898); Thrifty Car Rental; and Dollar Rent A Car. There are no large national discount car rental agencies but in each city there is usually at least one. A couple discount car rental companies, usually restricted to areas of the country, are Advantage Rent A Car, E-Z Rent-A-Car (+1 800 277 5171) and Fox Rent A Car. The internet or the Yellow Pages are the easiest ways to find them. One widespread chain is Rent-A-Wreck (+1 800 944 7501). It rents used cars at significantly lower prices. Most rental agencies have downtown offices in major cities as well as offices at major airports. Not all companies allow picking up a car in one city and dropping it off in another (the ones that do almost always charge extra for the privilege); check with the rental agency when making your reservations.
One factor that influences the price of your car rental will be location. Sometimes renting a car at an airport location will cost 3 times as much as renting the same car (from the same company) at a downtown location. In other areas the airport location will be cheaper. On-line travel websites such as Orbitz or Expedia can be useful to compare the best prices and make reservations.
Rental agencies accept a valid driver's license from your country, which must be presented with an International Drivers Permit if your license needs to be translated. You may wish to join some kind of auto club before starting a large American road trip, and having a cell phone is a very good idea. Most rental agencies have some kind of emergency road service program, but they can have spotty coverage for remote regions. The largest club in the United States is the American Automobile Association, known as "Triple A". A yearly membership runs about $60. AAA members also get discounts at many hotels, motels, restaurants and attractions; which may make it worth getting a membership even if you don't drive. Alternatively, Better World Club offers similar rates and benefits as AAA with often timelier service and is a more eco-friendly choice (1% of revenue is donated to environmental cleanup programs). Note that some non-U.S. automobile clubs have affiliate relationships with AAA, allowing members of the non-U.S. club to take full advantage of AAA road service and discount programs. Among these clubs are the Canadian Automobile Association, The Automobile Association in the UK, and ADAC in Germany.
Most Americans renting cars are covered for loss or damage to the rental car either by their credit card or their own private vehicle insurance policy. Without appropriate loss/damage waiver cover, you could be liable for the entire cost of the car should it be written off in an accident. Purchasing loss/damage waiver cover and supplemental liability insurance may add up to $30/day to the price of a rental, in some cases doubling the price of the rental. If you visit the car rental website and identify your country of origin, you may be given a quote which includes the loss/damage waiver and liability insurance for considerably less. Many travel insurance policies include cover for some rental car damage - check your policy against the rental terms and conditions.
Gasoline ("gas") is sold by the gallon. The American gallon is smaller than the UK gallon, and equals 3.785 liters. The U.S. octane scale is different from that used in Europe; a regular gallon of U.S. gasoline is rated at 87 octane, the equivalent of about 92 in Europe. Diesel is not as common, but still widely used and available at most stations, especially those catering to truckers. Untaxed "offroad diesel", sold in rural areas for agricultural use, is dyed red and should not be used in cars, as there are heavy fines if you're caught.
Despite increasing petroleum prices worldwide and some increases in gas taxes, the American consumer-voter's attachment to his automobile, combined with abundant domestic oil reserves and relatively low taxes on gasoline, has kept retail fuel prices much lower than in many parts of the world. Prices fluctuate by region and season, current prices are averaging near $3.50/gallon (equivalent to $0.92/liter) as of November 2011.
Intercity bus travel in the United States is widespread, but is not available everywhere. Many patrons use bus travel when other modes aren't readily available, as buses often connect many smaller towns with regional cities. The disadvantaged and elderly may use these bus lines, as automobile travel proves arduous or unaffordable for some. It's commonly considered a "lower class" way to travel, but is generally dependable, safe, affordable.
Greyhound Bus Lines (http://www.greyhound.com/
) has the predominant share of American bus travel. Steep discounts are available to travelers who purchase their tickets 7-14 days in advance of their travel date. Their North American Discovery Pass allows unlimited travel for ranges of 4 to 60 days, but you might want to try riding one or two buses first before locking yourself in to an exclusively-bus American journey. Greyhound buses typically runs in 5-7 hour segments, at which time all passengers must get off the bus so it can be serviced, even if it's the middle of the night. Continuing passengers are boarded before those just getting on. There are no reservations on Greyhound buses. All seating is on a first come, first served basis, with the exception of select cities, where you can pay a $5 fee for priority seating.
) offers inexpensive daily bus service in the Midwest (mainly through their hub in Chicago), the Northeast (multiple hubs), and the South (through their hub in Atlanta).
BoltBus (http://www.boltbus.com/) competes with Megabus on major routes in the Northeast.
For bus service between large East Coast cities (particularly Washington, D.C., New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston), travelers can purchase deeply discounted (below Greyhound prices) tickets from a number of small operators, typically called "Chinatown bus" operators, because they usually enter and depart from the Chinatown area of the cities they serve. These type of services are also beginning to appear on the West Coast. These buses, while inexpensive, have a reputation for having fewer amenities as well as a less safe history of driving, so the savings does have possible drawbacks.
By recreational vehicle (RV)
Recreational vehicles – large, sometimes bus sized vehicles that include sleeping and living quarters – are a distinctly American way to cruise the country. Some RVers love the convenience of being able to drive their home anywhere they like and enjoy the camaraderie that RV campgrounds offer. Other people dislike the hassles and maintenance issues that come with RVing. And don't even think about driving an RV into a huge metropolis such as New York. Still, if you want to drive extensively within the United States and are comfortable handling a big rig, renting an RV is an option you should consider.
The thrill and exhilaration of cross country travel are magnified when you go by motorcycle. Harley-Davidson is the preeminent American motorcycle brand and Harley operates a motorcycle rental program for those licensed and capable of handling a full weight motorcycle. In some parts of the country, you can also rent other types of motorcycles, such as sportbikes, touring bikes, and dual-sport bikes. For those inexperienced with motorcycles, Harley and other dealerships offer classes for beginners. Wearing a helmet, although not required in all states, is always a good idea. The practice of riding between lanes of slower cars, also known as "lane-sharing" or "lane-splitting," is illegal, except in California where it is tolerated and widespread. Solo motorcyclists can legally use "high-occupancy vehicle" or "carpool" lanes during their hours of operation.
American enthusiasm towards motorcycles has led to a motorcycling subculture. Motorcycle clubs are exclusive clubs for members dedicated to riding a particular brand of motorcycle within a highly structured club hierarchy. Riding clubs may or may not be organized around a specific brand of bikes and offer open membership to anyone interested in riding. Motorcycle rallies, such as the famous one in Sturgis, South Dakota, are huge gatherings of motorcyclists from around the country. Many motorcyclists are not affiliated with any club and opt to ride independently or with friends. In general, motorcycling is seen as a hobby, as opposed to a practical means of transportation; this means, for example, that most American motorcyclists prefer not to ride in inclement weather. However you choose to ride, and whatever brand of bike you prefer, motorcycling can be a thrilling way to see the country.
A long history of hitchhiking comes out of the U.S., with record of automobile hitchhikers as early as 1911. Today, hitchhiking is nowhere near as common, but there are some nevertheless who still attempt short or cross-country trips. The laws related to hitchhiking in the U.S. are most covered by the Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC), adopted with changes in wording by individual states. In general, it is legal to hitchhike throughout the majority of the country, if not standing within the boundaries of a highway (usually marked by a solid white line at the shoulder of the road) and if not on an Interstate highway prohibiting pedestrians.
In many states Interstate highways do not allow foot traffic, so hitchhikers must use the entrance ramps. In a few states it is allowed or tolerated (unless on a toll road). Oklahoma, Texas and Oregon are a few states that do allow pedestrians on the highway shoulder, although not in some metropolitan areas. Oklahoma allows foot traffic on all free interstates, but not toll roads and Texas only bans it on toll roads — and on free Interstates within the city of El Paso. Oregon only bans it in the Portland metro area. Missouri only bans it within Kansas City and St. Louis city limits.
Hitchhiking has become much less popular due to increasing wariness of the possible dangers (fueled in part by sensational stories in the news media). International travelers to the U.S. should avoid this practice unless they have either a particularly strong sense of social adventure or extremely little money. Even many Americans themselves would only feel comfortable "thumbing a ride" if they had a good knowledge of the locale.
) has a rideshare section that sometimes proves useful for arranging rides in advance. If you are open with your destination it's almost always possible to find a ride on C.L. going somewhere within the U.S.