Driving in the USA
Our families love road trips! Besides conquering driving in Australia, we have driven in countries such as Korea and Malaysia. Recently, we went on a holiday with some friends and we tried driving in the USA. Yes! This is our first time in the United States and we were definitely excited for this trip!
After much research and chatting with various friends, we knew that when traveling in USA, you have to drive , especially when you plan to check out different cities, even in the same state! Our planned itinerary was to check out San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which was all in the beautiful Golden State of California!
And we had no regrets about our USA Road Trip. Check out the brief sights that we saw and more photos to come later in the post! 🙂
Planning for our USA Road Trip
Frankly, many of our friends fly from state to state, but we always love a good road trip! There is just so much more to see when you drive and it is also a great avenue for bonding with family and friends.
Naturally, when travelling in a foreign land with no family or friends to turn to, we needed a reliable and trustworthy company to work with. We have worked with Hertz numerous times, and therefore we turned to them for our long road trip.
The great thing about Hertz is that they have 9,700 corporate and franchise locations, making them a corporate name synonymous with travel. We landed in San Francisco and it was easy to find the Hertz Car Rental station.
To get the best rates for your car rental, sign up to be Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Member. Sign up is Free and membership also means points that you can use to offset future rentals! Do book your car online prior to your visit, as you will want your ideal car waiting for you at your pick up location.
One huge perk about driving in the USA is that driving your dream car is also not out of your reach. For a little top-up, you can drive your Porsche or your dream BMW convertible. We were definitely very tempted by these options, but I think we will save it for our next trip! 🙂
Driving on the Right hand side
Like most British colonies, we drive on the left hand side of the road. Therefore, the main thing about driving in the States is getting used to the different driving rules. Basic rule of thumb is that cars overtake on the left and one needs to keep right when cruising.
For traffic lights, one can turn right even when lights are red, except when there’s a specific sign that tells you no right turn till prompted. Traffic junctions do get interesting when you are in San Francisco. Majority of junctions don’t have traffic lights and the vehicle that gets to the junction first has the right of way. Yes! Many of us can’t imagine this system in Singapore, as the “kia-su” Singapore driver always wants to be first, but the “give-way’ system works very well in the States. As drivers in the alien land, we just need to get used to it, but you will find the more courteous drivers and culture easier to work with.
Need for International Driving License?
This law varies from state to state. For California, there is no need for an International Driving license, so you can just go ahead and drive with your Singapore license. Therefore do google before you fly and if you need an International license, you can easily get one from AA Singapore with your driver’s license by just filling up a form and paying for the license.
Cost of Petrol and Toll
Singaporeans will love the price of Petrol (or Gas) in the States. Petrol is cheap with a full tank for my MPV costing about USD40. There are familiar brands like Shell, but petrol prices are usually higher at these kiosks, so do go for the American brand Petrol stations instead.
There are also toll stations when driving in San Francisco (similar to Malaysia), so do standby your spare change to make payment.
Luggage Space while travelling
When we were planning for this trip, we realized our holiday is really quite different from the usual trips we make! You see, it’s USA, where plenty things are very much cheaper than here in Asia. So we decided, it’s good to max-out the airline baggage allowance! (we had long shopping list from the kids, then shopping for friends, then there’s shopping for ourselves!) This works out to 2 pieces of checked-in luggage and 1 piece of carry-on for each person. This meant the car we drove had to be one that can take all these pieces of luggage!
With this in mind, we knew a full-sized MPV was necessary for this road trip, even though it was just four of us! We wanted to have a vehicle which would be comfortable for us in those long 7-8 hr drives, and we knew it had to be something that we can access easily when we move in and out of the car. (No one wanted to shiver in the cold while waiting!)
And we definitely made the right choice in taking a full-sized MPV. As a mid-sized MPV will not be able to handle the amount of luggage that we had. This was our initial load when we first landed in the USA. We could still survive without putting down the 3rd row of seats.
But by the time, we made our way down to Los Angeles, our luggage load increased. (BTW, Luggages are really cheap in the USA, I bought a full sized 28 inch Samsonite with International Warranty at TJ Maxx for USD90, while in Singapore, even a Delsey would cost about SGD300+).
This 2nd video demonstrates how we were able to maximize the cabin room, which would have been impossible to do with a 4 door sedan. Incidentally a normal boot, will only be able to take 2-3 pieces of the 28 inch luggages.
Route for Driving in the USA
Our Road Trip from San Francisco–Los Angeles–Las Vegas–Los Angeles took us along the highways and some of the most scenic scenes that you can find in America. The normal GPS will usually take you along the fastest routes, so therefore you will need to google for the scenic routes to make sure that you are getting the best scenery for your road trips.
Using our GPS, for the 1st leg of our road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, we were given the option of a 6hr route or a 10hr route. Immediately, we thought of course the shorter one! In fact, if we drive fast enough, we can possibly make it in 5hr!
Then a friend asked us, Are you taking the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)? It is the most beautiful drive in the world! This was just one day before we left San Francisco! Our interest was piqued and we could not wait to go via the Pacific Coast highway. Unfortunately, as we googled and researched, we found out that we had problems going by that route! Apparently, this PCH route is that long 10hr route! And there were landslides last year, and they are still fixing the roads. So it’s not possible to drive all the way through to LA via the PCH!
But we were tempted by the “Most Beautiful Drive in the World” tagline, and decided, we will drive to as far as we can on the PCH, then detour back to the inland 5hr route. This meant our drive was close to 8 hrs, without even seeing the full beauty of the coastal drive. So was it worth it?
Well, taking the coastal route from San Francisco to Los Angeles is a MUST! Although travelling time is far longer than the boring Inland Route, the detour is worth the trip, as the coastal scenes are breathtaking. It is important to do proper research first before you embark on your journey, as there are land slides that cut off some parts of the route. This was what we did: we drove for about 2 hours along the scenic route and u-turned and went inland. Look at the beauty! It truly was the Most Beautiful Drive in the World.
What was driving along the coast like?
We went on a nice sunny day, with clear blue skies. It was picture perfect! It was interesting that the scenery we see driving south to LA is different when we u-turn and drove north. So when driving, do look for stop spots to park the car. The scenery may not look too great when you stop, but turn around and look after you park, and you would see another sight to behold. It’s amazing!
I wished there were no landslides so that we could drive all the way through… we knew there were many other beautiful sights of the high cliffs and crashing waves. Alas, that wasn’t possible, but we were so thankful to see such beauty before us!
Driving in the City
When we reached LA, it was pure city driving, which most of us Asians will be familiar with. It was relatively easy (although the peak hour jams can be quite frustrating!), just that we needed to keep our eyes peeled for the road signs.
Driving around is a real necessity in places like L.A, as the sights are too far away from each other. With public transport being inconvenient, as compared to cities like London and Paris, cars are an important mode of transport in Los Angeles.
With our own car, we were able to venture further. For example, getting close to the Hollywood sign was made much easier with our own car.
Or going up to the lookouts to take pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco or just driving to Venice Beach in Los Angeles to check out the beaches.
Driving on Route 66 to Las Vegas
Our drive to Las Vegas was one that we decided to invest in too! The quick option was to go on the highway and zoom all the way, However, all the reviews said that this was the most boring route, as all you will see is this!
Yes! Nice for one photo … but can u imagine a few hours of this! … Totally boring!
We therefore decided to take the historic route–the famous Route 66, for a portion of our trip! And we had no regrets! There were tons and tons of memorabilia and SO MUCH history to check out!
Just some trivia … Did you know that Route 66 is known as the Main Street of America? It was established in 1926, and ran from Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona all the way to Sana Monica in LA. It covers a total of 3,940 km! Imagine how the people travelled in the past when they moved from state to state! It was awesome to get a small glimpse of that!
Along the route, we managed to check out this Bottletree Ranch which is about 1.5hr out of LA. It all started when a man called Elmer decided to showcase his collection of glass bottles and vintage knick knacks. It was a totally unexpected sight and it was real strange walking through a man’s backyard! But look at how pretty it was!
Now, driving in USA was quite an eye-opener. We saw strange strange things as we were driving. Although parts of the drive can be long and monotonous, these are some driving scenes that we encountered from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
Just when we were nearing Las Vegas, we were directed to detour and check out the Seven Magic Mountains. This was the most unusual thing we saw in our trip. Imagine in the middle of the desert, literally with nothing around… and you see this:
What we love about Driving in the USA
There are always plenty of rest stops and lots of American culture to enjoy which one can’t experience while flying. Check out the various soda drinks at a rest stop. Can you imagine drinking cucumber soda or bacon soda. I think most of us Asian tourist cannot fathom drinking something like that! Yes! Neither did i…. I wouldn’t go near it … 🙂
We also got to experience nature at it’s best. Along the Pacific Coast Highway, squirrels came up to us to ask for food and I got some close-ups with my DSLR. The kids would have loved to be here, as these cute squirrels were patiently waiting for them to throw them some of our driving nuts.
The National Parks in the San Francisco area are also one if the MUST DO things when you are driving around this region. Unfortunately, it was winter and without snow tires, driving onto the slippery roads will be too dangerous for us. Do check road conditions before you plan on such road trips! 🙂
Note for Driving in San Francisco
One of the shocks that drivers must prepare for in San Francisco is the cost of overnight parking. Even if you stay in a nice hotel, there are still additional charges for overnight parking. From USD30 to USD50, these charges are a big pill for Asian tourists to swallow. To help cut costs, you can stay further away from the city to avoid the Parking charges, or turn to Uber when you are in the city.
To lower our travelling costs while in San Francisco, we returned our car while in the city and drew it out again when we were ready to travel to Los Angeles. As Hertz has many offices in the city, the process is actually quite convenient.
Returning your Hertz Car Rental
One of the perks of renting from big companies like Hertz is that they make car returns easy. The car return centre is near the airport and with plenty of signages to lead one to the yard. I first dropped off the girls and the heavy luggages at the terminal and then we drove the rental car to the drop off point.
Car return is also a “No fuss” experience. Just park the car and take the Free shuttle provided by Hertz back to the terminal. There is no paperwork to be done and everything is taken care by email. Check out the video which shows the Hertz Car return process :
For additional information about Road Trips and Driving in the USA, do checkout Hertz World Wide offers and the Hertz USA Self drive toolkit.
We definitely enjoyed driving in the USA and the road trip was definitely unforgettable. Looking forward to doing it with the kids, as they would have definitely enjoyed the experience too.
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