USA: 26 Days In The USA

a couple months back, I had the opportunity to travel around in the USA after the work part of my Work and Travel USA program ended. before I start… as much as I want to call this A Guide To USA, it’s more like How I Spent 26 Days in USA - a reference rather than a guide. I try to compact as much information while at the same time not make it too overwhelming, so it’ll have the essential information and helpful tips that you’ll need to know. marked with star are the things or food that I’d love to try but alas, didn’t have the time. also, to protect the hosts’ privacy, I’ll only disclose up to the street names of the AirBnbs that I stayed in. I’ll write more details on each individual posts, coming up soon. stay tuned!



Itinerary

finally, after much staring at Google Maps and tracing my options on it multiple times, I settled on something like this that actually make some sense instead of me breaking my bank flying all over America:

Day 1 - Day 3: Washington, D.C.
Day 3 - Day 7: New York City, New York
Day 7 - Day 9: Niagara Falls, New York
Day 9 - Day 12: Chicago, Illinois
Day 12 - Day 15: San Francisco, California
Day 15 - Day 16: Las Vegas, Nevada
Day 16 - Day 17: Arizona
Day 17 - Day 19: Utah
Day 19 - Day 20: Las Vegas, Nevada
Day 20 - Day 21: Death Valley, California
Day 21 - Day 23: San Diego, California
Day 23 - Day 26: Los Angeles, California

once, I took the midnight train and another night, I camped at the airport. so that’s two nights of accommodation missing. also, from Day 15 onwards till Day 23, I joined two friends and we road tripped for 9 days, from Las Vegas all the way to Los Angeles. the compact-car rental was $331 for the entire 9 days.


Washington, D. C.

Getting In

From Williamsburg, VA, I took the Amtrak ($36) + Insurance ($9) with two pieces of free check-in baggage

Accommodation

City House Hostel Washingon D. C. ($77.57 for two nights in a 4-person mixed dorm)

it’s one of the cheaper hostels that’s close to Union Station compared to those that are close to the city center because it doesn’t make sense to for me to stay in the city center.

Getting Around

I personally didn’t take the Metro but walk instead and then took an Uber Share back to my hostel, which cost $4.65. that’s it. but if you want to, you can get a SmarTrip Metro card for $10 with $8 stored value or $30 with $28 stored value. fares range from $1.85 - $6 vary with peak and off-peak hours.

What To Do / Where To Go

  • White House

  • Lincoln Memorial

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

  • National Air and Space Museum

  • National Gallery of Art

  • Library of Congress

  • United States Capitol

  • Newseum*

  • Washington Monument, which you can see from afar from Lincoln Memorial

  • National Museum of African American History and Culture*

  • Tidal Basin

  • International Spy Museum*


New York City, New York

Getting In

From Washington D.C. by Greyhound ($21) with one piece of free check-in baggage

Accommodation

The Local Hostels NYC ($292.34 for four nights in a 4-person mixed dorm)

it is located at the LIC of Queens, an industrial area - five minutes walk to the nearest subway station.

Getting Around

NYC Subway: $32 for a week + $1 for the card or $3 single trip

What To Do / Where To Go

  • take a stroll through Central Park

  • see the city from the Top of the Rock

  • Empire State Building

  • Manhattan Bridge / DUMBO

  • Brooklyn Bridge

  • Battery Park

  • One World Trade Center

  • see the Statue of Liberty at Ellis Island or take the free Staten Island Ferry

  • watch a Broadway show at Broadway

  • Times Square

  • spend an afternoon at The High Line*

  • eat at Little Italy*

  • Fifth Avenue

  • The MET

  • MoMA (free admission every Friday from 4PM - 8PM)

  • Guggenheim Museum

  • Museum of Natural History

What To Eat

  • Shake Shack

  • The Halal Guys

  • Piccola Cucina Osteria Siciliana

  • Raku NYC*

  • One-Dollar Pizzas*


Niagara Falls, New York

Getting In

From New York City to Buffalo by Greyhound ($52), with one piece of free check-in baggage

From Buffalo to Niagara Falls by Uber ($32.77)

Accommodation

Wanderfalls Hostels ($27.22 for a night in a 4-person female dorm)

it’s a house turned into a hostel so it’s small and cozy. the best thing about it? the pancakes for breakfast! best pancakes I’ve ever had.

Getting Around

depending on where you wanna go, but to me it’s not exactly a big town. I tried to walk the first evening, but it scared the shit out of me, so for safety purpose, I always took an Uber when it’s dark but if there’s day light, I walked. there’s no Uber Share in this area.

What To Do / Where To Go In Niagara Falls State Park

  • Observation Deck

  • Maid of the Mist - ferry tour

  • Cave of the Winds - touch the American Falls!

  • Luna Island

  • Terrapin Point


Chicago, Illinois

Getting In

From Niagara Falls to Buffalo by Uber ($39.11)

From Buffalo to Chicago by Amtrak ($60) + Insurance ($17) with two pieces of free check-in baggage

Accommodation

AirBnb @ South Aberdeen Street ($153.48 for two nights for two person)

Getting Around

Bus: $2.50 single trip
Bus and Rail: $3 single ride or $10 for one-day disposable Ventra ticket (24 hours)
Bus and Rail: $10 for 1-Day CTA Fun Pass or $20 for 3-Day CTA Fun Pass

I only took the Metro once before my friend came with his rental car. with it, the parking fees meant the death of our wallets. it didn’t make the travel time shorter in the city center. but seeing that we stayed somewhere quite far away from downtown, it helped a little. you can get more details on getting around the city here.

What To Do / Where To Go

  • see the city from high above of Willis Tower or 360 Chicago

  • Cloud Gate

  • Millennium Park

  • Crown Fountain*

  • Buckingham Fountain*

  • The Art Institute of Chicago

  • catch a game at Wrigley’s Field

  • watch a comedy show*

  • Field Museum of Natural History*

  • Lincoln Park zoo*

  • enjoy a cocktail and the night view from The Signature Lounge*

  • Adler Planeterium*

  • Navy Pier*

  • Michigan Avenue Bridge*

  • Lakefront Path

Where To Eat

  • Sun Wah BBQ for their Beijing Roast Duck


San Francisco, California

Getting In

From Des Moines to San Francisco by United Airlines ($278.16 including travel insurance and one piece of check-in baggage, one transfer at Denver)

Accommodation

HI San Francisco City Center Hostel ($183.80 for three nights in a 4-person female dorm)

I personally don’t recommend this hostel, especially for solo travellers. honestly, I don’t feel safe here.

Getting Around

BART: fare varies based on distance, click here to calculate yours
Muni bus: $2.50 single ride on MuniMobile or Clipper Card or cash or $5 Day Pass on MuniMobile
Cable Car: $7 single ride on MuniMobile or Clipper Card or cash
Golden Gate Transit: fare varies by distance and zone, click here for more info

you can get a Clipper Card from Muni Metro, Golden Gate ferry ticket machine or SMART fare machine at $3 with a minimum value. for more information about MUNI fares, you can click here.

I usually take the MUNI bus and although most say that it is a must-do, I never took the cable car. I never plan to take the Golden Gate Transit but somehow got onto one, thanks to Google Maps. it’s a lot faster to get to the Golden Gate Bridge (duh) but slightly pricier. and I only took the BART to and fro SFO airport.

What To Do / Where To Go

  • Golden Gate Bridge

  • Fisherman’s Wharf

  • Pier 39

  • Alcatraz Prison*

  • SFMoMA

  • Chinatown

  • Ghirradelli Square

  • The Painted Ladies

Where To Eat

  • Saigon Sandwich - cheap Vietnamese banh mi

  • Brenda’s French Soul Food

  • The Bird

  • Kitchen Story*

  • Sweet Maple*

  • Sushirito*

  • House of Prime Rib*

  • State Bird Provisions*

  • El Farolita*

  • Limon Rotisserie*


Las Vegas, Nevada

Getting In

From San Francisco to Las Vegas by Southwest Airlines ($179.98 including travel insurance and one piece of check-in baggage)

Accommodation

Ellis Island Hotel Super 8 ($85 for a night for four person)

Getting Around

monorail: $5 single ride or $13 for 24-hour pass (for more different passes you can click here)
Deuce or SDX buses: $6 for 2-hour pass; $8 for 24-hour pass or $20 for three days

we didn’t take any of those and although we have a car, we actually preferred walking the Strip. for more details regarding Las Vegas’s public transport, you can click here.

What To Do / Where To Go Near The Strip

  • watch the Bellagio Fountain Show - and imagine you just pulled a heist on a casino

  • The Mirage Volcano*

  • Paris Las Vegas

  • MGM Grand

  • Luxor Hotel & Casino*

  • Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign

Where To Eat

  • Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen

  • In-n-Out - because the one in Hollywood is always crowded


Arizona

Accommodation

RV AirBnb @ North Smokerise Drive  ($55.60 for a night for three person, can fit up to five)

What To Do / Where To Go

  • Grand Canyon National Park

  • Upper / Lower Antelope Canyon - book your slots earlier!

  • Horseshoe Bend


Utah

Accommodation

Hotel Zion ($129 for two nights for three person)

What To Do / Where To Go

  • Zion National Park - challenge yourself to Angel’s Landing!

  • Northgate Peaks Viewpoint

  • Arches National Park*

  • Bryce Canyon National Park


Las Vegas, Nevada

Accommodation

Main Street Station Casino Street Brewery Hotel ($36.37 for a night per person) - this hotel charges resort fees

What To Do / Where To Go

  • North Premium Outlet

  • Fremont Street*


Death Valley, California

while a lot of friends told us that it’s boring and some people said it’s so empty that it’s eerie, three of us love Death Valley National Park a lot. it’s a desert so bring lots of water with you and always, always make sure your car is in a good condition. you don’t want to be stranded in nowhere with no sight of any other human.

Accommodation

AirBnb @ South Jorgensen Circle ($68.68 for a night for three person, can fit up to four)

What To Do / Where To Go

  • Badwater Basin

  • catch the sunset at Zabriskie Point

  • Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

  • catch the sunrise at Dantes View

  • Ubehebe Crater

  • Artist’s Drive and Palette


San Diego, California

Accommodation

AirBnb @ La Presa Avenue, Spring Valley ($114.43 for two nights for three person)

Getting Around

Old Town Trolley Tours: $35.95 1-Day Tour or $69.90 2-Day Tour

North County Transit District Bus: $1.75 single trip or $5 day pass

we didn’t take any of those because we had a car and we stayed quite far away from the main attractions. for more information on how to get around San Diego, you can click here.

What To Do / Where To Go

  • spend a day Balboa Park

  • Gaslight Quarter

  • watch the sunset at La Jolla Cove

  • Old Town

  • USS Midway Museum

  • San Diego Zoo

Where To Eat

  • Rockin Baja Lobster


Los Angeles, California

Accommodations

Getting Around

DASH Bus: $0.50 single trip or $0.35 single trip on TAP card or $5 7-Day Pass
Metro: $1.75 single trip; $10 1-Day Pass or $25 7-Day Pass (additional charges for Silver Line and Express Buses)

you can get a TAP card (stored value card) at $2 from TAP vending machines in metro stations or on board buses. click here for more information.

be prepared to spend an hour commuting from one attraction to another and expect the bus to be late.

What To Do / Where To Go

  • catch the sunset at Griffith Observatory

  • Walk of Fame

  • catch the sunset at Santa Monica Pier

  • Walt Disney Concert Hall

  • LACMA

  • The Broad

  • Hollywood sign

  • see the city from high above at L.A. City Hall for free*

  • Venice Beach*


Driving in USA

as far as I know, the Malaysian driving licence—the new, hard one, not the old laminated one, works just fine in most states there. so long as the vital infos are in English and Americans can understand, you should be okay. we went on the road-trip without any IDP. none of us.

if you want to be on the safe side by getting an International Driving Permit, you have to do it here in Malaysia before you depart. as a foreigner, you cannot get an IDP in the US. it is only valid if you also have your driving licence with you and the current fee in Malaysia is RM150.

as for car rental, you need a car insurance which usually already comes under the rental. if you’re 25 and under, you’re subject to a “Young Renter Fee” or “Underage Fee” to compensate the rental company for extra risks. however, there are ways that you could get away with it. I know a friend who rented a car from Kayak.com and managed to waive it.

remember to download an offline map and star places of interest, or learn how to actually read a paper map before you leave for your adventure. expect to have bad to no cellular service on the road. know the basics like how to change a tyre, etc. for emergency. be careful with your valuables and personal belongings.


Handy Apps

Travel-focused

  • Skyscanner Travel Deals - flight comparison

  • Hopper - flight prices forecast

  • Expedia - flight tickets purchase, car rental, accommodation search, tour bookings

  • Kayak - flight tickets purchase, car rental, accommodation search

Transportation

  • Enterprise - car rental

  • Turo - car rental

  • Lyft - ride-sharing

  • Uber - ride-sharing

  • Amtrak

  • Greyhound

  • SuperShuttle - airport shuttle

  • Frontier Airlines

  • Alaska Airlines

  • Fly Delta

  • United Airlines

  • Southwest Airlines

  • MuniMobile - San Francisco public transportation

  • New York Subway MTA Map - NYC subway

  • LA Mobile - LADOT Transit ticketing

Accommodation

Tickets / Passes

  • Ticketmaster - concerts / shows / games

  • TKTS - Broadway shows

  • Headout - shows / activities

  • Go City Card - discounted city pass

  • Ballpark - baseball game

Navigation / Tips / Etc.

  • Google Maps - navigation

  • Yelp - food recommendations

  • Companion: Personal Safety

  • Venmo - money transfer

  • Paypal - money transfer

  • The Outbound - activities / attractions recommendations

  • SunSurveyor - for light chasers *smirks*

  • Uber Eats: Food Delivery

  • 7-Eleven, Inc.


Just A Minute In November

have always wanted to try my hands on art deco style but didn’t really have the time to properly figure out how to do it until now… love it even though it’s very simple. anyway, this month I’ve been

developing | this finger-tapping-on-my-steering-wheel-to-the-beat-of-the-music thing. post road trip syndrome I guess…

learning | to strike a balance between work and hobby - which means saying goodnight to work when it’s time to and to have things to do purely just for pleasure, no need for goals, no need for deadlines, etc.

loving | bossa novas after listening to this and this (good Indon song!). you know, back about five years ago all cafes ever played was bossa novas and they all started to sound the same to me. thankfully now they’ve moved on to this lo-fi thing so I’m in love with bossa novas again.

watching | La Casa de Papel a.k.a. Money Heist. best. series. I’ve. watched. thus. far. a plot that’s meticulously planned as the heist itself.

reading | One Day by David Nicholls.

my parents were out of town for more than a week and truth be told, by day three that they’re gone the house was starting to feel like a mansion to me… thankfully they’re back now! <3 met up with old friends from university and secondary school. and, finally, I’m settled down for something long-term after two months being home. :D


PHOTO DIARY: Asian Party

that night and many nights after.

Asian party 2018 | A Beautiful Distraction by Ruo Ling Lu

the thing is, other than catching the bus in the morning and on our days off, I don’t think we actually see much of the village in the sunlight.

not trying to be racist or anything, but really, all of us who were there that night were Asians - fact. always stick to the fact, kids. that one night when most of us didn’t need to work the next day - thanks to the Washington trip - the Thais, the twenty-one of them organized a cookout and we were unexpectedly invited over. now, I don’t remember much from that night, except a lot of awfully mixed alcoholic drinks and comparing which one was better, trying to learn each other’s languages - only the good words, not the profanity… I swear (haha #punintended) and childhood games that all of us know, despite the fact that we grew up in different countries.

after that, there were many nights spent at the corridors outside of either #136 or #118, shitting about our work and talking about whatever happened in the park that day - like a supervisor walking to Target buying burger buns because the park ran out of them (really? the way park is run… =.=). funnily, what exactly they’re mostly about, I can’t tell now.

and then there was a night in the kitchen teaching Polish and Czech Republic friends how to use the chopsticks. there was another night where we cooked for Khai’s birthday, and by the time “dinner” was ready, her birthday had already passed. and there was this night that finally it’s the Malaysians turn to cook for the Thais. so we ate bak kut teh at the basketball court. there’s also this one night, we carried a six-pack and walked all the way back from 7-Eleven, joking that it was nothing after pushing carts and carrying turkey legs for months.

and then there was the night shortly before Nok left. the idea was to hangout and listen to our favourite music, but she came to me with Kris’s leftover bed sheet that wasn’t returned and we lay on the wet grass (no, nope, the sheets ain’t helping) talking about life instead of living and talking about catching Arctic Monkey’s concert together in the future. we bought each other drinks and we laughed because… we bought the same thing for each other. XD we listened to Alexandra Savior’s song and watched the night sky and made our wishes when we caught a “falling star” flashing by. it was so chilly that at one point, I went back to my room to change into my sweatpants. when we could no longer keep our eyes open, even though we barely finished our drinks, we said goodnight and went back to our rooms to sleep. I could never stand the cold and I hated that I had grass and dew on my pants but after all it was well worth it.

even then, I always find it somehow amusing, that on this dot somewhere on the map, I once did all these.