Backpacking in the USA – ESTAForm.org

Backpacking in America: Plan the Perfect Trip in the USA 2022

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Backpacking is a form of traveling in an inexpensive manner where you usually carry out all of your needs in a backpack and stay in affordable accommodation. It is an excellent form of tourism, especially among youths and the younger generation of adults.
Backpacking usually involves traveling via public transportation, cheap accommodation, and so on. Digital nomads who work remotely also embark on this kind of journey, working from the new location. It makes you experience the area from the eye of the local man in that location.
Backpacking has several benefits attached to it, both physically and emotionally. It takes your mind off the stress associated with living life and gives you an overall sense of well-being. Studies have shown that hikers and backpackers generally lead happier and healthier lives.
Backpacking is popular in Eastern Europe and the South-Eastern part of Asia. America is also an excellent location for backpacking, although not known to many. The East Coast, the South, the West Coast, New England are exciting places to visit while backpacking.
Before embarking on your backpacking journey, it is expedient to put some things in place so you can have the perfect trip.

Planning the Perfect Backpack Trip to America

It is often said that if you fail to plan, you have planned to fail. To have a perfect backpack trip to America, you need to have some things in place. Here are some of the things you need:
  • Have a budget: Having a budget planned for your journey is an excellent way to keep your expenses in check. America is not cheap, and without a budget, you may end up spending a lot more than you can afford.
  • Plan an itinerary: When visiting America on a backpacking trip, you need an itinerary. Have a time frame, a list of places to visit, and a list of activities. If you do not have an itinerary, it is easy to get lost in the moment. The goal of backpacking is to live as minimally as possible and enjoy the culture of the locals.
  • Determine your location: America is too big a place to experience in one sweep; going through its region by region is a better option. Sticking to a region also helps you have a more detailed and thought-out itinerary. That way, you would have the liberty to experience the culture of the locals and become familiar with each region you visit.
  • Plan your travel: Planning your journey is essential because you may be denied access to America if you don't have the necessary documentation. Ensure that you have your passport and visa or the electronic system for travel authorization (ESTA) for those who are eligible. Applying for the ESTA is a better choice for citizens from eligible countries as it is cheaper and takes less time than applying for a full-fledged visa. The ESTA program allows low-risk individuals to travel into the US without a visa and it has a validity period of two years.

US Visa Requirements

If you want to go backpacking around the US, you will require a form of travel authorization. If you are a citizen of a country listed under the Visa Waiver Program and your backpacking adventure will last no longer than 90 days, you are able to apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization).
If you are planning to stay in the US for a period longer than 90 days then you would need to apply for a tourist visa instead.

US Tourist Visa

When you are planning a backpacking trip around the US that could last longer than 90 days, you should apply for a US tourist visa instead of an ESTA. Under the terms of an ESTA, you may only stay in the US for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
Applying for a US tourist visa takes considerably longer than applying for an ESTA, so you should apply several months in advance of your trip. You will be required to arrange a visa interview at the Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence. As part of the application process, you will be required to pay a visa application fee of $160 and will need to provide documents that are related to your trip. You will be required to provide proof of flights and financial evidence that you can afford accommodation for the length of your stay.

Applying for Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

The ESTA program determines if you are eligible to travel into America through the visa waiver program (VWP) or if the traveler poses any form of security risk to the US. The visa waiver program (VWP) is a program by the Department of Homeland security (DHS) that allows citizens from eligible countries to travel into the US for a maximum of 90 days for business or tourism purposes without applying for a visa. There are select countries whose citizens are eligible for a VWP; make findings to know if your permits you to get one.
The ESTA is not a visa and cannot be regarded as one because it does not necessarily meet the legal and regulatory requirements. It is only a form of documentation that allows individuals from low-risk countries to access the United States without a visa. Individuals with a valid visa need not apply for an ESTA to enter the United States. In preparation for your backpacking journey to the US, ensure you either have your ESTA or a valid visa to your name.

USA Itinerary: Best Regions for a Backpacking Trip in America

Although the United States is not very popular for backpacking, there are many possible locations to have the time of your life on a backpacking trip. The United States is large, and to enjoy the thrill of backpacking, it is advised to limit it to a region instead of visiting multiple locations. Here are a couple of exciting locations for a backpacking trip in the US.

The East Coast

The East Coast is by far the most popular region in America. It is partially because it is home to some of the most important economic and political states in the United States. Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, and Maryland. The East Coast is regarded as the most American region of America; this is essentially because that was where America started. It is culturally diverse, and you would love to see it.
Major cities on the East Coast include the all-popular New York City (NYC), the all-powerful Washington DC, the capital of the United States, Newark, Queens, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Many backpackers start their journey in New York City because it is quite historical as the start of America. For convenience, it is also connected to the other parts of America. Sources also say they have very excellent food.

The Midwest

The Midwest is known for many wrong reasons; it is terribly cold during winter and very humid in summer. Many visitors tend to miss out on the cheese offered in that region. The region is also spiced with the beautiful accents of its citizens. Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois are present in this region. Chicago is the biggest city in this region.
While in the Midwest, Detroit and Madison are interesting sights you may love to visit. There are lakes and rivers to visit for more natural and environmentally conscious backpackers; some imitate the sea and allow you to surf in them.
The Freehand Chicago hostel is one of the coolest and inexpensive accommodations in the area. It has a great design and is fitted with many exciting amenities; you even get room service. Madison in Wisconsin is said to have the best-rated food in the area and America generally.

The Southern Region

Although the South has a lot of intimidating stories, it is an interesting and fun-filled location to visit on your backpacking journey. Some of the intimidating stories you'd hear stem around systematic racism, high poverty levels, and an otherwise poor public health system. It just feels different from the rest of the United States. Some people even describe it as being shot into an alternate dimension.
However, if you know where to look, the South may be an excellent location for your backpacking trip. Great cities in this region to visit include New Orleans, the Great beaches of Florida, the beautiful city of Miami, the architectural preserves in Charleston and Savannah, and so on. Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, and Alabama are the states in this region.
The most highly rated hostel in the region is The Quisby in New Orleans. It is beautifully designed, located centrally, and well-staffed. The best food around this region is barbecue. The South is undoubtedly a great place to visit for backpacking.

Best Time to Visit the USA

The best time to visit the USA will depend on the areas that you are intending to visit and what you want to experience. If you want to minimize your travel and accommodation costs, you should avoid the times of the year when the US attracts the highest volumes of tourists, such as summer.
However, if you want to visit beaches in the hotter weather, most of the country will be warmest in July and August. You should check the average weather temperatures for the time of year and places that you are planning on visiting.

Budget Travel in the USA

Domestic flights are considerably cheaper than international flights, so you may find that flying from one state to another is cheaper than other modes of transport. Train and bus travel are usually the cheapest options for moving around the US. The Greyhound bus service operates across the US and Amtrak provides coast-to-coast rail trips, which will generally be much cheaper when bought in advance.

USA Travel Advice

To ensure that your backpacking trip is as safe and hassle-free as possible, do plenty of research and planning for your trip. States have different laws and the cultures can differ greatly from one state to the next, so make sure that you review the local laws in the states you are planning to visit. If you are planning on hiring a car, the rules can be different across the states, such as minimum age of driver.
Make sure that you have a list of the important numbers that you may need to contact in case of emergency or if you have any problems while you are in the US.

Three Must-Have Things in Your Backpack to Have the Perfect Backpacking Trip

Apart from having your ESTA required documentation or visa with you everywhere you go, there are other vital things every backpacker should have in their backpacks.
  • Insulated Jacket: During the backpacking journey, you may run into cold weather; having an insulated jacket can keep you warm.
  • Maps: I understand that we are in a digital age, and many devices come factory-fitted with maps, but to be safe, get a hardcopy map of the region you intend to visit.
  • Water Bottle: Store your drinkable water with you in your water bottle as you journey through the United States.
In conclusion, backpacking has tremendous benefits attached to it, like bringing peace to your stress and so on. The United States is not quite as popular a backpacking destination as Eastern Europe and South Asia, but it has lovely locations for backpacking. Before embarking on your journey, check out if your home country citizens are eligible for an ESTA. If you are eligible, you are better off applying for it than an actual visa.

Written by Abisola Fikayomi

Abisola is an accomplished writer interested in US Travel, immigration, passports and visas. She’s passionate about exploring new places and cultures and willing to share her experiences, expertize and findings with others. That is her primary drive for specialising in this industry.