International travelers have been avoiding United States, mostly due to cumbersome visa restrictions and aggressive questioning by customs officials. A recent article in the Times Online calls for Europeans to boycott travel to the US for those very reasons.

So, if Chertoff and co want to tighten Fortress America further, it??s time we considered other more welcoming holiday options. Such as Iran or North Korea.

Despite America’s reluctance to embrace the global travel boom, there are many advantages to going there for foreigners. When you travel to the US, you can expect to enjoy some of these great benefits:

  • The Weak Dollar – The greenback is losing value globally, so no matter what currency you’re coming with you’re at an increasing advantage. Traditionally expensive destinations such as New York, Los Angeles, and Miami are also being effected.
  • The Sheer Size – The US is geographically large and offers a variety of climates, cultures, and cities for different traveling tastes. Moving about once you’re inside of the country is relatively cheap if you fly the low-cost carriers or take trains – with some advanced planning. It’s one of the few countries in the world where you can go skiing, trekking through the desert, or to a tropical island during the same season.
  • It’s Safe – The US has had falling crime rates since the 1980s, and currently has an overall crime rate less than England, Wales, Denmark, and Finland.
  • Security Hassles Are Often Exaggerated – The Online Times article blows out of proportion the amount of scrutiny visitors (especially from Europe) face when they get to the States. I agree that visa applications and customs officials can be overzealous, but compared to Iran and North Korea as the article suggests the US is far more liberal.
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Some Other Smaller Advantages To US Travel

  • Good Service – For a Western nation, the service in the US is often better than in Europe where the server doesn’t have to worry about making a good tip.
  • Citizens Of Almost Any Nation Have (and Continue) To Immigrate In Large Numbers – What this means is that if you’re looking for a Zimbabwean restaurant, Chilean festival, or some Nepalese-Americans you can find them. Most industrialize nations have immigrants from mostly one primary source, unlike the US.
  • Clean – People who have visited the third world will attest to the fact that you can be fairly confident that the food won’t make you sick and you can drink the water from the tap in most places.
  • People Are Generally Friendly – In general, Americans are curious about foreigners. People are by in large honest with tourists; and taxis, store clerks, etc. are priced consistently.
  • Dispel Stereotypes – If all of your perceptions about America are based on the media, movies, and rap videos you have misconceptions. Whatever your experience while visiting the US, it’s worth at least one stop to change (or confirm) your beliefs about the place.
  • Everything Can Be A Tourist Attraction – I remember visiting Catalhoyuk a few years back and being saddened at how little access was available to a fascinating historical site. In the US anything that can generate money is turned into a tourist attraction, just think Graceland.

The Times Online article does give some good alternatives to US cities (such as Hong Kong) but they can never replace each other. Each country around the world has reasons why you might not want to visit but we all weight the advantages of such trips.

Tomorrow I’ll give a list of disadvantages to traveling to the United States – until then, I’d like to ask, are these reasons enough to plan a vacation in America?

[photo by: jimbowen0306]