Local Transportation

Where can I get a map of the city?

Check at the chamber of commerce, a bookstore, a convenience store, a gas station, a local bank, or the student union.

What kinds of public transportation will I find?

The public transportation systems in most cities in the United States are not as developed as in many countries around the world. In your city, you may find the following:

Subways are underground trains, which usually operate 24 hours a day. They are found in larger cities and often run between the suburbs (outlying areas) and the downtown area. Maps and schedules are available from the ticket office. If you cannot understand the map or schedule, or if you don't know where to stand while waiting for the subway, ask an American friend to assist you. If you take the subway often, you can save money by purchasing a multiple-ride ticket or monthly pass.

City-operated buses run on various routes (taking you to different places) and are designed to be at certain places at certain times. Maps and schedules may be posted at certain stops, or they may be available at local banks, libraries, the student union, or from the bus driver. Buses run primarily during the day. You can get on or off a bus at designated stops, usually located every few blocks along the route. Fare is paid by exact change in coins, multiple-ride tickets, or monthly passes. Ask if student discounts are available.

Shuttle buses
Small shuttle buses operated by the college or university may run on or around the campus. These are often free or cost a small amount.

Taxis are generally more expensive in the United States than in other countries. If you use a taxi, be sure you ask the amount of the fare before you agree to ride. The driver usually expects a tip of 15 percent of the fare in addition to the fare.

How do I learn to drive a car?

You can sign up for a driving school, in which a trained professional will help you learn to drive for a fee. Or you might ask a friend who has his or her license to assist you.

Should I buy a car?

Because public transportation is not always easy to use in the United States, you may consider buying a car, especially for social events or errands. However, because of the cost to buy, insure, and keep a car running, you may want to seek the advice of fellow students who own cars and who have been at your school for more than one year.

If you choose to buy a car, remember that you will also have to pay for license plates, insurance, repairs, gasoline, and parking. Many students find it cheaper and more convenient to live close to campus and ride a bicycle or walk to classes.

How do I buy a car?

You may purchase one from a car dealer (a business that sells new or used cars) or individuals selling their own cars.

Before purchasing a car, you may wish to consult a book that lists the suggested fair prices of new or used cars. Updated editions of these books may be found in bookstores, banks, or libraries. The prices listed in these books are only market-value prices (what someone selling the car might expect to receive); they are not prices for which the cars must be sold. The actual price you pay may be lower because of damage, high mileage, and so forth, or higher because of demand (if many people want that type of car, it will sell at a higher price).

When you are ready to purchase a car, you may wish to ask an American friend who is familiar with buying a car to go with you, or you may consider using the service of an auto broker (a business that will charge you a fee to locate the type of car you want at a price you are willing to pay).

A knowledgeable friend can help you know what to look for in a car and help you bargain for an acceptable price. If you are buying a used car, you should have it inspected by a professional mechanic (other than the car dealer's mechanic) before buying it to see if there are any hidden problems with the car.

Will I need to buy car insurance?

Most states require car insurance by law. Failure to have car insurance may result in a ticket, fine, or even a court hearing. Insurance pays for damages if you have an accident or your car is damaged or stolen. To get insurance, contact an insurance agent about buying a policy (a contract that describes what amount of money the insurance company will pay for what types of damages). You will pay premiums (a certain amount of money every month or every six months or once a year) based upon the policy coverage (what damages the policy will pay for and how much it will pay).

If you pay premiums for liability insurance-which most states require you to have if you own a car-the insurance company will pay for damage to another car if you are responsible for the accident. If you purchase collision insurance-which is recommended if your car is worth a lot of money-the insurance company will also pay for damage to your car. Comprehensive insurance covers damage caused by such things as weather, vandalism, or theft.

Most insurance policies require you to pay a deductible (a certain amount of money you pay for any damages, with the insurance agency paying for all damages above that specified amount. For example, if you have a $250 deductible on your collision insurance and you have an accident that causes $1,000 damage to your car, you would pay the first $250 and the insurance company would pay $750). The higher the deductible amount on the insurance policy, the lower your premiums will be.

How do I get a driver's license?

Since driving rules vary from state to state, check with your local driver's license office (listed in the telephone book in the state government offices section). Generally, though, you will have to apply at a driver's license office, where you will be required to take a written test on the laws for driving in that state (a booklet of state laws is available at the office). You will also need to pass an eye test, so if you need glasses or contact lenses, make sure you wear them. In addition, you must pass an actual driving test. If you fail the written or driving tests, you can take them again on another date.

Is it safe to take walks at night?

Generally, American campuses and nearby neighborhoods are safe, even at night, but there are exceptions. Check with campus security officials to see if any areas are dangerous. Also, ask an American friend or fellow student to tell you which neighborhoods are unsafe. To be safe, walk with a friend.

Is it safe to hitchhike (ask for rides from passing vehicles)?

It is best not to hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers in the United States. Sharing a car with a total stranger may make you an easy target for crime.

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