Business trip to the USA: Everything you need to know

So it’s time to take a business trip to the USA? We lay out all the common questions and what you need to know for your next trip. Keep reading.

So it’s time to take a business trip to the USA? We lay out all the common questions and what you need to know for your next trip. Keep reading.

By Liudmila Buga

business travel usa

In this article we will go into depth about business travel to the USA, the land of unlimited (business) opportunities. Here you will find valuable tips on entry, business etiquette and also on the trip itself. We have also compiled answers to the most frequently asked questions. 

Business trip to the USA: five tips

1. Entry to the USA

If you are entering from a country that participates in the USA Visa Waiver Program – and Germany is one of them – you do not need a visa for stays up to 90 days, but you must fill out a so-called Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) online before departure. Without this form you will be denied entry.

You will also need a biometric passport that is valid for at least 6 months. If you have been to Cuba in the last two years, or to North Korea, Iran or Syria in the last 12 years, you cannot participate in the Visa Waiver Program.

dangerous items

2. Consult the prohibited and restricted items list

The United States has published an extensive list of banned or restricted items that may not be imported into the country. Examples of prohibited items include dangerous toys, cars that do not protect their occupants in the event of an accident, bushmeat, certain cured meats, unripened cheese, or illegal substances such as absinthe and Rohypnol. 

Restricted means that special licenses or permits are required from a federal agency before the particular items can be imported into the United States.

It’s worth looking at this list very carefully before departure to avoid any surprises at the airport, especially if you want to bring a small gift to your colleagues like cured meats and cheeses that haven’t been aged, make sure it’s allowed into the country as the American customs authorities are known for their strictness and thoroughness. 


3. Business is priority, then relationships

American business partners differ from their European counterparts in many ways. You don’t have to invest time in building a long-term relationship before business negotiations. Business always comes first, and relationship building is secondary. Americans are mainly concerned with negotiating a good deal for their company. Personal business relationships can still be built afterwards.

friendly chat

4. Informality is the cultural norm

The quest for independence is deeply rooted in American culture and Americans are known around the world for their informality. In fact, they prefer informal approaches whenever possible and are not fans of formalities and rules.

For example, American business people almost always address each other by their first names, are very enthusiastic in their approach, keeping language and manners as simple and inclusive as possible. 

The informality also applies to phrases and small talk at the beginning of meetings. The American expression “Let’s get straight to business” is no coincidence. As a sign of mutual respect and appreciation of the time invested, meetings should get down to business relatively quickly. Anything else could be interpreted negatively.

business meeting on time

5. Punctuality is important

You should always arrive on time for meetings or appointments in the States. Lateness is seen as a sign of disrespect by potential business partners. If you might be late for an unavoidable reason, you should call the people you are meeting with to let them know in advance.

Booking a flight to the USA: what to consider

If you must stick to fixed dates when booking flights to the USA, you should book your flights as early as possible. If the travel dates are flexible, you can continue to monitor airfare and choose a cheap option up to a few weeks before the date of departure. However, it is important that you keep an eye on the airfare.

Beware of flights that are too cheap to be true. Some airlines to the U.S. have made it a habit to lure you in with cheap airfares, only to add surcharges for baggage, fees and payment methods.

As a general rule, flights are more expensive during the summer months than during the other three seasons. If you can travel outside of the hot summer season, that might work to your advantage price-wise.

Use a travel management platform like GetGoing for your business travel, where you can book flights and find good travel deals.

Transportation and driving in the USA

Unless you’re traveling to one of the megacities in the U.S., be prepared to drive to get to your meetings. Gasoline prices are heavily subsidized in the U.S. and therefore relatively affordable. Much of the population gets around by car. And well-connected public transportation is really only found in major cities.

To be on the safe side, it is recommended to rent a car. GetGoing makes it easy and convenient to choose a corporate rental car for your next business trip to the USA.

Other considerations for your business trip to USA

How much to tip in the USA

Currently, the normal rate for tipping is around 18%. You need to know that many employees in the service industry in the USA are only paid a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. So they depend on a relatively high tip to be able to live on their earnings. 

So what happens if you don’t tip? Tipping is optional, but not really optional if you care about the welfare of employees in restaurants, cabs, hotels, etc. 

Electricity in the USA

The supply voltage in the USA is 120 volts. This is different from the 220 – 240 volts commonly used in Europe. You should make sure that your device is suitable for both voltages. Alternatively, you could use a voltage converter. Also remember to take an adapter with you, as the sockets in the USA are different.

Internet in the USA

Internet is readily available in the US with WI-Fi found easily at coffee shops and stores. However, there is not much competition in the U.S., so consumers often have only a few providers to choose from. As a result, internet costs are relatively high and speed and access tend to be poor even in urban areas.

Vacation in USA what to consider

The cultural norms, transportation options and other interesting customs, such as the high tip, of course also apply if you want to vacation in the land of opportunity. There’s an incredible variety of landscapes, cultures, customs, history and sights to explore in the 50 states, and you’ll be impressed, if not overwhelmed, by the sheer range of activities and options.

Need help planning your business trip to the USA? We’ve got you covered.

Schedule an appointment today to learn more about GetGoing.

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