Travel to USA: California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada
USA On The Road classical self-drive trip review

September 1993

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USA travel itinerary
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South West USA travel map

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This trip review discusses how to rent a car and travel to USA West Coast, from Los Angeles to San Francisco, through Arizona, Utah and Nevada, sleeping into motels on the way. Visit to the most beautiful national parks in the USA, like Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon and Death Valley. Trip through Sonora desert between giant Saguaro cactus. Pictures from USA South West. USA On The Road trip.


In a nutshell: incredible landscapes, including some of the unique world's wonders like the Grand Canyon. A trip to southwest is ideal for nature enthusiasts, for photographers, for geologists, but also for botanists thanks to the endemic flora and the unique trees like sequoias and giant Saguaro cactus. In any case, although most of the trip will be usually focused on nature and landscapes, you will also visit beautiful cities like San Francisco and you will probably want to stop a couple of nights in Las Vegas, which is on the way traveling from Utah to California.


Traveling throughout the USA is easy and very safe. All that you will need to do, is to rent a car (obviously is best to book it in advance, especially during high season), making sure that the contract allows to travel to all the states you wish to visit. The roads are all in good conditions, but if you would like to sometimes leave the paved road to explore more, you may need at least an "intermediate" class car allowing to drive safely on gravel roads with some possible sand. Accommodations may be all pre-booked: this will give you the peace of mind to certainly have a place where to sleep, without hearing "sorry, we are sold-out tonight", but will make the journey less flexible, as you can't stop longer or shorter in the place you visit, depending on how much you like it. The best way would be to travel off season, avoiding July and August, so that you may travel without pre-booked accommodation (just stop to a motel when you are tired and see the "vacancy" sign).


The best time to visit the southwest, including California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada is probably late spring and late summer / early autumn, because the weather is milder and there are less tourists. July and August may be crowded and very, very hot, with temperature often exceeding 40 degrees Celsius throughout Arizona, Nevada and internal regions of California. Wintertime is probably too cold, with possible snow at higher altitudes (you will drive up to 3000 meters of elevation).


The US is a major tourist destination among people from all over the world, so it is not difficult to find in the web lot of useful information needed to plan the tour. We nonetheless publish a brief summary of the most important things to know before you travel to the United States, inviting to always check the latest information on other web sites:

  • Is it necessary to bring a credit card? When traveling to the USA it is strongly recommended to bring at least one credit card (better two) having sufficient funds to cover the cost of unpaid services, as well as the deposits that are sometimes made as a guarantee by hotels and the car rental companies (they may "block" an amount of money higher than the actually agreed price, unlocking the funds only once the payment has been confirmed and the room or the car has been returned in its original conditions).

  • Can I use my foreign driving license in the USA? The driving license from most European countries is valid in the USA, but we suggest to consult the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of your country to make 100% sure that you can drive in the USA without any additional documentation.

  • What kind of power plug adapters will I need in the USA? The power outlets in the United States consist of two perpendicular flat slats (type A or type B accordingly to the international classification) and the voltage is 110 / 120V at 60Hz. While most smartphone and laptop's power supply units will automatically adjust to this voltage, some devices (like hair driers) may either be provided with a selector for 110V to be set manually, or will need a transformer.

  • Will my smart phone work in the USA? Modern smart phones from most countries will wotk in the USA, however, your SIM card may be either blocked in foreign countries or will have very high roaming costs. We suggest to contact your mobile phone operator to carefully check if your SIM card works in the USA and at what price. Some mobile operator has convenient packages to save on roaming expenses, to be activated before you leave your contry.

  • Is it safe to travel in the USA? Travelling to United States does not involve any particular risk, even in very isolated areas and deserts, where the crime rate is not as high as advertised by media. It is in any case advised to adopt good common sense and to avoid leaving valuables in sight when you park your car. We recommend to bring a photocopy of your passport and other important documents, to be kept in a separate place from the originals.

  • Are the walks in the national parks suitable for everyone? The national parks of the United States are often equipped with trails that have different levels of difficulty and different trip times: many are suitable for families with children, while others should be considered only by the most trained trekker who have plenty of time to visit the intended destination. At the visitor center of every national park you will always find the latest information and updated maps. Please never forget that most of the national parks are located at altitudes above 2,000 meters, where the thin and dry air (but still very hot in summertime) imposes drinking plenty even during shortest walks, protecting the skin with adequate clothing and sun screen.

Airport transfers

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Los Angeles Drive from Los Angeles to San Diego (California) <<-- GO
Los Angeles is the starting place for this "USA on the road" trip, driving south to San Diego and east to Yuma (Arizona) for the first overnight in a motel. Short excursion to Los Angeles downtown and to San Diego downtown.
Sonora desert Driving through Sonora Desert (Arizona) <<-- GO
Driving thru Sonora desert in southern Arizona with our rented car, between arid landscape and fields of cotton. Soon, we meet the first succulent plants, including many giant saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea)
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Excursion to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument <<-- GO
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is located in Southern Arizona, up to Mexico border line, and is so called because of a large concentration of so called "Organ Pipe" cactus (Stenocereus thurberi).
Tucson Excursions to Tucson, Phoenix and Montezuma Castle <<-- GO
Tucson day tour that includes the Old Tucson Studios, the Desert Museum and the Saguaro National Monument home to thousands of giant Saguaro cactus. We then head to the north, through Montezuma Castle national monument, Phoenix and Scottsdale.
Meteor Crater Tour to Meteor Crater and Painted Desert in central Arizona <<-- GO
Trip to Arizona Meteor Crater, crossing Painted Desert, a desert so called because of the many different rocks and sands colors. The meteor crater is a unique geological feature showing an impact with a meteor happened about 50000 years ago.
Grand Canyon Grand Canyon day trip by car, hiking some of the trails <<-- GO
Day tour to Grand Canyon by car. Hikes to some of the trails accessible from Grand Canyon South rim. The Grand Canyon is a natural wonder unique in the world and a full day trip is really the minimum stay.
Monument Valley Monument Valley day trip, crossing the border line between Arizona and Utah <<-- GO
Day tour to Monument Valley by car, along the Arizona and Utah border line. Excursions between the famous rocks that you have probably seen in many western movies.
Lake Powell Tour to Lake Powell (Utah) <<-- GO
Driving along the shores of Lake Powell north and west into Utah, in a lunar landscape made of strangely shaped rocks. The contrast made with the colors of the water creates a beautiful landscape that is a photographer's paradise.
Arches National Park Day tour to Arches National Park by car <<-- GO
Day excursion to Arches National Park by car, known for the oddly shaped rocks, most of those looking like arches. This is the northernmost point of our itinerary in Utah.
Bryce Canyon Bryce Canyon day trip by car and hiking to the bottom of the canyon <<-- GO
Day trip to Bryce Canyon by car, visiting this natural wonder known for the hoodoos, rock formations shaped by wind and water. A short hike along an easy trail, lets to see the hoodoos from their base.
Las Vegas Las Vegas (Nevada) <<-- GO
Short visit to Las Vegas, hiking in the city at night, between theme casinos, known to be the Entertainment Capital of the World. If you would like to have a longer rest after an extensive trip throughout Arizona and Nevada, it may be a good idea to spend a couple of nights in Las Vegas.
Death Valley Death Valley day trip <<-- GO
The Death Valley is an area in California south east, interesting for the extremely arid landscape, dominated by a dried salt lake, actually below the sea level. The Death Valley is along the road from Las Vegas to Yosemite national park.
Giant sequoia Excursion to Yosemite National Park <<-- GO
Day tour in Yosemite National Park, looking for wildlife and giant sequoia having thousands of years. Some of the tracks were unfortunately closed due to heavy rains in the past month so we had to re-route to other areas of the park.
San Francisco Day tour to San Francisco <<-- GO
Excursions around San Francisco and the Golden Gate, before driving back to Los Angeles where we return our rented car and where this USA On The Road tour finishes.

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