Travel Guide > North America
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Extreme climates, cross-cultural milieu, exquisite landscapes, prairies, cowboys… North America as a continent has its own charm. Being the third largest continent, with 23 countries and several territories and islands, it has always appealed to tourists who have been fascinated by stories of the Wild West, and even those who want their trip to be a mix of different cultural experiences. Geographically, a major portion of the continent lies between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle, enclosed by water bodies, including the Pacific, the Arctic & the Atlantic Oceans, the Bering Strait, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The continent also incorporates the mainland as well as offshore islands situated on the northern side of the Isthmus of Panama. The ‘Anglo-America’ term is often used in relation to Canada and the United States combined, while the region comprising Mexico, the Caribbean as well as the republics of Central America is referred to as ‘Middle America’.
Most Popular Destinations
The beauty of the continent lies in the fact that each country is so unique in its culture and identity. Talk of the most popular tourist destinations in this continent and you will find yourself searching for information on:
The United States of America – It is a country that inspires awe. It’s a land of opportunity and a country every one wants to visit. Early influence of African slaves as well as the rush of immigrants from across the world has contributed to the country’s highly globalized culture. New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Chicago are cities that saw the origin of Jazz, Rock N Roll and Hip Hop as a result of cross-cultural influence.
Canada – A friendly country known for its maple syrup, expansive open spaces and abundant fun and entertainment for everyone. Famous for its formidable migrant population, Canada offers a kaleidoscope of people, cultures and food. Ontario, Toronto and Nova Scotia are among the most visited destinations in the country.
The Caribbean – Ideal for beach vacations, with golf greens and scuba tours adding to the fun. A cross-cultural milieu is evident in the Caribbean’s speech, faith and even music. In fact, it explains the incorporation of new languages like Haitian Creole, new religions like Santeria, and even manifests itself music genres such as reggae.
Greenland – The largest island in the world, famous for its glaciers, lush green hills and scenic beauty. Known to be Santa’s real home, this island is famous for its exquisite locales, dog sleds, the Aurora Borealis (the northern lights in the sombre night sky), midnight sun, hot springs, and its flora and fauna.
Mexico – This is where Mexican cuisine originated. The country is famous for its folk art, coastal cities, beaches and coral reefs. You will find a unique mix of Spanish as well as native influences here as a majority of the country’s population comprises European descendents and aboriginals.
As if to symbolize the diverse cultural experiences, the landscapes of the continent are strikingly disparate – from the rush-hour experience in some of the busiest and most populous cities to the deafening silence of the Arctic expanses. And you don’t have to look at the whole continent to spot such geographical contrast. One look at the US, for instance, may be enough to give you an idea of what we are talking about. From dry desert areas to temperate rain forests, the country spreads out from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Those with a penchant for road trips must certainly consider trying out the country’s highway experience.
Best Time to Visit
The snow-clad locales of Northern Canada as well as Alaska have their own charm; so do the tropical and beautiful landscapes of Mexico and the territory of Bermuda. June to September is usually the best time to visit this continent. Extreme climates, wide-ranging landscapes and cross-cultural locations make it one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. Most tourists usually visit the continent during summers. But if you feel you can do without the scorching sun on your back, opt for an autumn visit instead when the temperatures are toned down and so are the prices.
Currency – The dollar has been the single currency the continent has enjoyed since 1790. However, considering the different banking markets, the exchange rate and value of the currency vary.
Tipping – Giving a tip is nothing unusual in this continent. Unlike most European countries, tipping, particularly in the service industry, is a normal custom and even forms part of an employee’s income. So, during guided tours or coach rides, be prepared to deal out a handy tip.
Taxes – From meals to merchandise to services, all goods and services available for purchase come with added taxes on the normal price. These taxes may vary in different places but they are recurrent and an integral part of all bills.
Phone – You would require a tri-band handset to ensure continued mobile coverage in this continent. If you plan to use the phone facilities provided by your hotel, remember every call will come with an additional service charge. International calling from a hotel room is a bad idea as it can prove to be awfully expensive. Cheaper communication options are phone cards and public phones.
Time Zones – There are three main time zones in this continent and it may take a while for you to get used to it. A time converter can come in handy.
Cards – While most credit cards, including MasterCard, Visa and American Express, are easily accepted, Diners Club users may need to keep other alternatives handy. Also, overseas bank cards are not likely to work for purchases from local retail stores. If you are armed with an Interac card, you should be able to withdraw cash in almost all locations from ATMs. However, if you plan to explore remote areas of the continent, such facilities may not be as readily available; hence, it may make sense to withdraw some money in advance during such escapes.