In the USA, compared to Europe, public transport is very poorly developed even in large cities, with a few exceptions, such as New York, San Francisco and Washington (the capital). Therefore, in the United States, it is very difficult to do without cars. Almost everywhere in order to get a job, to school, even to the supermarket, you will need a car.

Remember: Even if you are a passenger and not a driver in a car, you must wear a seat belt – in both the front and the back seat.

Public transportation

Public transportation is offered in most big cities and is often the cheapest way to get around, especially if you are disabled or elderly. Often, public transport is more available in bigger cities and comes in the form of buses, and subway or metro. 

Every city or area has its own public transportation agency, and therefore its own public transportation transit card, system, and rates. However, most cities will have special discount rates for the elderly, disabled, students, and children.

Google Maps is a great resource that describes routes for walking, buses, and subways/metros schedules.

You can also use a dedicated transit app for public transportation, such as or your local transportation authority’s app.​

Always check the schedule before riding the subway. While in some areas (such as New York, Chicago and Boston) transportation run every few minutes, in many metro areas the bus or subway will come only once or twice an hour. Also be aware that many routes do not run 24 hours a day – check the schedule to see when the first and last departures are each day.


Buses are a cheap option for getting around, but are not fast and are often crowded. Weekly, Monthly, or by trip passes can be purchased. The best way to find out more about bus passes is to google your cities name and “bus pass information.”

  • Most Bus systems are set up with a route name and number. These will stay on the same route every day. Should you need help, there may be information centers. Depending on your city, the Bus Information Center may have physical maps and bus schedules that you can get for free. Search in Google “<city name> bus information center”to find the bus information center near you. Scheduled times can also be found on Google Maps when searching for a destination. There may be differing hours on weekend and weekdays, and major holidays. It is important that you practice your routes before going to school or work so that you can recognize stops and routes.
  • When you get on the bus, you will have to pay the fee upfront, or scan your ticket or transit pass. Cash payment is the most common on buses so make sure you have quarters and $1 or $5 bills with you when you ride the bus.​
  • When getting off the bus, you will often exit to the back or sides. There will be pull chords or buttons to signal to the bus driver that you want to get off at the approaching stop. The bus will not stop unless you signal.
  • Read your local transit authority’s website to see if bicycles are allowed on the bus – this can be a great way to get to the bus station or between stops. Many buses are equipped with bicycle racks in the front or back which allow you to take your bike onto the bus.

Subway/ Metro/ Lightrail

Some major cities in the United States have a subway system, a light rail system, or both. Please research your specific city’s metro line by googling it before your first journey. There are aspects that are the same for every subway:

  •  Locate the ticket booths or stations to purchase a ticket or pass before you get on the subway. If you need assistance, there are usually workers around to help.
  • There will be maps to show the set routes and stations. These do not change but you will need to read the maps to get familiar with the routes and do your best to know what line you are getting on.
  • If you are planning to change lines, check the map for lines beforehand and if there are workers around, ask to make sure you have the right lines.
  • There can also be platforms on different sides of the subway, to avoid confusion when changing trains, know what direction you are going and what platform to get on or off at.
  • While in most metro areas the subway train will stop at every stop, in some transit system you need to request your stop just like in a bus. Look for a pull chord or button to signal your stop. The train might not stop if you do not indicate a stop is requested.
  • Read your local transit authority’s website to see if bicycles are allowed on the subway, and during what hours – this can be a great way to get to the bus station or between stops. Some subways will have dedicated bicycle cars where riders can store their bike for transit, while others allow bikes only outside of rush hour.


In some metro areas, there are trains connecting large cities. The most common of these is Amtrak ( which connects many major cities, but local areas may have their own train line as well. For example, the California Bay Area has CalTrain, which runs between San Jose and Oakland.

On Amtrak, train tickets can be reserved in advance to travel between major cities, or a ticket can be purchased at the train station at a ticket booth or kiosk. Trains will always stop at every stop. A conductor will pass through the train to check your ticket during the journey. Note that traveling without a ticket will result in being evicted from the train as well as being issued a fine.

Trains often run only once or twice an hour, if not less frequently, so make sure to check the train schedule before getting to the station.


Other forms of public transportation in cities include taxis and ride shares, that are often more expensive than buses and metros. They also have a chance of getting in traffic.

Generally, buying bus or metro trips in bulk will save you money in the long run than buying every time you get on, especially if you take the transportation every day for work or school. Many metros also have a single transit card that works on all forms of transportation in the cities – including buses, subways, trains, etc. This allows you to transfer easily to another mode of transportation without purchasing a separate ticket.


Discounts on public transportation are often available for the elderly (65+), disabled, students and children. Check with your local transit authority about how to claim these discounts if they apply to you. Low costs or free transit passes are also available for students enrolled in a community college or university. If you arrived under Uniting for Ukraine, you may also be eligible for free transportation passes through your local resettlement agency as one of your refugee benefits.

Driving in the United States

There are many important aspects to driving in the United States. An organization called USA Hello has translated all these very important aspects into Ukrainian. Please see the link below for translated information on how to get a driver’s permit and license, what to look for when you buy a car, and translated driver’s manuals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I drive without insurance in California?

By law in California you are required to have auto insurance. At a minimum you will be fined between $100 and $250 plus penalty assessments. The court could also decide to impound your vehicle, plus you could owe attorney fees and other costs.

Can you drive in California without insurance with an international driver’s license?

Even drivers with an international license or no license still must abide by the financial responsibility (insurance) requirements while driving in the state and must register their vehicle in California. 

Does car insurance in California follow the car or driver?

Insurance typically follows the car; however, not all cases are the same. So, if you’re planning to borrow a car from a family member or friend, or one from someone else, remember that it’s wise to get your own insurance policy first.

California requires drivers to carry at least the following auto insurance coverages:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage: $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident minimum.
  • Property damage liability coverage: $5,000 minimum.
  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage¹: $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident minimum. 

Full coverage in California also includes optional collision and comprehensive insurance. As a result, full coverage insurance costs an average of $1,780 per year in California, while a state minimum policy costs $636.

Teen drivers (ages 16 – 19) pay the highest premiums. For example, 16-year-old drivers in California typically increase their parents’ premium by $3,744 per year.

The most expensive auto insurance is for 16 to 21 years old. Policy premiums slightly decrease for 21-25 years old, and standard rates apply for 25 to 65 years old.