An Australian Friend Had a Question:
If you guys know anyone or see a small van that might do the trick let us know!
Just wanted to pick your brain because you guys have travelled so much more than us. Is sleeping in a van in the states relatively safe? Any suggestions on how to transfer money from Australia to USA? We missed out on burning man tickets but are still trying.
USA Road Trip Advice
Well, I’m an expert on this. I’ve made my response to my friend public here so that someone else hoping to fly to the USA, buy a van and drive across the country (maybe even go to Burningman) has access to this information too.
Living out of a van in the USA
Living in a van in the USA is considerably more challenging than in Australia.
In Hawaii it’s nearly impossible and I would NOT suggest it. California is easier than Hawaii, but it’s a nightmare compared to Australia. The non-California western states (Nevada, Utah, Colorado, etc…) are perfectly fine.
You can always park in land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Those lands are public land so you are legal to park there any time. There are some rules against staying a long time, but you’re going to be moving around too much to worry about those rules. By the way, Nevada is like 85% BLM land so you could boondock for years there.
How to Trasfer Money From my Country to the USA
TransferWise.com is my favorite for transferring money from Oz to USA. I wrote about my experience in detail by clicking here.
Buying a Van – Living in it – Selling it
The USA is fine to live in a van. But the California coast isn’t as hospitable as the Gold Coast or other Aussie spots. The worst thing that will happen is the cops might knock on your door and tell you to keep driving.
The USA isn’t a dangerous place, we just have a really ridiculous news system that makes it seem like the sky is constantly falling.
If I were in your shoes, I would buy a van from a private party. In the USA, we use CraigsList.org.
Everyone uses in the USA. Los Angeles has killer deals on cars. New York and Miami are also great places to buy vehicles.
Use Specific Search on Craigslist.org
Craigslist is great for finding specific parameters for your purchase decision.
This search finds you a private party van between $1,000 USD and $6,000 USD which was produced before 1995 and has less than 90,000 miles on the odometer.
Don’t go CNG in the USA. Diesel and Gas should be your only options. CNG is natural gas. You’ll find those cars hard to sell and hard to fill up.
Also, CraigsList is full of sketchy folks. Be careful meeting someone sketch-ball in a non-public place with a hand-full of cash. Make sure to jump on the phone and get a good read on the person before heading out there. Also, their post will tell you a lot about who they are.
Great photos? Well-written description on the vehicle? Probably a good sign.
Two bad photos and the seller can’t spell well? Keep looking.
Cell Phones for Travelers in the USA
When you get to the USA and are looking for a cell phone, go with a PrePaid AT&T SIM card and use your unlocked smart phone.
AT&T has the best service when you’re driving across the middle of nowhere. T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint all offer prepaid plans, but they won’t work in the mountains or anywhere rural. If you’re staying in New York City and you want to spend an extra $5 a month, go with T-Mobile…. but that is silly.
I suggest AT&T prepaid for $45 a month. You only get 6 GB of data at fast speed, but you’ll just be throttled back after that and have slow internet after 6 GB per month. You’ll still have unlimited talk and text and the throttled speed is still good enough for emails.
That’s the best deal in the USA right now.
Make sure your cell phones are unlocked before leaving your home country too.
Want to Go To Burningman?
For years I bought my ticket in the last week before the Burn.
It’s possible that living in Reno made it easier. Reno is the biggest city near the event so we get almost everyone coming through town. I never had a problem finding a ticket as the event drew closer. Craigslist.org always paired me with someone. We talked on the phone, confirmed identity and expressed a commitment to meet and make the deal. It works all the time.
Man! I like talking about this stuff. Please let me know below if you have any questions and I’ll try my best to answer them.