Once you’ve arrived in the United States, you have many options for how you’re going to get to the Southern States. If you have plenty of time, buses and trains are your cheapest option. See the posts in the categories of bus, cruise, train and plane for specific information.
While it’s the most expensive option, sometimes if you’re short on time, it’s the best way to get around. If you’re flying in from overseas, you will likely be flying into Atlanta, since it is the international hub of the region. Delta and AirTran are both based in Atlanta. Southwest flies to Atlanta and Charleston and JetBlue has a hub in Charlotte.
Major airports include Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville , New Orleans, Charleston and Miami.
Delta: International airline with headquarters in Atlanta. Flies to all major Southern cities.
AirTran: Also based in Atlanta, AirTran flies throughout the Southeast and other domestic destinations.
Southwest: Budget airline who recently started services throughout the Southeast, including stops in Atlanta and Charleston with fares as cheap as $70.
JetBlue: Another budget domestic airline with hubs in Charlotte, Raleigh and New Orleans and “all you can fly” passes. Fares start at $60 each way.
US Airways: Based in Charlotte, this airline also has hubs in Philadelphia and offers cheap flights from overseas as well as regional fares.
Silver Airways: This smaller airline operates between the north, the south and the Caribbean, with hubs in Washington DC, Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale. It services smaller airports like Muscle Shoals, Tupelo and Pensacola.
Taking the bus is common in other countries but not as popular as it once was here in the United States. But if you don’t want the hassle of driving, not to mention the age restrictions for renting a car, taking the bus is the cheapest option. It’s a great way to see the scenery along the way. Greyhound is the original bus company in the United States and has stops all throughout the region. Megabus is new to the area, but is known throughout England, Canada and the US for cheap bus fares and on-board amenities.
Greyhound: This bus carrier makes stops in Atlanta, Birmingham, Charlotte, Nashville and other major cities. Express buses have free WiFi, extra legroom, power outlets and $1 fares.
Megabus: Budget bus carrier with new services from Atlanta to Athens, Birmingham, Chattanooga, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Knoxville, Memphis, Mobile, Montgomery, Nashville, New Orleans and Orlando . Services also run from Charlotte and Louisville. Prices start at $3 each way.
Red Coach: This company operates entirely in Florida, including stops in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Gainesville and Orlando, which offers more luxurious options in addition to its budget buses.
Southeastern Stages: As one of the region’s oldest bus operators, the company has stops in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Sprinter Bus, Vamoose, Tripper Bus and Peter Pan bus companies offer connections in Virginia and Washington DC to New York and the rest of the north.
Amtrak is the nation’s only train carrier, with services stopping in most Southern states with major stations in Atlanta, New Orleans, Memphis, and North Charleston. This option is more expensive, with fares averaging around $70 each way. Routes through the region include Auto Train (Washington DC to Orlando), Carolinian-Piedmont (New York to Charlotte via Raleigh), City of New Orleans (Chicago to New Orleans via Memphis), Crescent (New York to New Orleans via Atlanta), and Silver Service-Palmetto (New York to Tampa/Miami via Washington DC, Charleston, Savannah, Jacksonville and Orlando).
The age to rent a car in the United States is 26. Car rental counters are available at most major airports. Budget, Hertz, and Enterprise rent cars throughout the South.
I recommend starting in Atlanta, going south through Florida to New Orleans and then back through Memphis, Nashville and into South and North Carolina up the coast on 1-95. See the Road Trips category for more ideas.
I must first point out that hitchhiking is illegal in the United States and doing so your safety is at your own risk. But with that said, I have seen hitchhikers throughout the county. The Runaway Guide has great tips for first-time hitchhikers, if you decide that it’s something you want to do. But just to reiterate, this publication does not condone hitchhiking.