A Letter from America: What the US Government Shutdown Means

Dear Overseas Friends:

We are receiving inquiries from travelers about the U.S. government shutdown and what it means for their travel plans in the United States.   Here’s what you need to know.

The shutdown is the result of a disagreement within the U.S. Congress over government spending priorities.  To date, neither the Democratic Party-controlled Senate nor the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has budged from their positions.   Agreement must be reached before a new law to fund the government can be approved.  Until then, the U.S. government will remain largely shut down (except for essential services).

The impact on travelers is mixed.  Here’s what you can expect:

AIR TRAVEL – All airports are open and running normally.   Air traffic controllers and security screeners remain on the job.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL – Foreign applications for visas and U.S. applications for passports are being processed, and embassies and consulates overseas remain open.

MOST U.S. TOURIST ATTRACTIONS – Many are not affected at all.  The list of open attractions is lengthy and includes: the Freedom Trail in Boston, the Empire State Building in New York City, the Navy Pier in Chicago, Disney World in Orlando, Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, Venice Beach in Los Angeles, Pike Place Market in Seattle and SeaWorld in San Diego.   The best way to learn more is to check individual web sites of interest.

NATIONAL PARKS – All 59 national parks are closed.   For the latest, visit www.nps.gov.

OTHER GOVERNMENT PROPERTIES – Besides the national parks, the Federal Government operates other tourist sites that are closed.  In Washington, monuments along the National Mall are closed, as are the Smithsonian museums. Among the visitor centers that are closed: Alcatraz Island near San Francisco,  Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the Statue of Liberty in New York.

HOSTELS – All HI-USA hostels are open (since we are a nonprofit and not a government agency) except for three on federal lands: HI-San Francisco, Fisherman’s Wharf; HI-Sausalito, Marin Headlands; and HI-Point Reyes.  Reservations are being refunded. Our other San Francisco area hostels are open.  For availability, visit www.hiusa.org.

Washington DC is the epicenter of the political gridlock, and also where the impact on ordinary lives is most visible.   If you have the opportunity to visit, talk with local residents in coffee shops (if they are government workers, they’re on mandatory leave with no pay).   Or small business operators near the National Mall (they’re irritated because tourist sites are closed).  Read the Washington Post (the most complete daily source of political news).  Find your own opinion.

For the inquisitive traveler, Washington DC is a very good place to be right now.  And for those with more traditional tourist agendas, the rest of the United States is largely open for business.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *