Delta (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta.com) and US Airways (tel. 800/428-4322; www.usairways.com) serve the largest number of North Carolina destinations from out of state, although not all flights are direct. American Airlines (tel. 800/433-7300; www.aa.com), Continental Airlines (tel. 800/523-3273; www.continental.com), JetBlue Airlines (tel. 800/JET-BLUE [538-2583]; www.jetblue.com), and United Airlines (tel. 800/241-6522; www.united.com) also have direct flights to many North Carolina cities. Raleigh-Durham International Airport (www.rdu.com) and Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, in Charlotte (www.charmeck.org) are the major hubs, offering connecting flights to most major U.S. destinations.
US Airways (tel. 800/428-4322; www.usairways.com) and Delta (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta.com) have several in-state connecting flights between cities such as Raleigh, Charlotte, Asheville, Wilmington, New Bern, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Jacksonville, and Fayetteville.
Overseas visitors can take advantage of the APEX (Advance Purchase Excursion) reductions offered by all major U.S. and European carriers. In addition, some large airlines offer transatlantic or transpacific passengers special discount tickets under the name Visit USA, which allows mostly one-way travel from one U.S. destination to another at very low prices. These discount tickets must be purchased abroad in conjunction with your international fare.
Immigration & Customs Clearance -- International visitors arriving by air, no matter what the port of entry, should cultivate patience and resignation before setting foot on U.S. soil. U.S. airports have considerably beefed up security clearances in the years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and clearing Customs and Immigration can take as long as 2 hours.
From Virginia and South Carolina, you can enter North Carolina on either I-95 or I-85. I-27 and I-77 also lead in from South Carolina. The main Tennessee entry is I-40. All major border points have helpful welcome centers, some with cookout facilities and playground equipment in a parklike setting.
Unless you plan to spend the bulk of your vacation in a city where walking is the best way to get around, the most cost-effective way to travel in North Carolina is by car.
Foreign driver's licenses are usually recognized in the U.S., but you should get an international one if your home license is not in English.
North Carolina has a law that requires all front-seat passengers to wear seat belts. The state also has a child-restraint law that requires children 3 years old and younger to be secured in a child safety seat. Children 3 to 16 years old must ride in a safety seat or use a car seat belt.
North Carolina's 76,000 miles of toll-free, well-maintained highways and some state roads have rest areas with picnic tables and outdoor cooking facilities. Write to Travel and Tourism NC (www.nccommerce.com), Department of Commerce, 301 N. Willmington St., Raleigh, NC 27601, for the Official North Carolina Highway Map and Guide to Points of Interest, which is also filled with tourist information.
Leading car-rental firms are at North Carolina's major cities and airports. They are: Avis (tel. 800/331-1212; www.avis.com), Budget (tel. 800/472-3325; www.budget.com), Hertz (tel. 800/654-3131; www.hertz.com), and Thrifty Car Rental (tel. 800/367-2277; www.thrifty.com).
North Carolina is on Amtrak's New York-Miami, New York-Tampa, and New York-Washington-New Orleans runs. Be sure to check for excursion fares or seasonal specials. For reservations and fare information, call tel. 800/USA-RAIL (872-7245) or go to www.amtrak.com.
International visitors can buy a USA Rail Pass, good for 5, 15, or 30 days of unlimited travel on Amtrak (tel. 800/USA-RAIL [872-7245]; www.amtrak.com). The pass is available online or through many overseas travel agents.
Bus travel is often the most economical form of public transit for short hops between U.S. cities, but it's certainly not an option for everyone (particularly when Amtrak, which is far more luxurious, offers similar rates). Greyhound (tel. 800/231-2222; www.greyhound.com) is the sole nationwide bus line. International visitors can obtain information about the Greyhound North American Discovery Pass. The pass can be obtained from foreign travel agents or through www.discoverypass.com for unlimited travel and stopovers in the U.S. and Canada.
Southeastern Stages (tel. 404/591-2750; www.southeasternstages.com) offers limited bus service linking cities in the Carolinas and Georgia, such as Fayetteville, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Augusta, Georgia; Columbia, South Carolina; and Charleston, South Carolina.
North Carolina has a system of car ferries that ply the coastal sounds and rivers; most are toll-free, but there is a fee for longer trips. Crossings can be made between Currituck and Knotts Island, Currituck and Corolla, Hatteras and Ocracoke, Ocracoke and Swan Quarter, Cedar Island and Ocracoke, Bayview and Aurora, Cherry Branch and Minnesott, and Southport and Fort Fisher. To obtain a ferry schedule, contact the North Carolina Department of Transportation Ferry Division at tel. 800/BY-FERRY (293-3779) or www.ncferry.org.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.