Ham radios are in the same range as CB radios, except that you need a license to operate one. They are used for emergency communication, fun, and radio competitions. This fun hobby helps people learn about radios and electronics, as well as learning a valuable skill and providing a tool in case of emergencies. There are a few types of radio licenses. The entry license only requires one to passing a 35 multiple choice exam. It grants you access to some of the radio frequencies. For more privileged, the general license is needed. To start out, buying a radio and listening to the different traffic without transmitting (which is illegal without a license) is a great way to get started. Then as one gets a license, one can move on to transmitting.
Things to buy:
Yaesu FT-817ND, Yaesu FT817ND – great starting radio
ARRL Operating Manual – good beginners book (read before taking the test)
ARRL Handbook, current edition – good reference mannual
ARRL Antenna book – another must have reference book