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Driving a Vehicle
If you choose to drive abroad, this is one time you want to make sure you stay on the “beaten path”; It is important to be aware of the rules of the road in the country you’re visiting.
First thing’s first. If you choose to drive while abroad, make sure you obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) before you go. Many countries don’t recognize foreign driver's licenses, but IDPs are honored in more than 150 countries. An IDP should only be used as a supplement to a valid license. IDPs are not valid in your home country and you must be 18 to get one.
Once you have your International Driving Permit, you’re going to need insurance. Car rental companies worldwide usually provide auto insurance, but in some countries, the required coverage is minimal. When renting a car overseas, it is highly recommended that you consider purchasing insurance coverage that is at least equivalent to that which you carry at home.
Your own auto insurance likely does not cover you abroad. However, your policy may apply when you drive to neighboring countries. Check with your insurer. Even if your policy is valid in one of these countries, it may not meet that country's minimum requirements.
Here are some quick tips to make your driving experience abroad, an easy ride:
Obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) before you go abroad.
Carry both your IDP, and your own driver's license, with you at all times, and know the country's rules before you get behind the wheel. Information may be available from the foreign embassy in the United States, foreign government tourism offices, or from a car rental company in the foreign country.
Always “buckle up” Some countries have penalties for people who violate this law.
Many countries require you to honk your horn before going around a sharp corner or to flash your lights before passing.
Before you start your journey, find out who has the right of way in a traffic circle.
If you rent a car, make sure you have liability insurance. If you do not, this could lead to financial disaster.
If the drivers in the country you are visiting drive on the opposite side of the road than in the U.S., it may be prudent to practice driving in a less populated area before attempting to drive in heavy traffic.
Always know the route you will be traveling. Have a copy of a good road map, and chart your course before beginning.
Do not pick up hitchhikers or strangers, and when entering exiting your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings.
Never drive under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants. Doing so can have severe criminal penalties in other countries.
Drunk driving is fined with imprisonment for 5 days and close to US$ 150 to free your confiscated car. Using a mobile phone is also fined with close to US $and hand-free devices are not allowed in any way. Road conditions however have improved over time and I think Rwanda has better roads than many African countries. It is as well safe to drive or walk in Kigaki. At least safest on all tarmac roads, except for neighborhood roads which are mostly cobblestone and earth roads.
Drinking and Drugs
When traveling overseas, it is important to obey the laws and regulations of the country you're visiting, especially those pertaining to drug and alcohol use. Every year, travelers are arrested abroad on drug charges or because of their behavior under the influence. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, so be informed.
Avoid underage and excessive alcohol consumption. Many arrests, accidents, rape, and other violent crimes have occurred because of alcohol abuse. While abroad, driving under the influence and drinking on the street or on public transportation may be considered criminal activities by local authorities, as they would be in many places in the world.
Make sure your prescription medication is not considered an illegal narcotic. If you are going abroad with a preexisting medical condition, you should carry a letter from your doctor describing your condition and medications, including the generic names of prescribed drugs. Any medications carried overseas should be in their original containers and clearly labeled. Check with the foreign country's embassy to make sure your medications are not considered illegal narcotics.
Don't accept packages from anyone. Some people think it's a good idea to take advantage of an offer for an all-expense paid vacation abroad in exchange for carrying a small package in their luggage. If you are caught, ignorance is no excuse. If the package contains illegal drugs or substances, the fact that you didn't know will not reduce the charges. You could miss your flight, your exams, or several years of your life during a stay behind bars.
Don't import, purchase, use, or have drugs in your possession. Drug charges can carry severe consequences, including imprisonment without bail for up to a year before a case is tried, physical abuse, and sentences ranging from fines and jail time to years of hard labor. Some crimes even carry the penalty of death. Contraband or paraphernalia associated with illegal drug use can also get you in trouble.
Earthquakes, hurricanes, political upheavals, and acts of terrorism are only some of the events threatening the safety of travelers abroad. Each event is unique and poses its own special difficulties.
Millions travel abroad every year and encounter no difficulties. Embassies and consulates assist travelers each year who are victims of crime, accident or illness, or whose family and friends need to contact them in an emergency. When an emergency happens, or if a natural disaster, terrorism, or civil unrest strikes during your foreign travel, the nearest, embassy or consulate can be your source of assistance and information.
While in a foreign country, a citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in other countries for similar offenses. Persons violating the law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, fined, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs may be strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines. If arrested abroad, a citizen must go through the foreign legal process of being charged or indicted, prosecuted, possibly convicted and sentenced, as well as any appeals process. Within this framework, U.S. consular officers provide a wide variety of services to U.S. citizens arrested abroad and their families.
Consular Services: Consular officers abroad provide a wide variety of services to U.S. citizens incarcerated abroad. Specific services vary depending on local laws and regulations, the level of local services available in the country in question, and the circumstances of the individual prisoner. The frequency of U.S. consular visits to citizens arrested abroad may likewise vary, depending upon circumstances.
Consular services may include:
Upon initial notification of arrest: visiting the prisoner as soon as possible after notification of the arrest; providing a list of local attorneys to assist the prisoner in obtaining legal representation; providing information about judicial procedures in the foreign country; notifying family and/or friends, if authorized by the prisoner; obtaining a Privacy Act Consent; relaying requests to family and friends for money or other aid.
On-going support to incarcerated Americans: providing regular consular visits to the prisoner and reporting on those visits to the Department of State; providing loans to qualified destitute prisoners through the Emergency Medical/Dietary Assistance (EMDA) program; arranging dietary supplements (vitamins/minerals) to qualified prisoners;
arranging for medical and dental care if not provided by prison, to be paid for from prisoner's funds, funds provided by family or funds loaned to the prisoner by the U.S. Government under the EMDA program for destitute Americans incarcerated abroad under the conditions specified at 22 CFR 71.10.; arranging for examinations by an independent physician if needed; arranging special family visits, subject to local law;
protesting mistreatment or abuse to the appropriate authorities; attending the trial, if the embassy/consulate believes that discrimination on the basis of U.S. nationality might occur or if specifically requested by the prisoner or family, if possible;
providing information about procedures to applications for pardons or prisoner transfer treaties, if applicable.
Discretionary support provided as needed: providing reading materials subject to local laws and regulations; arranging with American community to provide holiday meals;
providing personal amenities such as stamps, toiletries, stationary, if permitted by prison authorities, from prisoner's or family's private funds; assisting in finding ways to expedite prisoners' mail; inquiring about the possibility of prison employment;
assisting in arranging correspondence courses; arranging for American community volunteer visits to prisoners.
A consular officer cannot: demand the immediate release of a U.S. citizen arrested abroad or otherwise cause the citizen to be released; represent a U.S. citizen at trial, give legal advice, or pay legal fees and/or fines with U.S. Government funds.
Traveling with Disabilities
Traveling through foreign lands gives you a unique opportunity to observe a rich variety of cultures and customs. This is true for those living with or without a disability. Living with a disability in no way prevents you from experiencing international
With advanced planning and plenty of vigilance, your trip abroad can be safe and enjoyable.
Before You Go:
Check with you doctor to make sure it is okay for you to travel.
If you are considering Study Abroad programs, research which can best accommodate any special needs you may have. Your study abroad office can direct you to many programs that set aside extra funds to make reasonable accommodations such as: personal care assistants, foreign sign language interpreters, oxygen providers, etc.
Thoroughly research your location(s) and its accessibility—wheel-chair ramps can be narrower, hotel bathrooms may not have safety bars, and crossing lights may not have a sound indicator. Accessibility laws vary from country to country, so it’s better to be prepared for what you may encounter before you go.
Obtain a letter from your doctor on letterhead, explaining your need for any medical devices and medications. If possible, have this letter translated into the language used in the locations you will be visiting.
Bring sufficient medications with you and be sure to pack extra quantities in your carry-on bag, just in case your checked luggage gets lost. Remember to keep it in its original container and clearly labeled. Check with the country’s local embassy to ensure it is legal for you to bring your medication into the country. Visit www.tsa.gov for current medication screening procedures.
Make sure you have adequate medical insurance. Be prepared for the unexpected. Are you covered under your parents' policy or through your school? Now is a good time to find out if your current coverage covers you overseas. Consider supplemental insurance to fill in any gaps your current provider misses. And be sure to read the fine print about pre-existing conditions. For more medical information, click here.
If you’re planning to travel to another country with your service animal, start the necessary documentation early. The amount of paperwork involved in bringing an animal into some countries can be voluminous and processing can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year to process! Be sure to contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the country you will be visiting to find out their specific requirements (some countries may require the implantation of an identifying microchip into your service animal). Ask your doctor to write a letter explaining your need for a service animal and ask your veterinarian to provide health and rabies certificates and to document the animal’s vaccinations are all up-to-date. Also, research how to obtain medical care for your animal abroad.
If you already use the services of a personal assistant, chances are, you will want similar services overseas. Make arrangements with your study abroad program to arrange for the services of an assistant or to find out how your current assistant can be accommodated. Apart from program tuition, funds need to be set aside for your assistant’s transportation, lodging, and day-to-day expenses.
Since many countries use 220-volt electricity (as opposed to 110 required by most U.S. appliances), you may need to purchase a transformer; to be able to use your medical devices or equipment. Check with your manufacturer to find out what will work best for your devices.
Ask your study abroad program officials whom to contact in case of a medical emergency, and create a list of the names and numbers of nearby medical facilities.
Join disability organizations and support groups located at your destination to create a support system to help you with the transition of living in another country. The Mobility International website is a good place to start!
Learn how to say and/or write simple phrases in the language spoken at your destination explaining your disability and how to ask for or reject help. (Example: “Thank you. Can you help me cross the street?”)
Before you book your flights, contact the airline early to confirm that your medical equipment (ventilator, wheelchair, etc.) meets the airline’s regulations and obtain copies of the airline’s policies on the rights of passengers with disabilities. Ask plenty of questions such as, “Will I be required to purchase a second seat for my medical equipment” and “Is the airplane bathroom wheelchair accessible?”
Do you require oxygen service? Currently, passengers are not allowed to bring their own oxygen canisters aboard for use during flights, and legally, airlines are not required to provide oxygen service. Find out in advance about your airline’s procedures for allowing oxygen suppliers to meet you at the arrival gate.
Whether you require a wheelchair or a sight-guide, you can request assistance at your airline’s check-in to help you maneuver through the airport and to make your travel experience easier.
Know your rights when going through airport security screening both here and abroad. For example, the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) limit of one carry-on bag and one personal bag does not apply to medical supplies and devices for assistance. Review the current TSA policies as they relate to disabilities.
If you must undergo a personal search during airport screening, and you need privacy, you can request for the screening to be conducted in a private area of the security checkpoint. Feel free to request a disposable paper drape for additional privacy or if you want the Security Officer to change their gloves.
It is a good idea to carry a Pacemaker Identification Card (ID) when going through airport security. Do NOT walk through the metal detector or be hand-wanded. Show the Security Officer your pacemaker ID ahead of time and request a pat-down inspection.
Normally, oxygen sources are temporarily disconnected during security screening. If you are not medically cleared to be disconnected or if you have concerns, ask the Security Officer for an alternate inspection process so you can remain connected.
Allow at least 90 minutes between connecting flights to make sure you have enough time to transfer between gates. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask airline or airport personnel. Be assertive and specific!
While You're There:
Each day, be sure to pack everything you’ll need while you’re away from your lodging for the day. Be sure to bring back-up supplies in case of emergencies.
On a periodic basis, reach out to your support group of friends, family, faculty, officials, and locals to help ease any culture shock or homesickness you may experience.
If you take medication or use other supplies, keep up with your schedule, and take inventory often to make sure you’re not running low. A vacation or study abroad is a great opportunity to try new things, but this is not the time to experiment with not taking your medications or mixing alcohol with medicine.