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You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, and health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.
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 a 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 and 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.
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.
Evacuations and Natural Disasters
You may need to leave the country prior to your scheduled departure because of political upheaval or a natural disaster. Unfortunately, these conditions often cause disruptions in commercial transportation. If this happens, and it appears unsafe to remain, your embassy and consulates may be able to assist.
Sometimes even Mother Nature can wreak havoc on the best-made plans and your trip may be cut short. You’ve probably seen news reports of hurricanes, tsunamis, or volcanic eruptions creating turmoil throughout the world. If a natural disaster occurs, and it’s unsafe to remain in-country, your embassy and consulates may work to locate and assist travelers.
If one becomes seriously ill or injured abroad, a local embassy or consular officer may be able to assist in locating medical services and informing family or friends. If necessary, a consular officer may also assist in the transfer of funds. (Note, however, that payment of hospital and all expenses are the responsibility of the traveler.)
Paying a little now can save you a LOT later. Obtaining medical treatment and hospital care abroad can be expensive, and medical evacuation can cost more than $50,000. Medical insurance is generally not accepted outside the United States. Social Security Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs in one's country.
Check your insurance policy. If it does not cover you abroad, it is a good idea to consider purchasing a short-term policy that does. There are health insurance policies designed specifically to cover travel. Many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including medical evacuations.
Very few health insurance companies cover a medical evacuation back to one's country. You may need to obtain insurance to cover a medical evacuation.
Your Embassy and Consulates may maintain lists of physicians and medical facilities in case you need medical care.
When traveling far from home, protect yourself and your stuff. You've packed your MP3 player, new clothes, and even extra socks, but believe it or not, those aren't the most important things that should be on your list. Did you pack INSURANCE?
Visiting the doctor's office while you're abroad is probably not in your plans, but what if you get sick? Or hurt? Did you know that a medical evacuation back to the U.S. could cost $50,000 or more if you aren't insured?
Find out if you are covered for a medical emergency overseas BEFORE you leave. Many foreign doctors and hospitals do not accept American insurance policies and may require full cash payment in advance of your treatment. Your existing medical insurance company may require you to call back to an office in the U.S. for advance approval of any treatments or expenditures. Your policy may also set a dollar limit above which you'll have to pay. Read the fine print. You might need to purchase additional coverage.
Before You Leave:
Check your current health insurance policy. Are you covered under your parents' policy or through your school? Does it protect you outside of the U.S.?
If your plan does not cover you fully overseas, purchase a short-term international insurance policy. Many travel agents and private companies offer plans that will cover health care expenses overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
You've been looking forward to your time abroad for a long time. Imagine the exciting cultures! And all the new people! Now, imagine your horror when you learn your trip has been canceled due to severe weather. Or, what if your new set of luggage—with all your clothes—gets lost along the way? A number of unexpected things could put a damper on your travels.
Safeguard your trip and your belongings with travel insurance! This kind of policy can provide protection if:
You get sick
You are involved in a car accident
Severe weather or a natural disaster causes travel cancellations
Other provisions of travel insurance usually include lost baggage coverage, missed flight connections, and cancellation charges imposed by airlines. You have invested a lot of time and money into this once-in-a-lifetime experience—don't leave anything to chance!
Several private organizations will provide medical information and insurance for overseas travelers. Most charge a fee for this service. The list of service providers is FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY and in no way constitutes an endorsement, expressed or implied, by the Department of State.
In addition, for basic insurance to cover sickness, accidents, and other emergencies while traveling outside the United States students and teachers can purchase international student or teacher identity cards. There are additional benefits to having a student card, including discounts on admissions, transportation, and accommodations. You can find more information about student identity cards online.
Obey the local laws of the country you’re visiting. An arrest or accident during a trip abroad can result in a difficult legal — and expensive — situation. Your citizenship does not make you exempt from full prosecution under another country's criminal justice system, and your government cannot bail you out. Many countries impose harsh penalties for violations with may be deemed minor in other countries, and you may be considered guilty until proven innocent. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, so be informed.
Keep track of the credit limits on your credit cards. Not only does this make good financial sense, but also good legal sense. People have been arrested for innocently exceeding their credit limit abroad. Ask your credit card company how to report the loss of your card from abroad. Keep in mind, that 1-800 numbers do not work from abroad, but your company should have a number that you can call while you are overseas.
Take plenty of pictures, but only if you know it’s okay. In many countries, you can be detained for photographing security-related institutions, such as police and military installations, government buildings, border areas, and transportation facilities. If you are in doubt, ask permission before taking photographs.
Make smart purchases. Travelers have been arrested for purchasing souvenirs that were, or looked like, antiques and which local customs authorities believed were national treasures. This is especially true in Turkey, Egypt, and Mexico. Familiarize yourself with any local regulations on antiques. In countries with strict control of antiques, document your purchases as reproductions if that is the case.
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. However, 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 penalties, including imprisonment without bail for up to a year before a case is even tried. A conviction carries several more years of imprisonment in a foreign jail. In some countries it doesn't matter if you're underage either; you can still be charged as an adult.
Do not carry weapons. Even a pocketknife can result in a serious weapons charge while on foreign soil - even if the knife is found during a search or arrest for an unrelated offense. Visitors driving across borders should ensure that their vehicles contain no firearms, ammunition, or weapons – people have been imprisoned after one single bullet was found rolling around in the trunk.
Avoid participating in demonstrations and other political activities. Political activities in other countries can result in detention and/or deportation by officials. Even demonstrations that are intended to be peaceful can sometimes turn violent, and you don't want to be caught in the middle.
If you find yourself in a legal jam, contact the closest embassy or consulate for assistance. Keep in mind that consular employees cannot arrange for local officials to release detained citizens.
Uninsured travelers who encounter medical emergencies overseas often face extreme difficulties. Most medical insurance plans do not include coverage outside one's country. Getting medical treatment and hospital care abroad can be very expensive, and, if you need it, a medical evacuation back to your country can cost more than $50,000!
Your local embassy may assist in locating appropriate medical services, informing family or friends, and may even assist in the transfer of funds from back home. But ultimately, payment of hospital and other expenses is entirely your responsibility.
Check the terms of your health insurance policy, whether it’s your own, under your parents' policy, or through your school. If you are not covered while out of the country, you may need to purchase additional coverage. Many travel agents and private companies offer plans that will cover health care expenses overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
Here are some essential packing tips from the obvious, to the not-so-obvious.
Before you start daydreaming about all the great outfits you're going to pack for your trip, here are some things you should actually leave behind:
Anything you would kick yourself for losing; that expensive watch, the Tiffany's locket your dad bought you for your birthday, unnecessary credit cards, wads of cash, your Social Security card, and any other valuables.
Copies of your travel documents. Leave a copy of your passport identification page, airline tickets, driver's license, the credit cards you're taking, serial numbers of your travelers' checks, insurance information, as well as the addresses and phone numbers of the places you'll be. Having copies of these documents at home will allow your family or friends to contact you or help you in case of an emergency. (Carry additional copies of these documents with you on your trip, separate from the originals.)
Anything that would be considered a weapon. Even a pocketknife can result in a serious weapons charge while on foreign soil – even if the knife is found during a search or arrest for an unrelated offense.
Toiletries and amenities that may already be available at your hotel. We know you only use your favorite brand of Vanilla Chai scented lotion, shower gel, and shampoo, but if you are only traveling for a short time, find out if your hotel will provide in-room amenities like a hairdryer, towels, an iron, soap, shampoo, etc. You’ll have less to carry around, plus room for any presents that you bring home!
Handbags and fanny packs. (Yes, there are still people who wear fanny packs.) Wearing a big purse or a fanny pack is like wearing a neon sign that says, "Rob me!" Your passport, cash, and credit cards are most secure when locked in a hotel safe. When you have to carry them on you, inside pockets and a sturdy shoulder bag with the strap worn across your chest are somewhat safer. Another safe place to keep valuables is in a pouch or money belt worn under your clothing.
Now that we’ve talked about what you shouldn't bring overseas, here's what you should bring:
Many other countries use 220-volt electricity while U.S. appliances use 110-volt electricity. If you plan on bringing electric gadgets like a hairdryer, electric razor, or even a laptop, keep in mind that you will need to purchase a "converter" or a "transformer" to be able to use your appliances. Plug prongs can also be different abroad, so you may need a "plug adapter" as well.
Pack an extra outfit in your carry-on just in case your luggage is lost, or if you are separated from your travel gear.
Do you have a prescription for a medication you literally cannot live without? Make sure to bring a backup supply in case you are delayed during your trip. Keep it on you when you travel in case you and your luggage get separated. All prescriptions should be clearly marked in their original containers. In fact, you should contact the embassy of the country you are visiting to get a list of drugs that are considered illegal narcotics – just to make sure your medication is not included. Get a letter from your doctor listing your medications and explaining why you need them. Also, carry instructions for treating any allergies or other unique medical conditions you might have.
Pack appropriate clothes. Find out what the weather conditions are for your destination, and pack accordingly. We wouldn’t want you in your hat, scarf, and gloves at the height of your destination's summer season. Remember that just because it's one season here, doesn't mean it's the same elsewhere. Also, know the local dress code, especially for holy places. Whether it's a mosque in Dubai, a cathedral in Vatican City, or a temple in Tel Aviv, you may want to avoid bare shoulders and shorts, and you may be required to cover your hair.
Don't forget the little things. It may be a good idea to bring a small first-aid kit, sunscreen, and a mild pain reliever. You never know when these things may come in handy.
Make sure your luggage is labeled with your name, address, and telephone numbers inside and outside of each piece of luggage. Use covered luggage tags to avoid becoming a target, and if possible, lock your luggage. Check the Transportation Security Agency homepage for guidelines regarding locked luggage and other current airline travel regulations.
If you decide to take a pet abroad, you should check with the embassies of your destination regarding specific requirements that must be met before a pet may enter the country. Many countries have strict health, quarantine, agriculture, wildlife, and customs requirements and prohibitions.
Bring an international calling card to make phone calls. It is a convenient and inexpensive way of keeping in touch. You can even purchase one before you depart and then call your loved ones to let them know that you arrived safely!
Passport and any necessary visas
Currency; and traveler’s checks (preferably worn under your clothing in a pouch or money belt)
Copies of important documents and emergency contact information
Credit and debit cards
State driver’s license
International Driving Permit (if driving abroad)
International calling card
A completed Students Abroad wallet card
Prescription medication in original container, backup supply, and letter from doctor
Instructions for treating any allergies or unique medical conditions
Undeveloped film and/or disposable camera(s) (If you are concerned that your undeveloped film may be damaged by an x-ray machine, you can request TSA screeners to manually check your film.)
Laptop and other small electronic devices
Cell phone and charger (if using one)
Extra change of clothing and undergarments
Washcloth and a small bar of soap
Books and/or magazines
Extra copies of important documents and emergency contact information
Seasonally and culturally appropriate clothing, undergarments, bathing suit, shoes, and accessories
First aid kit*
Eyeglass repair kit*
Electric or manual razor for shaving*
Over-the-counter pain reliever
Eyeglasses and/or contact lenses
Extra laptop battery, disks, and/or flash drive
Extra sweater and scarf to cover arms and hair for certain holy sites
Travel alarm clock
Small purse or pouch
Converter or transformer for 110-volt electrical devices
*May get confiscated if placed
A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies your identity and nationality. A valid passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries, as well as to return to the United States.
Give yourself several months before your planned trip to apply for a passport; during peak application season it can take up to 10 weeks to receive the final document in the mail. Take into account the time of year you are applying – demand for passports goes up during the spring and summer.
You can request the expedited service (to get the passport to you in about three weeks) when you apply in person, for an additional fee per application. If you are traveling within the next two weeks and really need your passport quickly, you’ll have to go to the closest regional passport agency to apply.
Lost or Stolen Passports:
If your passport is lost or stolen while you are abroad, contact or visit the local embassy or consulate immediately and report the loss/theft. The consular officer there may have you fill out an affidavit or a sworn statement to state the circumstances under which you lost the passport or under which it was stolen.
Remember, embassy officials are there to help you. Telling the truth is always your best course of action – you don’t want to have any difficulties getting a new passport to get home.
Your identity and citizenship will need to be confirmed by the officer through a personal interview. The officer will then have you complete an application for a replacement passport to get you home safely.
Usual application fees do apply if you have to replace your passport. However, if your money has also been stolen, we can help you contact friends or family to replenish your funds.
Persons traveling to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. If you are traveling by land or sea to the above-mentioned countries, a passport card is sufficient. All other travel, including air travel, requires a passport book.
While you’re abroad is not the time to suddenly realize you ran out of your prescription!
If you have a condition that requires regular medication, bring an extra quantity with you and pack it in your carry-on, just in case your checked luggage gets lost. Just remember to keep it in its original container and clearly labeled — you don’t want to create the impression you’re carrying drugs that haven’t been prescribed to you. In fact, you should check with the local embassy to make sure that your medication is acceptable to carry into the country. Some countries may consider your prescription medication to be illegal. Bring a letter from your doctor listing your medications and explaining why you need them. Doing your research and having a letter can help prevent any misunderstandings along the way.
Bring extras of any medical necessities you need, like contact lenses or glasses. You might want to pack a pair in both your carry-on bag and your checked luggage, just to be safe.
If you have allergies to certain medications, foods, insect bites, or other unique medical problems, consider wearing one of those “medical alert” bracelets and carry a letter from your doctor explaining the required treatment if you become ill. It might not be the coolest piece of jewelry you wear, but it could save your life.
Keep the following road safety and security factors in mind when preparing for a foreign trip, depending on your specific destination:
Potential Hazards and Dangerous Road Conditions:
Seasonal driving hazards
Driving at night
Driving in isolated areas
Livestock or obstacles in the road
Road markings and signs
Stoplights and traffic signals
Local roads you should avoid
Carry spare tires
Carry extra fuel
Check the availability of roadside assistance
Check which documents are required for operating a vehicle.
Consider Local Laws and Driving Culture:
Flashing your lights when passing
Yielding to pedestrians
Yielding to cyclists
Unlicensed or inexperienced drivers
Prohibition of mobile phone usage
Drinking and Driving
Emergency Response (ambulances)
Local emergency service numbers (local 911 equivalent)
Possible police corruption
Vehicle Safety Considerations:
Availability of seat belts for each passenger
Required safety inspections
Avoid underage and excessive alcohol consumption
"Overdoing it," leads to the majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes, rapes, and deaths suffered by American students on spring break.
Disturbing the peace, lewd behavior, littering, driving under the influence, and drinking on the street or on public transportation may all be considered criminal activities by local authorities — is it worth it?
Don't import, purchase, use, or have drugs in your possession
It just makes good sense. Drug charges can carry severe penalties, including imprisonment without bail for up to a year before a case is even tried. A conviction carries several more years of imprisonment in a foreign jail. In some countries it doesn't matter if you're underage either; you can still be charged as an adult.
Obey the local laws
An arrest or accident during spring break can result in a difficult legal situation. Your citizenship does not make you exempt from full prosecution under another country's criminal justice system. Many countries impose harsh penalties for violations that would be considered minor in another country. If you find yourself in a legal jam, contact the closest consulate, consular agency, or your embassy for assistance. Keep in mind, that consular employees cannot arrange for local officials to release detained American citizens.
Take warning flags on beaches seriously
This seems like a no-brainer, but many drownings occur when swimmers are overwhelmed by the water conditions. If black or red flags are up, do not enter the water. Strong undertow and rough surf along beaches are more common than you may think, especially on the Pacific coast. If you swim, always exercise caution.
Only use licensed and regulated taxis
Some illegitimate taxi drivers are sometimes, in fact, criminals in search of victims. Some passengers of unlicensed taxis have been robbed, kidnapped, and/or raped. When in doubt, ask the hotel, club, or restaurant staff to summon a legitimate taxi for you.
Do not carry weapons
A pocketknife can result in a serious weapons charge while on foreign soil - even if the knife is found while being arrested for a separate offense. Visitors driving across the border to Mexico should ensure that their vehicles contain no firearms or ammunition.
Avoid participating in demonstrations and other political activities
Political activities in other countries can result in detention and/or deportation by officials. Even demonstrations that are intended to be peaceful can sometimes turn violent, and you don't want to be caught in the middle.
Be aware of your surroundings and take general precautions. Remember that standards of safety and supervision (i.e. for swimming pools or hotel balconies) may not reach the standards you expect. This difference has contributed to the deaths of citizens overseas. It’s scary but true. Also, don't take your valuables with you on your trip—leave them at home in your sock drawer.
If you find yourself in a legal jam, contact the closest embassy or consulate for assistance.
Keep in mind, that consular employees cannot arrange for local officials to release detained citizens.
Traveling or studying overseas is not a cure for health conditions such as depression or attention deficit disorder. Sometimes going abroad may in fact amplify a condition. One may not have adequate access to prescription medication or mental health facilities. In addition, culture shock, language barriers, and homesickness can deepen isolation or depression.
Before traveling, create a workable plan for managing your mental health while abroad. The availability and quality of mental health services differ widely from country to country. In many countries, one will find it difficult — and sometimes impossible — to find treatment for mental health conditions. With your health services provider or your school, put together a workable mental health plan before you go overseas.
If you have a medical or psychological condition that may require treatment while you are abroad, discuss this ahead of time with your doctor. 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 medicine or mixing alcohol with medicine.
Research the social culture of your destination to learn about how mental illnesses are viewed. Attitudes toward mental health can greatly vary between countries.
If you are studying abroad through your university, talk to your university about access to mental health services at overseas programs. Your study abroad office can help you decide what program would be best for you.
If currently receiving mental health services — including prescription medication — find out if those services and/or medication are available at your destination.
Consider the support system you’ll have in place while abroad. If possible, know ahead of time who you can consult about your mental health.
Checking out other countries doesn’t mean ignoring the health habits you practice at home. In fact, you’ll need to pay even closer attention to what you are doing, eating, drinking, or even just walking down the street.
Eat, Drink and be Wary
Thinking about sampling the native cuisine? Of course you are! Enjoying local delicacies is part of the wonderful experience of overseas travel, but eating the wrong things could make you very sick. Many countries don’t have the same food handling and preparation standards found in the United States. Food that is not stored or cooked properly could make you sick. Do your research on which local foods and drinks to avoid.
Stay away from raw foods.
Choose your local restaurants carefully. If it looks dirty in the dining room, it could be worse in the kitchen.
Local water supplies could also be a breeding ground for bacteria. Always use bottled water (even to brush your teeth), and beware of fake bottled water – tap water is sold as bottled. Be aware that ice may also be made from local tap water.
Practicing healthy habits, like washing your hands regularly, will help ensure that you stay healthy and enjoy your entire trip.
While you are keeping your eye on what you are drinking, make sure you keep an eye on who’s pouring it as well. Without sounding too scary, there’s the possibility of being served something you didn’t order. A number of illegal drugs can be slipped into your drink. These drugs can make you sleepy, unaware, or even unconscious. Remain aware of your drinks and:
Don't drink anything you did not open yourself or that you didn't see being opened or poured by a bartender.
Always watch your drink at parties and bars and get a new one if you leave it unattended for a while.
How important is it to do your research about vaccinations? It might just save your life! Make yourself aware of the different types of vaccinations and which ones you may need to travel to your destination. Schedule an appointment with your doctor at least four to six weeks before you travel to ensure you receive all important shots.
Be sure that you and your family are up to date on your routine vaccinations.
Which vaccinations you need will depend on a number of factors including your destination, whether you will be spending time in rural areas, the season of the year you are traveling, your age, health status, and previous immunizations.
Victims of Crime
Contact Local Police and your nearest Embassy if you become a victim of a crime overseas, contact local police to report the incident, and obtain immediate help. Also, contact the nearest embassy, consulate, or consular agency for assistance. Remember to request a copy of the police report.
Consular duty personnel are generally available for emergency assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at embassies, consulates, and consular agencies overseas.
If you need to contact the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in the U.S. or Canada, call 1-888-407-4747, or from overseas call 202-501-4444.
Consular personnel know the local government agencies and resources in the country. They can help you:
Replace a stolen passport
Contact family, friends, or employers
Obtain medical care
Address emergency needs that arise as a result of a crime
Obtain general information about the local criminal justice process and information about your case
Obtain information about local resources to assist victims, including crime victim assistance and victim compensation programs
Obtain a list of local English-speaking attorneys
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas you may benefit from specialized resources for crime victims available in the United States. There are many assistance programs that offer help to victims of violent crimes and most will even assist those who have been the victim of a crime while overseas. They offer:
Rape crisis counseling programs
Shelter and counseling programs for battered women
Support groups and bereavement counseling for family members
Programs for child abuse victims
Assistance for victims of drunk driving accidents
Citizens traveling abroad should research safety and local customs, but women should be especially attentive in order to stay safe.
Traveling through foreign lands gives you a unique opportunity to observe a rich tapestry of cultures and customs. As a foreign citizen, you may already stand out. It is recommended that you use discretion when traveling and be aware of your surroundings. If you are a woman in a foreign country, you should be attentive to local laws and customs, which can be quite different from your own. It is important to understand the social culture and norms for behavior and dress of the country you are visiting. Current guidebooks can provide useful information specifically for women travelers.
Remember to be alert, avoid potentially unsafe areas, and look out for yourself and your friends.
Choices abound when deciding what type of accommodation to choose. Regardless of where you decide to stay, one thing is for sure—you want to be safe.
There are many types of accommodations you can choose from, but every country, city, neighborhood, and lodging establishment is different.
Hotels are what many are accustomed to, but abroad, hotels may look quite different. Beds may be smaller, bathrooms may be shared, and amenities like a pool or a gym may be non-existent. Hotels are usually the most expensive accommodation option.
Pensions and Beds and Breakfasts are usually small, family-run hotels. Prices and quality may vary greatly.
If you are traveling as a part of a study abroad program at a foreign university, it may be a good idea to live on campus or in official university housing. Being in an environment with your fellow students may ease the transition of adjusting to a new country, and the costs may already be covered in the program fees.
A homestay is just what it sounds like: it’s a stay in someone’s home. There are many agencies available that screen potential hosts and homestay candidates. This option is great for those who want to live in more of a family environment.
However, you must be comfortable with the idea of staying in someone else’s home and immersed in the culture of that family.
A hostel is a low-cost, dormitory-style accommodation. Most living spaces, including bathrooms, are shared, and they tend to be very student-centric.
Campgrounds typically are half the cost of what a hostel would cost, but you must be willing to “rough it.” Often there are showers, kitchens, and laundry facilities available, but you’ll have to carry extra gear and deal with local weather conditions.
Hotel Safety Tips
Keep your hotel door locked at all times. Meet visitors in the lobby.
Do not leave money and other valuables in your hotel room while you are out. Use the hotel safe.
If you are out late at night, let someone know when you expect to return.
If you are alone, do not get on an elevator if there is a suspicious-looking person inside.
Read the fire safety instructions in your hotel room. Know how to report a fire, and be sure you know where the nearest fire exits and alternate exits are located. (Count the doors between your room and the nearest exit; this could be a lifesaver if you have to crawl through a smoke-filled corridor.)
Know the identity of any visitors before opening the door of your hotel room. Don't invite strangers to your hotel room, or to remote locations.
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 of 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 the 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 the American community to provide holiday meals;
providing personal amenities such as stamps, toiletries, and stationery, 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 your 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 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 the 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.