Traveling abroad these days lacks the romantic, idealistic travel scenes exhibited in years past; the awe-inspired travels to walk where Jesus walked, trace the footsteps of historic explorers, or visit castles of yesteryear’s kings is tempered by State Department warnings and global unrest. However, traveling anywhere today — even in the United States — is an undertaking that requires thoughtful planning and awareness of the risk that might be involved.
One of the best resources for information regarding travel overseas is none other than the U.S. Government State Department’s web page “Tips for Traveling Abroad.” The site advises that the easiest and best way to inform the government of your plans is to register your trip, much like pilots submit flight plans before taking off. This way, the State Department can contact you in the event of an emergency with loved ones at home as well as inform you of developing crises in countries that you may be visiting. Other tips include,
- Register so the State Department can better assist you in an emergency: Register your travel plans with the State Department through a free online service at https://step.state.gov/step/.
- Sign passport, and fill in the emergency information: Make sure you have a signed, valid passport, and a visa, if required, and fill in the emergency information page of your passport.
- Leave copies of itinerary and passport data page: Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends, so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.
- Check your overseas medical insurance coverage: If your insurance doesn’t cover you overseas, consider supplemental insurance.
- Familiarize yourself with local conditions and laws: While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. The State Department web site at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1765.html has useful safety and other information about the countries you will visit.
- Take precautions to avoid being a target of crime: To avoid being a target of crime, do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money. Don’t leave unattended luggage in public areas and do not accept packages from strangers.
- Contact us in an emergency: Consular personnel at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad and in the U.S. are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens. Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates appears on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at http://travel.state.gov.
To avoid violating Custom’s regulations, note what items are, or are not, allowed in foreign countries. To avoid fines or worse, do not bring the following into the United States:
- Any product made from sea turtles
- All ivory, both Asian and African elephant, and rhinoceros
- Furs from spotted cats
- Furs from marine mammals
- Feathers and feather products from wild birds
- Most crocodile and caiman leather
- Most coral, whether in chunks or in jewelry
The final tip, of course, is to simply be aware of yourself, your traveling partners, and your surroundings.