A trip requires careful planning. Listed below
are important steps you can take to prepare for a safe trip anywhere outside
the United States. In addition, you can search for your destination to view
more specific information about that country or area.
Beware of Any Travel Alerts and Warnings for Your
The State Department issues
Travel Warnings to recommend postponing travel to a
country because of civil unrest, dangerous conditions,
terrorist activity or, in some cases, because the U.S.
has no diplomatic relations with the country and may
have great difficulty in assisting U.S. citizens in
Travel Alerts disseminate information quickly about
terrorist threats or other relatively short-term or
transnational conditions that could pose significant
risks to you and affect your travel plans.
Do You Have All Required Travel Documents?
Most U.S. citizens must use a U.S. passport to travel
overseas and reenter the United States. A passport is an
internationally recognized travel document that verifies
your identity and citizenship. Only the U.S. Department
of State and U.S. Embassies and Consulates have the
authority to issue or verify U.S. passports.
Most foreign countries require a valid passport to
enter and leave. Some countries may allow you to enter
with only a birth certificate, or with a birth
certificate and a driverís license, but all
persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air, must
present a valid passport to reenter the United States.
If you are traveling by land or sea, you must
provide evidence of both your U.S. citizenship
and your identity when you reenter the United States.
For many land or sea trips this means you can travel
using the new U.S. passport card instead of the normal
passport book. Read more about
U.S. passport requirements.
What about your children? Some countries have
instituted requirements to help prevent child abductions
and may require travelers to present proof of
relationship to the children and evidence of consent
from any non-accompanying parent(s). Visit our
child abduction country information pages for
information about your destination.
When does your passport expire? Some countries
require that a travelerís passport be valid for at least
six months beyond the dates of the trip. Contact the
embassy of your foreign destination for more
information. Foreign embassy and consulate contact
information can also be found in our
Country Specific Information pages.
Are You Prepared for an Emergency?
Make sure you have the contact information for the
nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you are going.
Consular duty personnel are available for emergency
assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at U.S.
embassies, consulates, and consular agencies overseas
and in Washington, D.C. Contact information for U.S.
embassies, consulates, and consular agencies overseas
may be found in our
Country Specific Information pages. If your family
needs to reach you because of an emergency at home or if
they are worried about your welfare, they should call
the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in Washington,
D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (during business hours) or
202-647-5225 (after hours). The State Department will
relay the message to the consular officers in the
country where you are. The consular officers will then
try to locate you, pass on any urgent messages, and, if
you wish, report back to your family in accordance with
the Privacy Act.
You can read more about
what the Department of State can and canít do for you in
an emergency here.
Do You Plan to Drive Overseas?
If you plan to drive overseas, you may need to obtain
an International Driving Permit (IDP). Many countries do
not recognize U.S. driverís licenses, and it is illegal
to drive without a valid license and insurance in most
places. You should check with the
Embassy of the country where you plan to travel, to
find out more about the driverís license and car
insurance requirements. Foreign embassy and consulate
contact information can also be found on the
Country Specific Information for each country.
If you will be residing overseas for an extended
time, it is a good idea to obtain a local driverís
license as soon as possible, since an IDPs is not always
valid for your entire length of a stay abroad, and often
is only valid if presented in conjunction with a valid
U.S. or local license. To renew a U.S. driverís license
while abroad, contact the Department of Motor Vehicles
in your home state.
For more information, please review our page on
- Pack light so you can move more quickly and have
a free hand when you need it.
- Carry a minimum number of valuables and plan
places to conceal them.
- Use covered luggage tags to avoid casual
observation of your identity and nationality.
- Avoid packing IDs, tickets and other vital
documents in backpacks or other locations you won't
be able to see at all times.
Do You Have Photocopies of Your Itinerary and Travel
Make two photocopies of all your travel documents in
case of emergency or if your documents are lost or
stolen. Leave one copy with a friend or relative at
home. It is always a great idea to let at least one
person know exactly where you will be staying and how to
contact you in an emergency. Carry the other copy with
you stored separately from the originals. Documents to
make copies of include:
- Passport ID page
- Foreign visa (if applicable)
- Hotel confirmation
- Airline ticket
- Driver's license
- Credit cards brought on the trip
- Traveler's check serial numbers
Prepare to Handle Money Overseas
- Check and understand the exchange rate before
- Before you leave, notify your bank, credit card
company, or other financial institutions that you
are going overseas.
- Avoid carrying cash and consider using
traveler's checks or major credit cards instead (but
make sure they are accepted at your destination
before departing on your trip).
- Change traveler's checks only as you need them.
- Do not flash large amounts of money when paying
Learn about local laws and customs
While traveling, you are subject to the local laws
even if you are a U.S. Citizen. Foreign laws and legal
systems can be vastly different from our own and it is
very important to know what's legal and what's not. If
you break local laws while abroad, your U.S. passport
won't help you avoid arrest or prosecution, and the U.S.
Embassy cannot get you out of jail.
Do You Need Any New Vaccinations?
Vaccinations Are Required for Entry to Some
Some countries require foreign visitors to carry an
International Certificate of Vaccination (aka Yellow
Card) or other proof that they have had certain
inoculations or medical tests before entering or
transiting their country. Before you travel, check the
Country Specific Information and contact the foreign
embassy of the country to be visited or transited
through for currenty entry requirements.
Health Experts Recommend Vaccinations for Travel
to Some Countries
U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the
World Health Organization (WHO) can provide you
their recommendations for vaccinations and other travel
health precautions for your trip abroad.
Do You Know How to Find Medical Help Abroad?
Get Help With a Medical Emergency Abroad:
Does Your Health Insurance Cover You Outside the U.S.?
Learn what medical services your health insurance
will cover overseas. Although some health insurance
companies will pay "customary and reasonable" hospital
costs abroad, very few will pay for a medical evacuation
back to the U.S., which can easily cost over $10,000,
depending on your condition and location. Whether your
insurance is valid overseas or not, you may be required
to pay for care when you receive it.
If your insurance policy does not cover you abroad,
consider purchasing a short-term policy that does. Many
travel agents and private companies offer insurance
plans that will cover health care expenses incurred
overseas including emergency services such as medical
Social Security and Medicare do not
provide coverage outside of the U.S.
Are You Taking Any Prescriptions or Other Medications?
If you take prescription medication:
- Pack enough to last your entire trip, including
some extra in case you are unexpectedly delayed.
- Carry your medications in their original labeled
containers, and pack them in your carry-on bag since
checked baggage is occasionally lost or delayed.
- Ask your pharmacy or physician for the generic
equivalent name of your prescriptions in case you
need to purchase additional medication abroad.
- Get a letter from your physician in case you are
questioned about your carry-on medication; some
countries have strict restrictions on bringing
prescription or even non-prescription medications
into the country without proper medical