International travel is a great way to learn about other cultures and explore the world. If you have the time and the means to travel, there are a myriad of destinations worthy of your wanderlust. But before you hop on a plane to start your adventure, it’s wise to do your research and be prepared. Here are a few things you should know before traveling internationally.
Passports, Visas, & Travel Documents
Before traveling internationally, you’ll need to make sure you have your passport up-to-date. If it’s less than six months from its expiration, you may need to renew your passport before you go. Also, do your research and apply for any visas you may need. Many countries require tourist visas, and the application process is different depending on the country. Applying for a visa can take time and can be expensive, so it’s best to get started on this as soon as you know where you’re traveling. You can check the State Department’s website to determine what documentation is necessary for your trip – while you’re there, you can also learn about any travel advisories that may be posted for various foreign countries. Registering your travel plans with the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to your destination can make it easier to reach you in the event of an emergency.
When it comes to passports and visas, it’s always good to make two copies. Carry a copy with you on your trip and leave a copy at home with a trusted friend or relative; keep the originals separate from the copies. You never know when you might lose your passport and require a backup.
The same is true for hotel reservations, airline and train ticket confirmations, and any other travel documents. It can be convenient to rely on digital copies; however, take proper precautions and save them locally to your device in the event you have no internet connection. Also, if you’re going to scan sensitive documents to store on your phone, ensure your passwords are secure.
Vaccines & Medications
Depending on where you’re headed, you may need to receive additional vaccinations or medications to prevent illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website can provide you with the most up-to-date and comprehensive list of health advisories and recommendations by country. Some foreign countries require specific vaccines and a Yellow Card, or International Certificate of Vaccination, as proof of vaccination to enter the country.
If you regularly take prescription medications, you will need to ensure you have enough to last you throughout your trip. It is advised that you acquire a letter from your doctor for any prescription or over-the-counter medications. The State Department suggests that you keep your medications in their original labeled containers since some countries have stringent rules concerning prescription drugs. If you happen to be traveling to a remote location, it is wise to also stock up on essential over-the-counter medications such as Imodium and aspirin as well.
Learn the currency conversion rates for the countries where you plan to travel. Finding out once you’re already there that your currency won’t stretch as far as you’d hoped can put a real damper on your trip. When it comes to exchanging money, don’t exchange at the airport, wait until you’re in the country to make a withdrawal. The fees at conversion centers in airports are notoriously expensive. Waiting until you’re in the country to hit an ATM can lower the costs and also ensures you’ll get an exact conversion.
Not every place will take credit cards, so it’s a good idea always to have local currency on hand.
It’s also important to notify your bank and credit card companies of your travels to ensure that you’ll have access to your money. They can put a travel alert on your accounts so that charges that would otherwise seem suspicious because they’re being made in a foreign country are not blocked due to fraud protection measures.
Be aware of the entrance and exit fees of your destination country. Some countries charge fees to enter, or exit and these fees aren’t included in the cost of your airline ticket. The amount can vary widely.
Consider purchasing travel insurance. Some travel insurance policies go beyond covering trip cancellations and may cover lost or stolen luggage and medical emergencies. Research what your primary health insurance will cover abroad. It may be worth adding whatever it doesn’t include to your travel insurance policy’s medical plan.
While there are many things you will need to do in advance of your trip to ensure safe and smooth travels, these are some of the most important. Traveling can be extremely rewarding, but it is even more so when you’re adequately prepared for your adventure.