Get Informed

Getting informed is the first key to safety while traveling. Look for any travel advisories and alerts for the countries you will be visiting.  You may want to reconsider your plans if a place you are planning to visit is flagged as high risk. 

Here is a list of links to some government advisory pages:

USA   CAN   UK   EU   AU   JP

  • Review all Entry/Exit Requirements

You are usually required to have a passport and possibly a visa when you are traveling out of your country of citizenship. Regardless, you should always have a form of government issued photo ID with you at all times (such as a drivers license or ID card).

Sample of Passports
Sample of Passports
Passport

Please note that most countries require that a passport be valid for at least six months beyond the completion of a trip.  If your passport expires sooner than that, you must apply to renew your passport, as you can be denied boarding a flight or entering a country. 

Visa

A visa is a conditional authorization granted by a country to a foreigner, allowing them to enter, remain within, or to leave that country.  Visas typically dictate the duration of the your stay, the territories within a country you may enter, the quantity of visits within a certain timeframe, and your purpose for visiting. For example, visas specify if you are permitted to work, go to school, or solely act as a tourist.

Visas are often required and whether you need a visa or not is generally determined by 3 things; Your nationality, the country in which you wish to enter, and your purpose of visitation.

If a visa is required, it is often available upon entry/exit to/from a country and often requires a cash purchase in the currency of the country from which you are obtaining the visa.

Many countries require you to apply for a visa prior to arrival.  This can often take days or weeks.  When a visa is required, a passport containing at least one blank visa page that is valid for 6 months past the date you will enter the country, is often necessary.  In addition, you may be required to show proof of itinerary. This means proving that you have means to stay, and a place of “residence” while in the country, and a planned and paid for way and date of exit. 

More on passports & visas under, “Get Your Documents”

  • Familiarize Yourself with Local Laws and Customs

Get informed on the local ways of doing things. What is appropriate in one country or area may not be okay in another.  Every place has its own local laws, customs, and ways of being that may be different than the ones you have at home.  Familiarizing yourself and fitting in to some degree, tends to send a message of respect for local ways.

For example, in some countries, it is inappropriate to show too much skin.  Knowing this ahead, you may pack clothing that will not offend locals.  Likewise, there may be a law that prohibits drinking alcohol outside, or taking a right turn on a red light.  Having some local knowledge and blending in a bit often helps to avoid potential issues.

  • Find Out if Medical Care is Available

Available Services

Get informed on the region in which you are traveling. Is care available? If so, what type of payments are permitted? Do you need cash? Are credit cards okay? Is your insurance accepted?  Locating the nearest hospital of your preferred quality is good to know before your arrival.

I also look to see if pharmacies are readily available.  Do you take medication daily? It is always a good idea to pack enough for your entire trip, and a bit extra, in case you are delayed.  Sometimes a medication you take is not readily available in another country.

RX Prescriptions

I usually keep my imperative medication with me or in a safe.  If I am concerned, I sometimes divide my medication between myself and a bag at the hotel; That way, if a bag is lost or stolen, I at least have enough medication to get by until I’m able to replace it.

Permissions and Legalities

Get Informed on legalities of medicine at your destination. Carry a letter from your physician that describes your medical condition and why you need each prescription medication, including the generic name of prescribed drugs.  It is also important to keep medications in their original, labeled containers.  Some drugs are illegal in certain countries, or may not be imported, so check with the foreign embassy of the country you are visiting to make sure your medications are permitted in that country.

Be Prepared

If I know I will be in an area with less access to medical care, I always pack a medical supply case that minimally includes an antihistamine, a pain reliever, alcohol wipes, bandaids, antibiotic cream, an anti-diarrheal, and a first aid kit.

  • Get Informed on Road Safety

Get Informed about Road Conditions & Inclement Weather
Road Conditions & Inclement Weather

Things to Consider:

    • Is it safe to travel after dark?
    • What are the road maintenance conditions like?
    • Is inclement weather expected?
    • Is there a potential of police encounters?
    • What are the customary rules of the road?
    • Are special permits or tags are required to drive on roads and/or to park?
    • What forms of payment are accepted at tolls?
    • What are the region specific road signs and signals?
    • How far apart are gas stations?
    • How do you navigate a round about?
    • Is your rental vehicle supported and well maintained?
    • Are there any known threats?
    • What are the rules of parking.
  • Write Down Contact Details for the Nearest Embassy or Consulate

Always carry this information with you in case of emergency while traveling.  I often use this internet based list

In addition, I write down my personal contacts for emergency in case I were to lose my cell phone.

  • Crisis Planning

It is wise to make an evacuation plan that does not rely on your government in order to have an option in the event they cannot help.  If a disaster is occurring, it is smart to stock up on bottled water and food, in case there is contamination to the supply.  It is also important to have a battery operated travel light in case you experience a power outage, are in a dark area, or need to signal someone. I often use a headlamp because it has several modes and can be used hands free.

Many international health plans also offer evacuation insurance.  Get informed on insurance options. If a crisis occurs while you are abroad, check in with loved ones and update your social media status so family and friends know you are okay.

  • Health Precautions

Always be sure you are in reasonable health before departing on travel, especially if your flight duration is long.  Be sure you are up to date on common vaccinations.

Get informed on your government’s health recommendations for the area in which you plan on traveling. You can view recommendations for vaccinations and other health considerations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC),  or World Health Organization (WHO).

  • Money Matters

Get Informed about Money Matters
Money Matters
Notify your Banks

Before going abroad, notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel. Most companies require this for added security and will not let your card work if you have not pre-registered it. In addition, I always lay my cards out, front and back and take a photo of them.  I keep the image in my phone and print a copy that I keep separately.  This way, if my cards are stolen, I am not guessing which ones I had with me. I have all the card information right there.

Check exchange rates

Get informed on exchange rates. This will help in setting up expectations for value differences between your currency and the one used where you are traveling.

Using cash, debit/credit cards, and ATMs overseas, can be challenging.  I find it is best to have an assortment of all 3.  Sometimes ATMs are out of cash for long periods and some places are small and only deal in cash. Small towns may have no ability to accept credit cards, so it is best to be prepared for all situations.

What Credit Cards and ATM Cards and Cash to Bring

Occasionally, I find one ATM card not to work. It is useful to have a second one with you from a different bank network. This also pertains to credit cards; Sometimes one will work and another will not. There is often no rhyme or reason.  Some countries have preferred cards, where it may be difficult to use an American Express, but everyone excepts Mastercard, for example.

It is common for countries to have currency restrictions on the amount of cash you can enter or leave with.  If you are traveling with, or moving, large amounts of cash, be sure to clarify this.

*The US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs offers country specific information on many of these topics.  You can enter the country name in the search box on the upper left of their webpage.

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