Preparing to Travel Overseas

Millions of U.S. citizens travel abroad each year using their U.S. passports. Although the chances are in your favor in having a safe and incident-free trip, crime, violence and unexpected difficulties do befall U.S. citizens in all parts of the world. To ensure a safe and enjoyable trip overseas, the U.S. State Department offers the following travel tips.

Safety begins when you pack. To avoid being a target, dress appropriately. Flashy wardrobe or one that is too casual can mark you as a tourist. Travel light. Carry the minimum amount of valuables necessary for you trip and plan a place or places to conceal them.
Secure important travel documents, cash and credit cards. They are most secure when locked in a hotel safe, however if you wish to carry them with you, conceal them in several places rather than putting them all in one wallet or pouch. Avoid using fanny packs, handbags and outside pockets. One of the safest places to carry valuables is in a pouch or money belt worn underneath your clothing.
Keep medicines in their original labeled containers. To avoid problems when passing through customs, bring copies of your prescriptions and generic names for the drugs. If you have any doubt about the legality of carrying a particular drug into a country, consult the embassy or consulate of that country first.
Make photocopies of your travel documents. Make two photocopies of your passport identification page, airline ticket, driver's license, credit cards, and itinerary. Leave one set behind with a family member or friend; pack the other in a place separate from where you carry your valuables.
Secure and identify your luggage. Put your name, address and telephone number inside and outside of each piece of luggage, using covered luggage tags. Remember to lock your luggage and keep the keys concealed.
Learn about the country's regulations before you leave. The State Department offers Consular Information Sheets on every country of the world. They describe exit and entry requirements, health conditions, crime and security situations, currency regulations, political disturbances and areas of instability, special data about driving and road conditions, and drug penalties.
Observe local laws and customs. You are subject to the laws of the country where you are; therefore, learn as much as you can about the local laws and customs of the place you're visiting. Good resources are your local libraries, travel agents, the embassies, consulates or tourist bureaus.
Adhere to Travel Warnings. In addition to Consular Information Sheets, the U.S. State Department issues Public Announcements and Travel Warnings when there is a perceived threat usually involving Americans as a particular travel group.
Consider travel insurance. If your personal property insurance does not cover you for loss or theft abroad, or more importantly, if your health insurance doesn't cover you, consider purchasing a short-term health and emergency assistance policy designed for travelers. Also, make sure the plan you purchase includes medical evacuation in the event of an accident or serious illness.
Arrange your itinerary beforehand. As much as possible, plan to stay in a larger, more reputable hotel that has more elaborate security. Because take-off and landing are the most dangerous parts of a flight, book a non-stop flight when possible. When there is a choice of airport or airline, ask your travel agent about comparative safety records.
Consider getting a telephone calling card. If you have one, verify that you can use it from your overseas location. Access numbers to U.S. operators are published in many international newspapers. Find out your access number before you leave.
Additional sources of information:
U.S. State Department, Travel Advisories - (202) 647-5225
International Association of Medical Assistance to Travelers - (716) 754-4883
The Centers for Disease Control - (404) 332-4565
National Passport Information Center - (888) 362-8668