Travel Tips on International Travel
- The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website has helpful information to the international traveler, including a history of wait times a major U.S. boarder crossings.
- Insects are popular snacks in Thailand. They are usually sold by
street vendors. Bugs include locusts, crickets, silkworms, water
bugs, grasshoppers, ants, bamboo worms and scorpions. They arrive at
market alive and flapping so consumers know that insecticides have
not been used.
- When traveling to China, donít forget a Hepatitis B shot. If you
become ill and require medical care and you are in the middle of
China, there may be a less than acceptable standard for sterility.
The shot is especially important for adoptive parents traveling to
China to bring home their baby. Hepatitis B is transmitted via
bodily fluids and is an occupational hazard of parenting. The baby
may be a carrier, and hence be infectious to you. It would be wise
to consider vaccinating siblings and grandparents waiting back home.
traveling to Saudi Arabia on a religious pilgrimage, a meningitis
shot should be considered because of the overcrowded conditions in
Mecca and Medina. A few years ago, an outbreak of meningococcal
disease among returning pilgrims and their families resulted in 60
- Passports are now
being required for re-entry into the U.S. from all Caribbean Basin
countries and may soon be required in Mexico as well.
- Haggling is a
time-honored tradition in many foreign countries, something
Americans generally are not accustomed to. Take your cue from the
locals and act accordingly. Very few prices are fixed. Check out all
the vendors in the area, and once you find the product you wish to
purchase, begin the negotiations by offering 50% of the asking price
and go from there.
- If you need to
take preventive medicine on a trip (such as malaria pills), begin
several days before the trip to check for possible side effects.
- Reading your
unfolded city map as you walk along marks you as a tourist to
thieves. The best approach is to plan out part of your walk and
remember it or stop in a quiet place to refresh your memory, or fold
the map ahead of time so that only a small section is in use and it
can be concealed in your pocket or purse when not in use. Peruse
WTAís Destinations articles
to familiarize yourself with cities youíd like to visit. Written by
experienced travelers and WTA members, these provide information on
lodging, places to eat, key attractions, as well as insights into
- Beginning a few
days before overseas travel, eat light meals. The less you eat
before and during a long flight, the better youíll feel when you
- When you travel
internationally with equipment such as laptop computers, cameras,
and camcorders, take the sales receipt along on your travels as
well. Some customs officials may try to charge duty on these items
when you re-enter the U.S.; with the original receipts, this wonít
- In many foreign
countries, vendors commonly pretend to have no change. Carry several
bills in small denominations to avoid this problem.
- Ask your travel
agent if there are any restrictions on using U.S. currency in the
country to which youíre traveling. Some countries (several African
republics and Cuba) prohibit the use of U.S. currency altogether.
Others may only accept the new bills, not the old ones.
- As of February
28, 2002, you can no longer use your leftover currency for
transactions. As of June 30, 2002, you can only exchange leftover
currency for euro at national central banks and some specially
designated banks. Deadlines and fees for this service vary by
- When one parent
takes a child out of the country, whether by airplane or cruise ship
or some other mode of transport, they may need written permission
(possibly even a notarized statement) from the other parent. Or, if
applicable, a decree of sole custody or a death certificate for the
other parent may be required. Check the airline, cruise line, or
your travel agent for regulations.
- If your passport
is lost or has been stolen while you are out of the U.S., contact
the local police and the U.S. Embassy or Consulate right away.
Reissuing a new passport will be easiest if you have a copy of the
original passport and extra passport photographs with you.
thieves are trained to spotóand victimize--tourists who are even
slightly intoxicated. Be wary of possible assault and robbery after
leaving a nightclub or bar in a foreign country. It is much safer to
travel in groups. In some countries, some drinking establishments
themselves have been known to contaminate or drug the drinks to gain
control over the patron (and their ATM card, credit cardÖ).
- Arranging a trip
through the region of Russia and Central Europe? Bring food and
water along if you are traveling overland as goods may not be
available along the way. Also, research the route ahead of time and
be sure to obtain visas for all countries through which you will
pass, not just the destination country.
- Prepare ahead of
time when crossing borders. Get some currency of the country you are
entering beforehand, in case the entry takes place at night or on a
holiday when money exchange facilities may be closed. That way you
at least will have enough money for some food and a place to stay.
- When traveling by
train through a foreign country, take along some bread, cheese, and
water with you. Food prices tend to be high and quality tends to be
low when there are no other options for the consumer.
- Most Italians
vacation in August. Since many businesses and shops are closed then,
consider a different month if you are planning a visit to Italy.
- To track expenses
better when traveling in a country whose language you donít read,
take a minute after a purchase to write all the key information on
the receipt. When you review expenses at the end of the trip, youíll
easily be able to categorize expenses and match back to the credit
- The U.S. Embassy
is a helping hand for US citizens traveling abroad. Register with
the embassy as a precaution if you plan to stay longer than two
weeks, or if the area is particularly dangerous.
- If you are asked
by a local in a foreign country to take something back to the United
States, or to mail something back for them, politely decline. You
could become an unwitting participant in something illegal and
potentially dangerous. If itís nothing illegal, they should just as
easily be able to ship it to their U.S. destination.
- Understand the
laws of the country in which you are traveling. If arrested in
another country, realize that you may not have the rights you would
have in the U.S., such as bail or the right to a speedy trial.
Immediately ask to speak to a representative of the U.S. Embassy.
- Traveling on a
Sunday can pose special challenges. Many stores and businesses
(including those that exchange money) may be closed or have limited
hours. Public transportation may have a limited schedule with fewer
destinations and departure times. Plan ahead for these situations or
just travel the following day.
- You may need to
purchase converters or adapters in order to use your electrical
appliances in another country. Donít be caught off guard; check
ahead of time so you can bring them with you.
- Learn a few key
phrases and words in the language of the country to which youíre
traveling. Here are some suggestions:
- How do I get
- How much forÖ?
- Where is theÖ?
- Would you
please speak slower?
- May I speak to
someone who speaks English?
doctor, police, telephone, help
- Hello, goodbye,
thank you, please, excuse me
- Names of
medicines youíre allergic to, or conditions you have
- Asking for
directions in a foreign country can be tricky. Donít rely on just
one personís answer, as in some cultures they feel itís less
offensive to give the wrong directions rather than telling you they
donít know. Ask several people along the way to make sure you are
getting closer to your destination.
- Unless youíre
fluent in the native tongue of the country youíre in, carry some
item with your lodging establishmentís name and address. Show this
when you need directions or a taxi, and there will be no confusion
over where youíre headed.
- Before setting
dates for international travel, check to see if there are any major
holidays during that time period at that destination. This could
impact travel services.
- Take a quick
refresher on the metric system before traveling abroad. This will
help you gauge distance and gas prices much easier. Remember 1
kilometer is equal to .62 miles, so driving 100 kilometers/hour is
like driving 62 miles per hour.
- When renting a
car abroad, realize that most countries have smaller cars than the
U.S., and there are many more manual transmission cars. So you may
not be able to rent the large, automatic transmission car you are
- The U.S.
embassies and consulates help to locate U.S. citizens overseas when
relatives or friends are concerned about their welfare or need to
notify them of emergencies at home. If you plan to travel abroad for
any length of time and won't always be accessible or in touch with
family or friends at home, consider providing a Privacy Act waiver
so that the embassy or consulate can release information about you.
- Car rental
agencies overseas usually provide auto insurance, but in some
countries, the required coverage is minimal. When renting a car
overseas, consider purchasing insurance coverage that is at least
equivalent to that which you carry at home. In general, your U.S.
auto insurance does not cover you abroad. However, your policy may
apply when you drive to countries neighboring the United States.
Check with your insurer to see if your policy covers you in Canada,
Mexico, or countries south of Mexico. Even if your policy is valid
in one of these countries, it may not meet that countryís minimum
requirements. For instance, in most of Canada, you must carry at
least $200,000 in liability insurance, and Mexico requires that, if
vehicles do not carry theft, third party liability, and
comprehensive insurance, the owner must post a bond that could be as
high as 50% of the value of the vehicle. If you are under-insured
for a country, auto insurance can usually be purchased on either
side of the border.
- Many countries
have different driving rules. If possible, obtain a copy of the
foreign countryís rules before you begin driving in that country.
Information may be available from the foreign embassy in the United
foreign government tourism offices: (http://www.towd.com/),
or from a car rental company in the foreign country.
- Many countries
require you to honk your horn before going around a sharp corner or
to flash your lights before passing. Certain countries require road
permits, instead of tolls, to use on their divided highways, and
they will fine those found driving without a permit.
- If you're
planning a trip abroad, it is recommended that you acquire a
Consular Information Sheet on each country you'll be visiting. The
U.S. State Department provides these for every country of the world.
They include such information as location of the U.S. Embassy or
Consulate in the subject country, unusual immigration practices,
health conditions, minor political disturbances, unusual currency
and entry regulations, crime and security information, and drug
penalties. If an unstable condition exists in a country that is not
severe enough to warrant a Travel Warning, a description of the
condition(s) may be included under an optional section entitled
"Safety/Security." Consular Information Sheets generally do not
include advice, but present information in a factual manner so you
can make your own decisions concerning travel to a particular
country. Click here to retrieve a Consular Information Sheet (http://travel.state.gov./travel_warnings.html).
While here, search for any travel warnings that may have been issued
by the State Department. These are issued when the State Department
decides, based on all relevant information, to recommend that
Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Countries where
avoidance of travel is recommended will have Travel Warnings as well
as Consular Information Sheets.
Counterfeit U.S. bills are common among street moneychangers in
- For safety
reasons, when arriving in a foreign airport during off peak hours,
you should always pre-arrange ground transportation and know the
driver's name that will be picking you up.
- Be careful of
using your cell phone abroad. Phoning while driving is illegal in
Israel, Brazil, the U. K., and Switzerland. In Singapore, they'll
confiscate the phone. Phones are banned on commuter trains in Japan,
and some cars on the U.K.'s Chiltren Railways have coated windows
that block cellular radio waves. In Switzerland, there is a separate
car on the train for phone users. You may not be able to use a cell
phone in very remote areas.
- If youíre
traveling in a part of the world where traffic moves on the
right-hand side of the road, you donít have to be at the wheel to
get into trouble. Make sure you look to the right, in the direction
of on-coming traffic, and not just to the more familiar left, when
you step off the curb (or if youíre in England, "kerb.")
- In Asia, the
distance between rows on domestic airliners can be several inches
shorter than in the United States. When booking on local carriers,
tall Americans might consider aisle seats to allow some wriggle room
for their knees.
- If you want to
stay in touch while getting away from it all, travel agents can tell
you how to get a prepaid cell phone for calling home from anywhere
in Europe. You may not want to leave the number with your office,
but itís nice to know the babysitter or an aging parent can reach
you Ė and you them Ė if the need arises.
- Take responsibility when driving in a foreign country. Learn the
road signage and make sure you understand the driving laws of the
country. Be aware that certain countries allow much faster driving
that the U.S. Drive in the slower lane, at least until youíve become
- Planning to drive
in a foreign country? Check with your travel agent (or the rental
car company) on the requirements. You may need to get an
International Driverís License, purchase insurance, and/or pay a
special driving fee.
- As long as you
were satisfied with the ride, taxi drivers should generally be
tipped 15% in the U.S. and abroad.