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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.
  • If 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 deaths.
  • 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 the culture.
  • 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 arrive.
  • 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 happen.
  • 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 country.
  • 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.
  • Professional 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 card statement.
  • 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 toÖ?
    • How much forÖ?
    • Where is theÖ?
    • Would you please speak slower?
    • May I speak to someone who speaks English?
    • Hospital, 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 used to.
  • 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 States (, foreign government tourism offices: (, 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. 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.
  • Beware! Counterfeit U.S. bills are common among street moneychangers in Peru.
  • 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 acclimated.
  • 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.