The government can move slowly so apply early for your passport and, if necessary, any visas: Passports are required to enter and/or depart most countries around the world. It is your responsibility to check the entry requirements for any country that you visit. Apply for a passport as soon as possible. Some countries also require U.S. citizens to obtain visas before entering. Most countries require visitors who are planning to study or work abroad to obtain visas before entering. Check with the embassy of the foreign country that you are planning to visit for up-to-date visa and other entry requirements. Don’t get caught overstaying your visa. Check the renewal requirements prior to departure and periodically for any changes.
Do your homework before you depart. Learn about the countries that you plan to visit. With the advent of the Internet, this is extremely easy. Just do search and go to legitimate pages for straight information. Before departing, take the time to do some research about the people and their culture, and any problems that the country is experiencing that may affect your travel plans. The Department of State publishes Background Notes on about 170 countries. These brief, factual pamphlets contain information on each country’s culture, history, geography, economy, government, and current political situation.
While you are visiting the embassy web site make sure to read the Consular Information Sheet. Consular Information Sheets provide up-to-date travel information on any country in the world that you plan to visit. They cover topics such as entry regulations, the crime and security situation, drug penalties, road conditions, and the location of the U.S. embassy, consulates, and consular agencies. You can also see if there are any online forums for the area you will be visiting. Remember that forums may or may not provide accurate information.
Watch the news and check online for any updates. Ensure that your check for Travel Warnings and Public Announcements. Travel Warnings recommend U.S. citizens defer travel to a country because of dangerous conditions. Public Announcements provide fast-breaking information about relatively short-term conditions that may pose risks to the security of travelers. The State Department tends to err on the side of caution. Remember, too, that just because there are problems in one part of a country doesn’t mean that the entire country has problems.
Make sure that you register your trip with the State Department online – it will take about 10 minutes at travel.state.gov. Find out the location of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. You can also register upon arrival directly at the embassy but this will take much longer. If you are traveling to a remote area or one that is experiencing civil unrest, find out the location of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. If your family needs to reach you because of an emergency, they can pass a message to you through the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 202-647-5225. This office will contact the embassy or consulate in the country where you are traveling and pass a message from your family to you. Remember consular officers cannot cash checks, lend money or serve as your attorney. They can, however, if the need arises, assist you in obtaining emergency funds from your family, help you find an attorney, help you find medical assistance, and replace your lost or stolen passport.
If you plan on teaching overseas, find out what information your home school offers. Find out whether your school offers additional information for students who are planning to study, travel, or work abroad. Many student advisors can provide you with information about studying or working abroad. They may also be able to provide you with information on any travel benefits for students (e.g. how to save money on transportation and accommodations, and other resources.) You can also find a lot of information online about scams and rip-offs. Do your due diligence.
Find out about the organization and what it offers before committing yourself or your finances,. The majority of private programs for vacation, study or work abroad are reputable and financially sound. However, some charge exorbitant fees, use deliberately false “educational” claims, and provide working conditions far different from those advertised. Even programs of legitimate organizations can be poorly administered.
Become familiar with the basic laws and customs of the country you plan to visit before you travel.
Remember: Reckless behavior while in another country can do more than ruin your vacation; it can land you in a foreign jail or worse! To have a safe trip, avoid risky behavior and plan ahead.