Wars, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and disease outbreaks require that today’s travelers do their homework to stay safe. Besides increasing your security, such preparation will enhance enjoyment of your trip by providing peace of mind.
Good Sources of Information
The website Travel.State.gov is a good first source of information about regions considered dangerous to Americans. Here you will find the latest travel warnings and alerts. In addition, there are Consular Information Sheets for every country. These sheets include information on the location of the US embassy or consulate, health conditions, areas of instability, political disturbances, as well as crime and security information.
Travel.State.gov also offers a free service called Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). After signing up and logging in your travel information, you will receive updates about the country that you are planning to visit. Registering for STEP can also make it easier for you to get assistance in case of an emergency.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides travel health information for countries around the world. Once you select your destination, the CDC provides information on health travel notices, ways to prepare for your trip (eg, vaccines that you may need), items you should bring, and strategies to stay healthy while traveling.
For additional health information, the World Health Organization (WHO) has an interactive world map that highlights disease outbreaks and offers recommendations for being a healthy traveler. On the WHO website, you will also find links to articles on food safety, infectious diseases, and other travel-related topics.
Other Useful Sites
At the website USA.gov, there are a collection of articles and links on international travel. For example, one web page is dedicated to Americans who live and travel abroad.
Another site that you may want to visit is the National Online Project. This provides a wealth of advice for the world traveler, including information on each country's government, culture, business, and tourism.
And as your trip fast approaches, remember to check out the latest updates at the Transportation Security Administration's website. Here you can learn how to move smoothly through the security checkpoints. This is definitely worth looking into if you plan on bringing medicines, have a medical condition, or have a medical device.
International Travel Tips
In addition to your research, here are tips you can follow to have a safe journey:
- Register with SMART.
- Make sure you have a signed, valid passport with emergency information included.
- In cases of an emergency, leave your itinerary with family or friends.
- Have two extra passport copies in case your passport is stolen. Leave one copy with a family member or a friend and carry the other with you in a separate place.
- Since you are subject to a foreign country’s laws, familiarize yourself with local laws and customs.
- Take steps to avoid being mugged. For example, do not wear expensive jewelry and avoid carrying a lot of money with you.
- Do not leave your luggage unattended in public areas.
- Learn more about your health insurance. For example, does your policy include international travel? If you have to be evacuated due to a medical emergency, is that service covered? Should you get a supplemental health insurance plan?
- If there is an emergency, call the US Embassy office in the country that you are visiting. An Embassy officer will be able to help you.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 11/2011 -
- Update Date: 11/09/2011 -