International travel can be a rich and rewarding
adventure. Whether you have waited a lifetime to take the perfect
trip or are an experienced world traveler, we would like to offer
some advice to help you plan a safe and healthy trip.
American consuls at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad are
there to help if you encounter serious difficulties in your travels.
They are happy to meet you if you come in to register your passport
at the Consular Section of the U.S. embassy or consulate. But
it is also their duty to assist American citizens abroad in times
of emergency--at hospitals or police stations, for instance. This
pamphlet is written in the hopes that it will help you to prevent
such emergencies from arising.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE PUBLICATION 10337
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Revised August 1996
PREPARATION FOR YOUR TRIP
Start Early. Apply for your passport as soon as
possible. Three months before your departure date should give
you plenty of time. See the section, Passports and Visas, for
details on how to apply.
Learn About the Countries You Plan to Visit. Before
you go, read up on the culture, people, and history for the places
you will travel. Bookstores and libraries are good resources.
Travel magazines and the travel sections of major newspapers tell
about places to visit and also give advice on everything from
discount airfares to international health insurance. Many travel
agents and foreign tourist bureaus provide free information on
For up-to-date travel information on any country in the world
that you plan to visit, obtain the Department of State's Consular
Information Sheet. They cover such matters as health conditions,
unusual currency and entry regulations, crime and security conditions,
drug penalties, and areas of instability. In addition, the State
Department issues Travel Warnings when it recommends Americans
defer travel to a country because of unsafe conditions. Travel
Warnings are under continuous review by the Department of State
and are removed when conditions warrant. The Department of State
also issues Public Announcements as a means to disseminate information
quickly about relatively short-term and/or trans-national conditions
which would pose significant risks to the security of American
How to Access Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings
and Public Announcements Consular Information Sheets,
Travel Warnings and Public Announcements may be heard any time
by dialing the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225
from a touchtone phone. The recording is updated as new information
becomes available. They are also available at any of the 13 regional
passport agencies, field offices of the Department of Commerce,
and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, or, by sending a self-addressed,
stamped envelope and indicating the desired country to the Office
of Overseas Citizens Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Room
4811, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818.
From your fax machine, dial (202) 647-3000, using the handset
as you would a regular telephone. The system prompts you on how
Information about travel and consular services is now available
on the Internet's World Wide Web. The address is http://travel.state.gov.
Visitors to the web site will find Travel Warnings, Public Announcements
and Consular Information Sheets, passport and visa information,
travel publications, background on international adoption and
international child abduction services, international legal assistance,
and the Consular Affairs mission statement. There is also a link
to the State Department's main site on the Internet's World Wide
Web that provides users with current foreign affairs information.
The address is http://www.state.gov.
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board - CABB
If you have a personal computer, modem and communication software,
you can access the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). This
service is free of charge. To view or download the documents from
a computer and modem, dial the CABB on (301) 946-4400. The login
is travel; the password is info.
Passport. Pack an "emergency kit" to help you
get a replacement passport in case yours is lost or stolen. To
make a kit: photocopy the data page at the front of your passport;
write down the addresses and telephone numbers of the U.S. embassies
and consulates in the countries you plan to visit; and put this
information along with two recent passport-size photographs in
a place separate from your passport.
Leave a Detailed Itinerary. Give a friend or relative
your travel schedule. Include names, addresses, and telephone
numbers of persons and places to be visited; your passport number
and the date and place it was issued; and credit card, travelers
check, and airline ticket numbers. Keep a copy of this information
for yourself in a separate place from your purse or wallet. If
you change your travel plans--for example, if you miss your return
flight to the United States or extend your trip--be sure to notify
relatives or friends at home.
Don't Overprogram. Allow time to relax and really
enjoy yourself. Even if this is your once-in-a-lifetime trip,
don't feel you have to fill every available minute.
If you are visiting a country such as China, where physical
activity can be quite strenuous and sudden changes in diet and
climate can have serious health consequences for the unprepared
traveler, consult your physician before you depart.
What to Pack. Carefully consider the clothing
you take. Don't pack more than you need and end up lugging around
heavy suitcases. Wash-and-wear clothing and sturdy walking shoes
are good ideas. Consider the climate and season in the countries
you will visit and bring an extra outfit for unexpectedly warm
or cool weather. A sweater or shawl is always useful for cooler
evenings and air-conditioned planes and hotels. Dress conservatively--a
wardrobe that is flashy or too causal may attract the attention
of thieves or con artists.
Include a change of clothing in your carry-on luggage. Otherwise,
if your bags are lost, you could be wearing the same clothes you
were traveling in during the entire time it takes to locate your
luggage--an average of 72 hours.
Do not pack anything that you would hate to lose such as valuable
jewelry, family photographs, or objects of sentimental value.