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International Travel

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Before You Go

Traveler's Checklist

A trip requires careful planning. Here are some important steps to take before traveling outside the United States.

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Traveler's Checklist

Get Informed
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Get Required Documents

Safeguard Your Documents! Make two copies of all your travel documents in case of emergency. Leave one copy with a trusted friend or relative at home and carry the other separately from your original documents. To help prevent theft, do not carry your passport in your back pocket, and keep it separate from your money.

  • PassportApply several months in advance for a new passport. If you already have one, it should be valid for at least six months after you return home and have two or more blank pages, depending on your destination. Otherwise, some countries may not let you enter.
    • Children’s passports – Passports issued for children under age 16 are valid for only five years, not 10 years like adult passports. Check passport expiration dates carefully and renew early.   
    • Europe Travel via Canada and UK – Europe’s 26 Schengen countries strictly enforce the six-month validity rule. If you are transiting through Canada or the UK – which do not have that requirement – your passport must be valid at least six months or airlines may not let you board your onward flight to Europe.
  • Visas – You may need to get a visa before you travel to a foreign destination. Contact the embassy of the countries you will be visiting for more information. 
  • Prescriptions – Get a letter from your doctor for medications you are bringing. Some countries have strict laws, even against over-the-counter medications, so check with the embassy of your destination before traveling.
  • Consent for Travel with Minors – If you are traveling alone with children, foreign border officials may require custody documents or notarized written consent from the other parent. Check with the embassy of your foreign destination before traveling.
  • International Driving Permit – Many countries do not recognize a U.S. driver's license, but most accept an International Driving Permit (IDP). You may also need supplemental auto insurance. Read more about driving and road safety abroad before you go.
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Get Enrolled
  • Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) – Enroll for free at STEP.state.gov to receive travel and security updates about your destination, and to help us reach you in an emergency. Groups or organizations can create an account and upload a spreadsheet with contact details for multiple travelers.
  • Twitter and Facebook – Follow TravelGov on Twitter and Facebook to stay connected with us and get important safety and security messages.
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Get Insured
  • Health Insurance – Many foreign medical facilities and providers require cash payment up front and do not accept U.S. insurance plans. Medicare does not provide coverage outside of the United States. Check your U.S. health care policy to see if it will cover you overseas. If not, consider buying supplemental insurance. Make sure the insurance you purchase covers any special medical needs or risks you anticipate on your trip.
  • Emergency Evacuation – Evacuation for medical treatment or to leave a crisis area in another country can cost more than $100,000. You should strongly consider purchasing evacuation insurance in case of emergency overseas.
  • Unexpected Expenses – Trip interruption or cancellation, flight delays, lost or stolen luggage, and other unexpected travel costs can add up. Check with your credit card and homeowners insurance companies to see if they provide coverage. If not, consider additional insurance.

Other Information for U.S. Citizen Travelers

Emergency Assistance

Sometimes, in spite of careful planning, things still go wrong during a trip abroad. We provide help for emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate overseas or our Washington, D. C. office (888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444).   

Disclaimer
Disclaimer

The Department of State assumes no responsibility or liability for the professional ability or reputation of, or the quality of services provided by, the entities or individuals whose names appear on or are linked to the above page. Inclusion of private groups on this page is in no way an endorsement by the Department or the U.S. government. The order in which names appear has no significance. The Department is not in a position to vouch for the information.

STEP

Learn about your destination