How to Travel to a Foreign Country

How to Travel to a Foreign Country

Prepared by ASPIRE at SHS

January 2018

· You will need a passport. You may be able to obtain one through a post office near you. For a list of post offices offering this service, and more information about getting a passport, see

· Apply early: after you complete the application process, it takes 4 to 6 weeks to get your passport. It may take some time to gather the necessary documents (like a birth certificate to prove U.S. citizenship) so start the process at least 2 months in advance of your trip.

· Depending on your destination, you may need immunizations (vaccinations) against certain diseases. To find out what you need, and to get the necessary vaccinations, go to Passport Health is a nationwide company that specializes in vaccinations for foreign travel. In Oregon, there are two offices in Portland. You can also see your doctor or look online for other places to get the vaccinations. Allow at least 4 to 6 weeks in advance of your trip; some vaccinations must be done in stages over several weeks.

· Check on the safety of traveling in your destination country. Go to the U.S. State Department website at


· Be sure that your health insurance covers you in another country. If not, you may be able to find a temporary health insurance policy that will cover the duration of your trip.

· If you plan to drive in another country, make sure that your U.S. driver’s license will be valid there. If not, you will need an International Driver’s License. You can get an application at this website:

· Once you arrive at your destination, your financial transactions will probably be in the currency of that country. Some countries will accept U.S. dollars, but you may be getting a poor exchange rate. Try to avoid the currency exchange booths at airports and train stations. Some charge large fee. It is best to go to a bank to exchange your dollars for the local currency. Be sure that you know the exchange rate so you don’t get cheated. Exchange rates change frequently, so check often. There are lots of exchange rate websites. Here’s one:

· Credit cards like Visa and MasterCard are commonly accepted in other countries. However, each time you use it there may be a transaction fee that applies to use of the card in another country. Also, the exchange rate may be less favorable than what you could get at a local bank.

· Your cell phone may or may not work in a foreign country. Check with your carrier to find out. You may be able to add international service for a fee. You may also wish to purchase a phone (with prepaid minutes) in your destination country. If you are in a city or town, there will probably be stores that sell phones. Buy an inexpensive one.

· Make sure your health insurance covers you in a foreign country. If not, you can go online to find short-term international travel insurance. There are many companies that offer it.

· If you get sick in a foreign country, ask the locals for the location of a clinic.

· Be cautious about drinking tap water in other countries. It may contain bacteria that could make you sick. If faucet water is contaminated, you could even get sick from using it to brush your teeth. Instead, try to drink bottled water, canned or bottled sodas, etc.

· Have a backup plan. If something goes wrong, be sure that you have a way of contacting someone back home in the U.S. who can help you solve the problem.

· Leave your itinerary (your travel plan, day by day) with a trusted friend or relative back home. Arrange for regular check-in contacts (by phone, Skype, etc.) so that your friends or family will know you are safe. Make sure that your home contact knows what to do if you fail to check in.

· If all else fails, contact the local U.S. Embassy. The United States maintains embassies in nearly every country of the world. If a country has no U.S. Embassy, do not travel there!

· If you wish to travel inexpensively, plan to stay in youth hostels. To find them, try or or

· Be on guard at all times for scams. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who want to take advantage of tourists, in ways that range from taking your money to taking you for trafficking purposes. Be sure you are paying a fair price for what you purchase; keep track of luggage (backpack, travel bags, suitcases, etc.); keep your money, passport, and credit cards with you at all times. Try to avoid taking valuable items with you when you travel. Don’t get into a car with a stranger unless the car is a registered taxi.

· DO NOT, under any circumstances, take illegal drugs with you, or attempt to buy or sell them – or use them – in another country. Also take precautions to prevent someone from slipping drugs into your suitcase, pocket, etc. The penalties can be quite severe in other countries for possession of drugs.

· If you don’t speak the language, make sure your phone (if you’ll be using it) has a translator app. If not, take a phrasebook so you can look up important phrases like “where’s the bathroom?”