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A Checklist for Traveling Abroad: What You Need to Know

Your flight is booked, bags are packed and your living accommodations are secured. But there’s more to traveling abroad than just the basic itinerary. Proper planning before taking a trip to a foreign country could make the difference between a memorable experience and a tumultuous one. Depending on where you’re headed, there are things that are imperative you be aware of based on the culture, the climate, the currency system, etc. Today, we’ll break down a checklist of what you need to know before your trip.


Before taking an international trip, it is important to be aware of the necessary vaccinations to protect yourself from serious illnesses. The CDC website gives specifics on which vaccines are required based on your travel destination. It is recommended to get your shots at least two months before leaving the country. You should also read up on travel notices (also found on the CDC’s website) regarding any new outbreaks in the area. Also, check with your insurance provider (as most vaccines are not covered by certain plans and out of pocket costs could become expensive).


All prescription medication should be packaged in its original bottles. Do not pack meds in unlabeled ziplock bags, etc. Check with the foreign embassy to make sure the medications you’re traveling with are not illegal in that particular country. Bring enough medicine to last your entire trip (as it could be difficult to fill prescriptions overseas). And finally, make separate copies of all prescriptions (including the names of your medications) before leaving just in case. If you have to use a syringe, it should be accompanied by a note from your doctor.


A passport is proof of citizenship that allows international travel. A visa on the other hand grants permission to enter, leave or stay for a period of time in a particular country. Applying for a passport is easy. You can do it online and the cost is $145 (including your application fee). It usually arrives in 4-6 weeks. It’s more expensive if you want to expedite the process. Make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months after entering a foreign country. As far as visas are concerned, the type that you apply for depends on the purpose of your stay and application requirements vary depending on the country you’re traveling to. Go online and look up the nation you plan on visiting to apply.


Before traveling abroad, do some research on exchange rates as it compares to the currency in your home country. This will give you an idea of how much you’ll have to come out of pocket while on vacation. When using credit cards, skip cash advances since they may charge astronomical fees on the back end. Avoid currency exchange kiosks at all costs. They’re complete rip offs! One of the most cost-effective ways to get local currency is to take out cash from an ATM. Check with your bank to learn about any extra fees that may be applied for overseas withdrawals. You should also make your bank aware of your travels so that your card isn’t flagged for any fraudulent activity. Another option is to purchase foreign currency before your trip. Most big banks can accommodate, although there could be some extra charges and you may need to plan ahead a few days.


Depending on what part of the world you’re in, communicating with loved ones and getting internet access can be difficult. Reach out to your cell phone provider before heading to your destination. They should be able to tell you which international plan is best for you. Another option is purchasing an internet card that will allow you to connect to WiFi while abroad. Or, if you’re a frequent traveler who needs constant internet access for longer periods of time, a WiFi hotspot device is the best option. These devices allow you to use wireless services without having to purchase a SIM card or worrying about a cell phone plan. Services vary based on which device you purchase.

If You’re Arrested While Abroad

One of the most common reasons many people get arrested while abroad is due to dressing immodestly. Read up on the laws and policies of the perspective country you plan to visit before leaving (be it the dress code or otherwise). For instance, public displays of affection are illegal in UAE. And wearing camouflage clothing is not allowed in the Caribbean. Register with the U.S Embassy before your trip. It’s free and it helps your family to reach you in case of an emergency. If you happen to be arrested while in a foreign country, you should cooperate fully and let the Embassy know as soon as possible so that they can notify your loved ones and assist you with finding an attorney. While they cannot interfere with another country’s legal proceedings, they can at least get you the support you need until the issue has been resolved.

Travel Insurance 

Travel insurance can be tricky because there are so many stipulations, but if you’ve booked an expensive trip six months or more in advance, it may be smart to purchase some. Prices vary, but usually plans will cover trip cancellations, medical expenses, thefts, etc. Companies like Allianz offer plans for as low as $20-30 dollars per trip and can go as high as $500 for maximum coverage. I would recommend travel insurance for a two week trip to Africa, not necessarily a weekend trip to Miami. There are also credit cards like the very popular Chase Sapphire that reimburse for expenses in the event of a cancellation.

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