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If you are planning any international travel, the facts you are going to read now will make your travel hassle-free, safe, convenient, and affordable as well.

1. Travel Documents

a. Passport

Get your passport ready. If you do not have one, apply for it. In the US, you can apply for three types of passport:

  1. Passport Book (Application Fee: $110, valid for all international travel by air, land, and sea.
  2. Passport Card (Application Fee: $30, valid only for return to the US by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean)
  3. Passport Book and Card (Application Fee: $140)

There are two types of passport processing: Standard, and Expedited. The passport issuance process may take weeks or months – so better you for the passport with ample time in hand.   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.

Traveling with kids? 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.

b. Visa

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 information about the application procedure, documents, fees, etc.

c. 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 to see what you may need.

2. Medications

Some prescription drugs, including narcotics and some U.S. over-the-counter medications, are illegal in other countries. Check with the embassy of your destination(s) about regulations and documentation before you travel.

3. Safety and Security

Read the Travel Advisory and Alerts for the destination countries at travel.state.gov/destination. U.S. DEPARTMENT of STATE — BUREAU of CONSULAR AFFAIRS categorizes its travel advisory as follow:

  1. Travel Advisory Level 1 (Exercise Normal Precaution)
  2. Travel Advisory Level 2 (Exercise Increased Caution)
  3. Travel Advisory Level 3 (Reconsider Travel)
  4. Travel Advisory Level 4 (Do Not Travel)

The level is attributed to a destination based on factors like Crime (C), Terrorism), Civil Unrest (U), Health Risk(H), Kidnapping (K) and Other (O). For some areas, you must receive special authorization from the U.S. consulate responsible for the area to be visited.

Write down contact details for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to carry with you in case of emergency while traveling.

4. Medical Insurance or Facility Abroad

Does your insurance service cover overseas health or treatment expenses? If yes, carry both your insurance policy identity card as proof of insurance and a claim form.

Although some health insurance companies pay “customary and reasonable” hospital costs abroad, very few pay for your medical evacuation back to the United States. Medical evacuation can cost more than $50,000, depending on your location and medical condition. For more information, visit our website for Insurance Providers for Overseas Coverage.

Take note of the physical or online information of the US embassy or consulate. It helps you locate doctors and hospitals nearby you in the destination country. It may also inform your families or friends in case you need.

5. Local Laws

In some countries, if you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.

Some personal behaviour or conduct that do not sync with the local culture may invite unnecessary trouble for you. For example, same-sex sexual conduct may not be acceptable to many societies and cultures.  LGBTI Travelers should be a little cautious. While the governments may not prosecute in some places but any such act may trigger violence and discrimination against you from the local communities.

6. Transportation, Traffic Rules and Laws

Learn about the more accessible transportation means including private and public both. Public transportation network that may comprise buses, trains, subways, etc. are generally safe. Get to know about them. Know the means of transport connecting airport, hotel, and areas of your exploration, i.e. where you would like to visit.

You must know the common safety rules regarding driving, speed limit, crossing road on foot, road tax, mandatory insurance, and the rental and operation of motor vehicles.

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