A trip requires careful planning. Here are some important steps to prepare for a safe trip outside the United States.
Click here for a downloadable PDF card to take with you while you travel.
- Read up on your destination at travel.state.gov. Learn about visa requirements, local laws, customs, and medical care in the countries you are visiting. Some travelers, such as those with disabilities, women, and LGBTI persons, may face additional challenges when abroad.
- Be aware of any Travel Warnings or Travel Alerts for your destination country, which describe risks to you and may affect your travel plans. Also check the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will be traveling for the latest security messages.
- Find out about health precautions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) provide recommendations for vaccinations and other travel health precautions for your trip abroad.
- Prepare to handle money overseas. Before you go, notify your bank and credit card company of your travel, and check exchange rates. For information about using cash, debit/credit cards, and ATMs, read about your destination.
- Carry contact details for the nearest U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate with you, in English and the local language. We provide help for emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, overseas and in Washington, D.C. (888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444). Read more about what the Department of State can and cannot do for you in an emergency.
Get Required Documents
- Apply early for a passport, or renew your old one. It should be valid for at least six months after you return home, and needs to have two or more blank pages. Otherwise, some countries may not let you enter. Check all family members’ passports because those for adults are valid for 10 years, but children’s passports only for five. U.S. citizens must use a U.S. passport to leave and come back to the United States.
- If you are traveling by land or sea, you must show proof of both your U.S. citizenship and your identity when you return to the United States. For many land or sea trips, this means you can travel using the new U.S. passport card instead of a normal passport book. Read more about U.S. passport requirements.
- You may need to get a visa before you travel to a destination. Contact the embassy of the foreign countries you will be visiting for more information.
- Get a letter from your doctor for medications you are bringing. Some countries have strict laws, even against over-the-counter medications, so read about your destination before you go.
- If you are traveling alone with children, foreign border officials may require custody documents or written consent from the other parent. Check with the embassy of your foreign destination before traveling.
- Make two photocopies 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 documents in case of loss or theft.
- Sign up for our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at step.state.gov. You can receive travel and security updates about your destination, and it will help us contact you in an emergency.
Please watch a video about STEP here.
- If your family needs to reach you because of an emergency at home, they can call Overseas Citizens Services in Washington, D.C. at 888-407-4747 (from the United States and Canada) or 202-501-4444.
- Make sure you have health insurance whenever you are traveling abroad. If your U.S. health care plan does not cover you overseas, consider buying supplemental insurance to cover medical costs and emergency evacuation. Foreign hospitals and doctors often require payment in cash, and Emergency medical evacuation can cost up to $100,000. Social Security and Medicare does not provide coverage outside of the United States. Learn more at Your Health Abroad.
- Also check if you have coverage for trip interruption/cancellation and loss or theft, to help pay for unexpected expenses.
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.