Most of us do a great deal of research before traveling, especially when international destinations are involved. The State Department’s website offers useful resources to aid those traveling abroad.
You can find fact sheets on every country in the world on the State Department’s site. These pages offer valuable information about destinations including brief descriptions of the country, consulate locations, entry requirements for US citizens, safety tips, accessibility guides for disabled travelers, health information and even information on how the FAA views the country’s aviation safety. Whether you are still deciding on your destination or studying up before you leave, these pages are very helpful for travelers. In addition, there is information concerning current travel warnings.
In another section, the State Department seeks to answer all of the gnawing, negative “what if’s” in this section about emergencies abroad. It’s great to know that there is help if you lose your passport, fall victim to a crime, get arrested or face another crisis. While it’s not necessary to memorize all of this information, it’s not a bad idea to take down the emergency numbers that are listed on the page. For assistance for US Citizens traveling abroad, dial 1-888-407-4747 (from within the US) or 1–202-501-4444 (from outside the US).
Finally, the best resource on this site is the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. STEP is the system that allows you to register details about your international travels with the government. Why would you want to do that? In the event of a natural disaster or uprising, you want the U.S. embassy/consulate to have your information so they can help you and/or communicate with your loved ones. This is a great service and one that everyone should take advantage of. If you are traveling on a group tour, ask your operator if they have already registered you for STEP or if you should do it on your own.
I hope you’ll take advantage of the State Department’s site before planning your next international journey.