Going on a trip raises lots of questions for people under normal circumstances. “Did I remember to turn off the heat or the stove? What if the refrigerator stops working while I’m gone? Don’t forget to take the garbage out!”
But if you don’t travel much or have never been outside of the country, there are a lot of other ideas you may need to take into consideration. Luckily the tourist offices of most countries have websites that can answer some of your questions.
- Do you need a visa where you’re going? Don’t assume that you don’t need one because you carry a U.S. passport. If you have a connecting flight in another country, you may also need a visa for the country you’re stopping off in even though you won’t have enough time to leave the airport. Check with the Embassy or Consulate of any countries you’ll be staying in or passing through.
- How long is your passport good for? Every country requires your passport to be valid for a certain period past the date of your departure (from their country). That period can range from one to nine months depending on the country. Check with the Embassy or Consulate of any countries you’ll be staying in or passing through.
- Are there arrival or departure taxes? Believe it or not, some countries require a fee to be paid in cash (sometimes by credit card) upon arrival or just before you leave. This can be a pain if you don’t carry a lot of cash with you or get rid of all your local currency before getting to the airport to return home. Check a guidebook for your host country, which should contain all the facts you need to know.
- Does the country you’re visiting require vaccinations? More and more people, especially parents of young children, fear the dangerous side effects caused by most vaccinations — and rightfully so! Check with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding requirements for the country(-ies) you are visiting.
- Do you need to purchase the local currency before leaving the U.S.? These days you may not have to stop off at a tourist exchange office in your hometown or in the airport (and pay their exorbitant rates) before leaving for your destination. In most countries, travelers checks are just a hassle that foreign banks hate to change. ATMs in foreign countries are often part of the PLUS or Cirrus system (sometimes others) allowing you to withdraw small amounts of money for a nominal fee. Note that in many countries you may be limited to withdrawing somewhere between US$200 and $400 per card per day. So if you have to pay the equivalent of US $900 in cash upon arrival at a guest house or rental apartment, make sure the owner knows it may take a few days to get the full amount due.