So, you are planning a trip abroad? And you are in good company too as millions of people travel abroad each year, with 750,000 traveling for medical tourism reasons alone. College students are also traveling, with thousands leaving the country each month to study abroad for three to six months or for a year or longer. Assuming that you already have your approval to travel and study abroad in hand, the following tips can help your time outside of the United States be a wholly profitable one.
1. Review your passport. An up to date passport, including one that won’t expire for months after you return is necessary. Leave a copy of your passport with your family and bring a copy with you. If you lose it and its needs to get replaced, your copy will prove your citizenship and expedite the replacement process.
2. Contact the embassy. Your stay may be in the friendliest of countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada or New Zealand. Nevertheless, when you travel abroad and are planning an extended stay in your host country, notify that local US embassy of your whereabouts. If there is an emergency, the embassy will know where to find you, and can evacuate you if needed.
3. Update your insurance. Your insurance coverage may be adequate stateside, but once you travel abroad things are not always so clear or covered. You will want to make an appointment with your doctor before you leave to ensure that your vaccinations are up to date and that your health allows you to travel. Contact your insurer to explain your trip abroad. You may need to buy a rider to cover emergencies abroad.
4. Use financial discretion. Never assume that you have sufficient money for traveling abroad. Always arrange for access to US funds while you are abroad. Familiarize yourself with currency exchange rates and avoid carrying large sums of cash while traveling. Your stay may be at a hostel or other public place where your cash or personal effects are at higher risk of being stolen.
5. Just plan ahead. If your trip will take you across multiple borders, such as across Europe, you will want to map out your trip in advance. You may also find that it is cheaper to buy a Eurail pass in advance, enabling you to visit as many as two dozen countries by train. Learn what pass options are available to you, and buy your ticket(s) in advance. Download guidebooks, apps and bookmark places you will want to visit while abroad. You may be stationed at a certain university, but that shouldn’t preclude you from heading out from time to time.
6. Your electronic gear. Computers, smart phones and tablets are used the world over. Just make sure that you can get a connection while you are abroad. Bring a voltage adapter with you to ensure a connection is always possible wherever you go. Contact your cell phone provider to discover how to access your phone while abroad. You may need to upgrade to a different plan or connect with another service provider while you are outside of the U.S.
7. Pack your stuff wisely. Whether you are gone for weeks or months, luggage can be a huge factor in your travel considerations. If you plan to be gone for long, you may want to ship some of your clothing ahead. Do the same with certain goods such as bedding, school supplies and personal effects that you do not need right away. Otherwise, pack sensibly, bringing just what you need, and nothing more.
With your study abroad plans taking shape, you will want to make the most of your time away. Work out a schedule so that you can take in the local color and move from country to country if time permits. For many students, studying abroad is a one-time opportunity to soak up a different culture and to appreciate what they have as American citizens.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Medical Tourism — Getting Medical Care in Another Country — http://www.cdc.gov/Features/MedicalTourism/
U.S. State Department: Study Abroad Can Change Your Life—And Your Country — http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/site/entry/promoting_educational_exchange
Louise Trainor is a travel writer. She enjoys sharing her experience with other travel enthusiasts around the web. If you’re visiting South Africa, consider a trip to Johannesburg.