Novice Travel 101: Tips On Safe Travel Planning
The Department of State’s Country Specific Information are available for every country of the world. They describe entry requirements, currency regulations, unusual health conditions, the crime and security situation, political disturbances, areas of instability, and special information about driving and road conditions. They also provide addresses and emergency telephone numbers for U.S. embassies and consulates. In general, Country Specific Information do not give advice. Instead, they describe conditions so travelers can make informed decisions about their trips.
For some countries, however, the Department of State issues a Travel Warning in addition to a Country Specific Information. The Travel Warning may recommend that Americans defer travel to that country because of a dangerous situation there.
Travel Alerts are a means to disseminate information about relatively short-term conditions posing significant risk to the security of American travelers. They are issued when there is a perceived threat, even if it does not involve Americans as a particular target group. In the past, Travel Alerts have been issued to deal with coups, pre-election disturbances, and violence by terrorists and anniversary dates of specific terrorist events.
You can access Country Specific Information, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts 24-hours a day in several ways.
The most convenient source of information about travel and consular services is the Consular Affairs home page.
Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 can answer general inquiries on safety and security overseas. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. Federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, can obtain information and assistance from OCS during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444.
Country Specific Information, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts are available at any of the regional passport agencies and U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
Local Laws and Customs
When you leave the United States, you are subject to the laws of the country you are visiting. Therefore, before you go, learn as much as you can about the local laws and customs of the places you plan to visit. Good resources are your library, your travel agent, and the embassies, consulates or tourist bureaus of the countries you will visit. In addition, keep track of what is being reported in the media about recent developments in those countries.
With all of the information available online there is no excuse for not knowing what is going on in the country you will be visiting. Keep current and keep safe.