Thursday, April 24, 2014

Encore: Seven Questions to Ask Before Traveling Abroad

Before setting foot on a plane to go overseas, make sure you know the answers to these seven questions.

Before setting foot on a plane to go overseas, make sure you know the answers to these seven questions.

1. How do I get a passport and visa?

Before you travel internationally, check the entry requirements of the country you're visiting to see if you need a visa in addition to a passport. What's a visa? It's an endorsement stamp issued by a country that allows you to visit for a specific length of time.

Apply for a passport and visas online or at passport agencies throughout the U.S. First-time cost is $135 if you're age 16 or older and $105 for travelers younger than age 16. Renewals cost $110. Fast processing costs an extra $60.

Before you leave home, make two copies of your passport so it's easier to replace if it's lost or stolen. Leave one copy with someone you trust, and take the other copy with you. To avoid theft, carry your passport with you at all times.

2. Should I bring cash, credit cards, or both?

You only should need one credit card overseas. When you cut down on the clutter you carry, you'll cut down on the potential for identify theft. Your credit card usually will get the best exchange rate. The credit card bill you sign will be in local currency then exchanged to U.S. dollars by your credit card issuer. You also can obtain currency in advance so you're ready to purchase when you arrive; ask someone at your credit union if it provides this service, or can recommend a local source for foreign currency.
The cost for travelers' insurance varies widely depending on age, type of trip, length of stay, and destination.

3. What should I know about travel advisories?

Before definitively planning your itinerary, particularly to developing countries, check out what travel advisories might apply. The U.S. State Department provides an updated list of countries that present travel-safety concerns for Americans.

4. Should I buy trip cancellation or medical insurance?

Before you buy extra insurance that covers trip cancellations, lost luggage, car rental, or medical needs , check with your current insurance carrier. Plus, your travel agent may have a comprehensive package that fits your needs.

Elaine Bowman, travel agent with Lakeland Travel Company, Lakeland, Fla., says, "Check your medical insurance before you leave home. Nine out of 10 times you'll need supplemental insurance. [In most cases] Medicare, for example, won't cover you when you're out of the country."

Keep in mind, the cost for travelers' insurance varies widely depending on your age, type of trip you're taking, length of stay, and destination. Bowman adds, "Whatever supplemental insurance you get, make sure it includes evacuation insurance."

Your credit card usually will get the best exchange rate.

5. What shots do I need?

This depends on your itinerary. See your physician or local travel medicine clinic several weeks in advance of travel, because some vaccinations and some medicines need to be given well before your departure date. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a travel-vaccination checklist.

6. How can I avoid jet lag?

When you travel over three or more time zones your body's circadian rhythm usually is disrupted. The result is fatigue, disorientation, and disequilibrium. When you reach your destination, sleep may be difficult for a few nights—you may wake up several times because your internal "clock" thinks it's daytime.

    But you can help trick your body into adjusting to different time zones.

  • Before you leave. When you travel east to west (the harder route to adjust to), a few days before departure, start going to bed an hour or two earlier each night. West to east travelers should stay awake an hour later each night.
  • On the plane. After you board, set your watch to your destination's time, then eat and sleep as if it's that time of day. Eat lightly and avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol. Drink plenty of water. During the flight get up and walk around several times to stimulate your circulation.
  • After you arrive. Even though you may be exhausted, don't go to bed right away. Get outside and take a walk. Absorbing natural daylight helps set your internal timing. Then eat your meals and go to bed according to local time, not according to how you feel or your time zone back home.
    Before you travel internationally, check to see if you need a visa in addition to a passport.

7. How can I best fit in when I travel overseas?

Start by scrutinizing how you dress. Leave the wild outfits and eccentric and expensive jewelry at home. How you dress sets you apart, and that's what may draw the attention of thieves.

You'll find acceptance more readily if your behavior, along with your dress, is on the quieter side. Take time to learn about the country you're visiting. Local people appreciate it when they see you've made an effort to learn a few phrases of their language and know something about their history and culture.

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