International Travel Guidelines
Keep these suggestions in mind for a safe mission trip outside the United States or Canada.
Before you go
- Make sure you have a valid passport. If you don’t, you should get one well in advance of your trip. You may also need a new passport if yours is close to expiring. Some countries require that your passport be valid six months beyond the date of your trip.
- Make two copies of your passport, in case you lose it. Plan to take one with you and leave one at home.
- Find out if you need a visa to enter the country. Securing a visa can take time, so if you do need one, start the process for obtaining one as early as possible. You may want to pay for a visa processing/expediting service to ensure that your paperwork is complete before it is sent to the consulate.
- Research the electrical voltage in the country where you are going. You may need to get an adaptor to plug in electronic devices while abroad.
- Check the exchange rate.
- Let your credit card company know you’re traveling.
- Learn about local laws and customs. Your host will be able to help you with this.
- Learn a few key phrases in the local and/or national languages.
- Find out if drinking water and fresh produce are safe in the area where you’re going.
- Some countries require a parental consent form for minors traveling without a parent. If you will be traveling with minors, check what the policies are for your destination.
- Make sure all your vaccinations are up-to-date and get any additional immunizations the CDC recommends for travel to the country where you are going. Check the CDC website [http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/] to find out what vaccinations you should get.
- Find out what your health insurance provider will cover overseas.
- Get a medical release form from your church or the organization through which you’re serving. Plan to take the signed form with you and leave an extra copy at your church.
- Communicate your health needs to your team leader and to your host. This includes everything from simple allergies to complex medical conditions.
- Pack light.
- Leave your valuables at home.
- If you take prescription medications, make sure you carry them in their original, labeled containers. Keep them in your carry-on baggage.
- Remember the 3-1-1 rule. All liquids, gels, aerosols, creams, and pastes you wish to put in your carry-on must be packed in one quart-sized, clear, zip-top bag. Each container in the bag must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less. Each passenger is only allowed one bag.
- Check the TSA website [www.tsa.gov] for the most up-to-date security regulations.
- Each airline has its own guidelines on baggage. Check with your airline before you travel to see what its luggage policies are.
- Some countries require a tax to enter and leave the country. Check to see if this is included in your ticket cost.
- Bring snacks. Foreign food doesn’t agree with everyone, and sometimes the meal schedule is different than what your body needs.
- Be aware of any travel alerts or warnings for the place you are traveling to.
While you’re there
- Always stay in groups or with a buddy, and check with your host or leaders before you go anywhere.
- Don’t carry large amounts of money around with you without first checking with your hosts.
- Don’t give away money to people on the streets.
- Check with your host about the appropriateness of gift-giving in the culture. It may be customary to exchange gifts with people.
- Be aware of your surroundings, both for safety and to be courteous to those around you.
- Don’t pet stray animals.
- Have a plan for storing passports during the week. Your host may have instructions. If not, it might be best for a leader to keep them all.
- Keep your camera in your bag when you aren’t using it.
Communicate with your host for more specific information about how to prepare for your trip.