Your travel plans include a trip beyond the borders of the United States perhaps as close as Canada, the Bahamas, Bermuda or Mexico, or maybe to South America, Asia, Africa, Australia or Europe. When traveling outside of the country, there are certain documents you need to have on hand. A valid passport is mandatory for all international travel, but there are other documents you may need to secure before your trip begins.
Let’s take a look at the various documents needed for international travel:
Passport – A day trip to Canada or Mexico now requires that you carry your passport with you. Changes made following the 2001 terrorist attacks require U.S. citizens to bring a passport with them even if the visit is just for the day.
When traveling internationally, your passport must be valid and in some cases must have been issued at least six months earlier. You will need to have at least one blank page left, otherwise get a new passport before traveling.
Visa – While a passport can get you out of the country and into another country, the visiting country may require that you obtain a visa first. Visa requirements vary from country to country and can offer different requirements for visitors who are tourists as well as for those that are conducting business.
Your airline or cruise line can tell you what the visa requirements are for your destination. You can also confirm this information by heading over to VisaCenter.com and entering your information. Typically, tourists can visit most countries for up to 90 days without a visa. Expect to pay a separate fee for obtaining a visa.
Flight information – When traveling by air, the country you are visiting may require that you show proof of your airline flights. Those flights include your arrival and departure flights, and onward flight information.
For instance, if you are heading to the United Kingdom through Canada, you may be required to show your ticket information from Toronto to London and back. You’ll have this information on you anyway — just be prepared to show it if required.
Sufficient funds – No nation wants people crossing its borders without funds on hand to pay for their stay. Your airline, cruise line or travel agent may tell you that you must carry sufficient funds, money that should be enough to cover your stay.
Carrying cash can make you a thief magnet, therefore bringing with you several credit cards and an automatic teller machine or ATM card can help. Before you travel internationally, contact each credit or debit card provider and explain that you are traveling. That information is helpful as the provider could put a freeze on your account if it suspects suspicious activity and you cannot be reached. Be careful about fees as international transactions on credit cards typically add a transaction fee and your bank may charge you a currency conversion fee notes European travel adviser Rick Steves.
Other Documentation and Information
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection as part of the Department of Homeland Security, issues traveler tips that go beyond mere documentation. Its “Know Before You Go” brochure offers details on what to expect when returning to the United States. Print copies are available upon request; you can also get an Internet version by visit www.cbp.govand heading to the Travel section.
For example, you will need to declare everything that you bring in from abroad. Some items carry a duty while others are duty-free. Some foods may not be allowed and anything made in Cuba, even if it was sold to you while you were in Mexico or elsewhere, is not allowed. Items deemed counterfeit will have to be surrendered and CBP officers have the right to you and your personal items without a warrant.
Traveling abroad certainly can be relaxing and enjoyable. You can thwart potential stress by obtaining the necessary documents well in advance in addition to familiarizing yourself with CBP rules.
Dan Ripoll is a frequent international traveller and founder of Passports Without The Stress – a service specializing in same day passport renewals in Los Angeles.