Traveling internationally can be an incredibly rewarding experience, both personally and professionally. But, it can also pose challenges and risks that you would not typically encounter in the United States. Preparation, patience and flexibility will go a long way towards ensuring a positive experience. We have compiled a list of resources to help when planning your overseas trip.
- Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a list of recommended vaccinations – sometimes mandatory in order to enter the country.
- Consult with your health care provider or the MUSC Travel Clinic for necessary pre-and post-travel health care.
- When you return, if you experience any health problems see your personal physician or contact the MUSC Travel clinic noting the destinations you have visited. Some symptoms could be indicative of something you have contracted while abroad.
- Travel-related illness can occur weeks to months after your return. You should make a post travel appointment to see your travel health provider if you have concerns.
- Check the World Health Organization for international travel information on health risks and vaccine requirements.
Safety and Security Concerns
- Wherever you travel in the world, maintain a high level of vigilance and increase your security and awareness. A good resource to bookmark is the State Department travel warnings.
- Register with the U.S. Department of State, which provides helpful information about safety and security in foreign countries and offers a free travel registration service to U.S. citizens who are traveling or living in another country. Once you register your information, the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate can offer information or assistance if an emergency, natural disaster, civil unrest or acts of terrorism arise during your travel.
- For more information about services available during an emergency, check out Emergencies: Consular Assistance and Crises Abroad.
To avoid attracting unwanted or minimize security risk:
- Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs
- Dress appropriately, respecting local laws and customs
- Learn from locals about unsafe areas
- Do not wear expensive jewelry or watches
- Do not carry large sums of money or unnecessary credit cards
- Do not travel alone at night
- Avoid dark streets or suspicious persons
- Report any theft, accident or assault to the authorities
Culture and Customs
Whether you are planning for a short or long-term trip, it’s important to understand the varying cultural, political, religious laws and regulations of the places you will be visiting. You can learn about countries through many resources including websites and other media. Even a basic guidebook can provide information on customs and history.
The U.S. Department of State provides country-specific information pages with country descriptions and entry/exit requirements. For each country, you will find information like the location of the U.S. embassy and any consular offices; whether you need a visa, crime and security information and health and medical conditions.
Culture Crossing is a great resource to learn more about the culture, religion, customs and tradition of people around the globe.
- Prior to your departure, speak with others who have visited the country where you will be going or talk to citizens of the country who are at MUSC.
- Be aware of the differences in etiquette, communication style and, social and business interactions.
- Take the initiative to find learning opportunities both at the hospital and community level.
- Keep a diary or logbook to recording interesting cases and events.
- If you take a camera, always ask permission first to photograph a colleague or patient.
- Learn basic phrases such as “hello” and “thank you” in the local language – it makes a big difference.
- Be aware that in many countries, prolonged greeting exchanges are customary before any business is conducted.
- Even the best laid plans will likely change. Prepare to be flexible with what comes your way. This usually leads to a better experience for you and more useful investment for the partner country.
- Remember that time and punctuality may be viewed differently in other countries, and learn to be patient and flexible.
Complete 90 days prior to departure
- Consult the U.S. State Department’s website for travel advisories and warnings.
- Make sure that your passport is up-to-date and is valid for six months after the date(s) that you plan to travel. If not, renew it now. Allow at least six weeks to obtain or renew your passport.
- In addition to your passport, many countries require visas depending on our purpose for travel (work, student, visitor). Processing time varies from days to two months, depending on your purpose for travel, your citizenship and your destination. For information about your destination country’s requirements, refer to the U.S. Department of State International Travel Site or visit the consular affairs section on the web site for the destination country.
- Consult the CDC website for travel preparation recommendations for your specific destination(s). This website provides comprehensive information about relevant health and travel advice.
- Visit your primary care physician or travel clinic at least three months before your departure to get necessary vaccinations and medications. If you elect not to take supplies of particular prophylaxes, be sure you know if and where you can get them locally.
Complete 30 days prior to departure:
- Check whether your personal health care insurance covers emergent medical care and emergency and evacuation assistance in your area of travel.
- Plan to get a global cell phone or purchase one at your destination for a low cost.
Complete two weeks prior to departure:
- Register your travel plans with the State Department online.
- Familiarize yourself with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country you are visiting.
- Continually recheck the State Department website for travel warnings or alerts, and consult with program director to confirm arrangements and travel plans.
- When traveling, carry two extra passport photos separately from your passport, a copy of your passport, and a certified copy (not the original) of your birth certificate or an expired passport.
- Make copies of your passport, visas and itineraries to keep as backup and leave a copy with family and friends back in the States. If the passport is lost, report the loss to the local police, get written confirmation of the police report and take the above documents to the nearest U.S. consulate (if you are a U.S. citizen) and apply for a new passport. Note that passports cannot be issued immediately abroad and you can expect a delay of anywhere from a few days to weeks.
- Inform your bank and credit card companies where and how long you will be abroad to ensure you have adequate access to cash and that your accounts are not suspended due to "suspicious activity."