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Journey Abroad

If you are going to travel, plan ahead.

Plan a safe and healthy trip

We have relief from the scorching days of summer, but the chill of winter will soon follow. If you are thinking ahead to the cold months to come, you are not alone. Many are planning extended vacations to warmer locale, but before you can enjoy the sunshine, you must plan for a safe and healthy trip.


International travel can be a rich and rewarding adventure. It is a good idea for you to apply for your passport several months before your trip. If you will need a visa to visit the foreign country, you must get your passport first. If this will be your first passport, or if you are otherwise unqualified to renew your previous passport by mail, you will need to apply for your passport in person.

There are thousands of places across the U.S. to apply for your passport. It will take approximately six weeks for you to receive your passport. It is possible for you to receive your passport in as little as two weeks for an additional charge. However, it is simply best to apply early so that you may avoid the rush. Your U.S. passport is the most valuable document you carry abroad as it confirms that you are an American citizen. It should be carefully guarded.

Trip Insurance

Another consideration to keep in mind is what you would do if, once you have your passport and travel plans, an emergency were to emerge. If an emergency does exist before you leave, having purchased trip insurance will help protect your investment. However, before deciding on an insurance policy, make sure your policy will cover all reasonable possibilities for having to cancel. You should shop around for the trip insurance policy that offers the most benefits; some will even include accident and illness coverage while traveling.

Heath Insurance

Health coverage may be very important while travelling aboard, as there can be many hidden risks. For example, you should be wary of ice cubes that may not have been made with purified water. All of your vegetables and fruits should be peeled or washed in a purifying solution before you eat them. A good rule for you to follow is if you cannot peel it or cook it, do not eat it.

In addition, air pollution and high altitudes are a particular health risk for the elderly and persons with high blood pressure, anemia, or respiratory or cardiac problems. Due to the particularly high medical costs you may face, prevention is key. U.S. medical insurance is generally not accepted outside the United States and the Social Security Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide coverage for hospital or medical costs outside the United States.

If your insurance policy does not cover you abroad, there are short-term health insurance policies designed specifically to cover travel. Many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations, which can cost as much as $50,000.


If during your trip you will require medication, it is important to bring an ample supply in its original containers. You should also bring copies of your prescriptions due to strict laws concerning narcotics throughout the world. If you have unique medical problems, you should consider wearing a “medical alert” bracelet.

Local Law & Regulations

As part of your safety it is important to keep in mind that while abroad you are subject to the laws and regulations of that country and you are not protected by the U.S. Constitution. If you are detained by local authorities, you should ask them to notify a U.S. consular officer. As an American citizen, you have a right to contact an American consul through international agreements and practice. However, the U.S. consuls cannot act as your attorney or get you out of jail. They are only able to provide you with a list of local attorneys and inform you of your rights under local laws. They will also monitor your status and make sure you are treated fairly under local laws.


Although most countries in the world have less street crime than exists in America, this does not mean that there is no crime and that your safety is assured. Being a foreigner and not knowing the rules of local behavior may increase the odds of your becoming the victim of crimes such as fraud, robbery, or theft. In addition, you should carefully consider the clothing you take. You should dress conservatively, because a wardrobe that is flashy or too casual may attract the attention of thieves or con artists.

Your best defense against crime is to be alert. If you should find yourself in a crowded area, such as in an elevator, subway, marketplace, or in busy tourist areas, exercise special caution to avoid theft. You can also help prevent theft by carrying your belongings securely. You should carry your purse tucked under an arm and not dangling by a strap and carry other valuables hidden in an inside front pocket or in a money belt, not in a hip pocket.


By planning in advance, insuring your health, and taking some safety measures, you will be able to relish your well-deserved endeavor.

Malissa L. Walden, Esq. ©2006

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