1. Make sure you have a signed, valid passport and visas, if required. Also, before you go, fill in the emergency information page of your passport! Take a photo on your cellphone or copy your passport and email it to yourself, leave a copy with family, and stick a copy in your wallet.
2. Read the Consular Information Sheets (and Public Announcements or Travel Warnings, if applicable) for the countries you plan to visit. Spend some time on the Internet doing a little research. Keep a binder with important information, phone numbers, maps, and anything else that will make your trip smoother.
3. If possible register your trip with the embassy either online or upon arrival. Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends at home, so that you can be contacted in case of an emergency. Keep your host program informed of your whereabouts.
4. Check with the CDC website and make sure your immunizations are current for the country you are going to. Make sure you have insurance that will cover your emergency medical needs (including medical evacuation) while you are overseas.
5. Keep out of jail! Study up on the local laws and customs of the countries to which you are traveling. Remember, while in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws! You don’t want to spend one minute in any overseas jail.
6. Be responsible for your belongings. Travel light and do not leave your luggage unattended in public areas and never accept packages from strangers. You don’t want to be the innocent mule carrying drugs.
7. Again, study the laws of the country you will be visiting. While abroad, avoid using illicit drugs or drinking excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages, and associating with people who do.
8. Dress casually and don’t flaunt it even if you got it. Do not become a target for thieves by wearing conspicuous clothing and expensive jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of cash or unnecessary credit cards.
9. Deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money to avoid violating local laws. ATMs, official currency exchanges abound. Debit cards are better than using credit cards.
10. When overseas, avoid demonstrations and other situations that may become unruly or where anti-American sentiments may be expressed. Keep away from the embassy at these times.
11. Don’t be a target for terrorists. Avoid the red, white, and blue T-shirt. Be on the look out for suspicious packages or people. Be alert at all times.
12. Check the latest travel rules and restrictions. Ensure you carry copies of your prescriptions for any medications.