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Exploring another country can be a life-changing experience. Unfortunately, many travelers face frustration, and sometimes health or legal issues, because they failed to research and prepare. Here are some tips to help. 

Get the Right Documents
Most countries require visitors to have a passport valid for six months after their anticipated return date. The U.S. Department of State’s website has information on where and how to update your passport, if necessary. Try to apply at least six weeks before your trip to allow for standard processing times. If that’s not possible, you can pay extra for expedited processing.

The State Department’s website has information on visa requirements for various countries. If you plan to drive abroad, find out if you can use your U.S. driver’s license or if you will need an International Driver’s License.

Make a few copies of your passport’s information page and your visa and keep them separate from your passport. If your passport is lost or stolen, having copies will make it easier to get a replacement.

Take Health Precautions
The Centers for Disease Control’s website has information about vaccinations required for travel to specific countries and the safety of food and water. If you take any prescriptions, check the State Department’s website to make sure they aren’t illegal in your destination country. Bring copies of your prescriptions and keep medications in their bottles. Bring extra medication in case your return home is delayed.

Find out if your health insurance covers emergency treatment abroad. If not, buy travel insurance. Note that travel insurance may not cover you in a country subject to a travel warning.

Understand the Situation Abroad 
The U.S. government sometimes issues travel warnings if long-term issues create hazardous conditions for travelers and travel alerts to notify citizens about hazards associated with short-term conditions. Find out if any warnings or alerts have been issued for your destination. If so, decide whether to cancel or postpone your trip. If you decide to go ahead with it, monitor the news in-country.

If you plan to visit a remote or potentially dangerous area, register at the State Department’s website and provide your contact information and itinerary. The U.S. government will be able to contact you, assist you, if necessary, and share information with your family and friends if you give permission. Keep contact information for the nearest embassy or consulate with you at all times.

Don’t Get Stuck Without Money or Valuables
Bring only one or two credit cards on your trip. Notify the card issuers of your travel plans so they don’t flag international charges as fraudulent. Write down your credit card numbers and customer service numbers that accept phone calls from outside the U.S.

Only bring essential valuables with you, such as your cell phone. Lock up valuables in your hotel’s safe. 

Enjoy Your Trip
Many problems abroad can be prevented through education and preparation. Make sure you understand the laws and conditions in your destination country so you can stay safe and avoid unnecessary stress.