3 Essentials to Do Before Traveling Overseas
Are you organizing a mission's trip for your church, preparing to minister overseas, or planning an international vacation for your family? Check here first!
As I prepared for my missions trip to Uganda in 2007, I prayed, fasted, and was confident that God would give His angels charge over me (Psalm 91:11). But, I did not register my trip with the U.S. Embassy in Kampala. At the time, I didn't realize I could! Now, as an American Citizens Services Specialist for the U.S. Department of State, I see the value in alerting the State Department of my international travel.
The U.S. Department of State's number one priority is helping U.S. Citizens in distress overseas. There are consular officers in every U.S. embassy or consulate in the world who stand ready to assist U.S. citizens abroad.
After preparing for a trip spiritually, we should also prepare practically. Here are three ways to prepare:
#1 -- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)!
Enrolling in STEP allows you to receive the latest travel updates about the country where you will be traveling or living. STEP helps the U.S. Department of State better assist you in case of a medical emergency or if your passport is lost or stolen. STEP enrollment is most critical when natural disasters strike. After the earthquake in Haiti, the U.S. Department of State evacuated 16,700+ U.S. citizens. The travel and contact information you enter into STEP also makes it easier for us to contact you and your loved ones during an emergency.
#2 -- View our Consular Information Program pages before you travel.
The State Department's Consular Information Program consists of three components:
- Country-Specific Information pages offer valuable information about the country to which you are traveling, including entry-exit requirements such as visa, passport, and immunization information.
- Travel Alerts are issued for short-term events that we think you should know about when planning your travel, such as disease outbreaks (i.e. H1N1).
- Travel Warnings are issued for countries with long-term concerns (i.e. frequent terrorist attacks). You should strongly consider not traveling to these areas.
#3 -- Ensure that your health insurance travels with you!
You should not assume that your health insurance will cover you overseas. BEFORE you leave, it is important to ask your insurance company two questions:
- Does my policy apply when I'm out of the United States?
- Will it cover emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or a medical evacuation? Medical evacuations can range from $75,000 to $140,000.
In many places, doctors and hospitals expect payment in cash at the time of service. If your policy isn't valid overseas, seriously consider taking out another one especially for your trip. Please visit our medical insurance overseas page for more information.
We always pray for God's protection as we travel, and we believe in God's promise to be with us wherever we go (Genesis 28:15). But it never hurts to prepare.
Question: What information given in this article were you not aware of?
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Rachel Washington is a Diplomat for the U.S. Department of State, and she is passionate about providing encouragement to those who live far from home. You can view encouraging stories from Rachel's overseas adventures on her blog www.lovelyspirit.wordpress.com. This article, as well as the articles on Rachel's blog, are her personal views, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Government. Rachel and her husband Byron live in Northern Virginia.
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