By: Kevin Kraus
Remember the good ole days when security at the airports was virtually non-existent and a passport was not even necessary to travel to some countries. Well, times have sure changed, and traveling outside the country has become more complicated and even more dangerous.
Countries around the world are changing their document requirements for entry because of heightened security issues and child trafficking concerns. If you don’t check for the latest regulations to the countries you plan on visiting, you could find your trip significantly delayed or cancelled. For example, we found out a parent taking a child into Canada without the other parent needs a letter from the non-traveling parent giving their consent and acknowledgement of the trip. Other countries, such as South Africa and Botswana, may ask for raised-seal birth certificates for minor children before entering their countries even though they may not be technically required to do so any longer.
Thus, it is no longer safe to assume that if a country does not require a visa then all you need is a passport. Actually, they may require birth certificates, immunization records or documentation of when you will be leaving the country, such as a return plane reservation. It is even recommended that you keep your prescription drugs segregated in each of their own bottles with the prescription information easily readable. Phillip Thompson, senior director at G3 Global Services, recommends parents traveling with children always have copies of birth certificates even if they are not required since passports of minors do not list the parents’ names.
Within the past couple of years the requirements have been constantly changing between countries as the U.S. has begun tightening their entry requirements. In a tit-for-tat, countries are tending to retaliate when it comes to entry requirements. When the U.S. tightened requirements on Chinese tourists, China retaliated by making it more difficult for U.S. residents to obtain a visa to travel to China. Additionally, in 2021 the European Union will begin requiring U.S. citizens to obtain “travel authorization” permits (a scaled down version of a visa) at least three days prior to a trip which will then be good for three years. As you plan your next trip abroad, the best place to start is the U.S. State department – but do not stop there as entry requirements can often be incomplete or not yet updated for recent changes made by a foreign country to their entry requirements.
Here are some additional tips for traveling internationally:
- Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the end of your trip.
- Carry extra passport photos and $50-$100 of cash in case a country requires a visa on the spot even if it is just considered an entry fee.
- Consider registering with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program “STEP”. It is a free program providing safety updates and puts you in contact with local embassies and consulates in case of an emergency.
- Have access to copies of passports, birth certificates, medical prescriptions, and credit cards in case you lose your originals. I always keep an on-line copy of these on my iPad and a copy back at work to facilitate replacement if these are lost or stolen.
It’s an unexplained phenomenon, but it often seems as we set out on vacation, we assume we are shielded from harm by an invisible bubble. That couldn’t be further from the truth as dangers lurk around every corner and nook in the world. Risks can range from stolen documents, medical emergencies, to kidnappings as recently experienced by a U.S. tourist in Uganda. While much can be done ahead of time to prepare and minimize for the risks you may encounter, it may also be worth considering travel insurance and not just the basic kind that will reimburse you for cancelled travel plans.
Most travelers don’t fully understand travel insurance, rescue and medical evacuation services, or how to best prepare themselves for a dire emergency away from home. Christophe Noel, an adventure travel expert, uncovered a number of reoccurring themes: “The majority of the travelers I interviewed not only didn’t know what type of emergency resources were available where they were traveling, they didn’t know if they were financially obligated to pay for those services if rendered. Even more unsettling was the number of people who had purchased some form of travel protection not realizing what it covered—and what it did not. The most common misconception was that active health, home, and auto insurance would fully cover a policyholder in the event of an emergency in another country. While some coverage may overlap, most of it will not. Lastly, an alarming number of travelers just assumed if tragedy intersected with their trip, emergency response resources would be available. That is never a given. In some cases, your rescue is fully in your hands. Are you prepared for that outcome?”
Our team at Homrich Berg has done some basic research on travel insurance and suggest clients wanting trip insurance should consider using Global Rescue or Ripcord Rescue. Global Rescue can also provide a detailed “Destination Report” on each country you are visiting describing the risks you may encounter during your visit. Both companies offer a menu of services to choose from and the pricing works on an a-la-carte basis.
Some examples of services include:
- Real time information and alerts while traveling.
- Field rescue services with transportation to the hospital of your choice with generous expense caps between $500k to $750k.
- Extensive global network of medical and security advisory services.
- Legal and document assistance.
- Security evacuation for unexpected natural disasters, civil unrest, terrorism, geo-political events, war or other dangerous or chaotic events often staffed by former military expert veterans.
- Translators and communication services to family members to keep them apprised of the situation.
In working with numerous services companies over the years, we have reached one inescapable conclusion: No plan is perfect. Some users of every program or service have been disappointed with a particular service or been faced with unexpected expenses while others have had experiences that far exceed their expectations and quite literally saved the day. This is not to say it’s a crapshoot, but like everything in life, there are no guarantees. However, one thing is certain, some protection is far better than none.