Before you get ready do head out of the country, there are some things you have to get straightened out.


Travel to all countries outside of the United States now require a passport for entrance, even Mexico and Canada. Passport applications are available at most U.S. post offices or in large cities at U.S. passport agencies. Some universities also have offices where you can apply for a passport. YOU MUST APPLY IN PERSON. You will fill out an application and it will be sent to the U.S. Government, along with two passport photos and your birth certificate, (which will be returned to you). A passport generally costs around $100.

Visit the U.S. Department of States website on Passports to learn more:

First time applicants

Applicants under age 16

Renewing your passport


Every country has different requirements for entry into the country. Depending on your length of stay, along with your passport, you may also need a visa. Generally, visas are needed if the stay will be longer than 90 days, but be sure to check the U.S. Department of State for the most updated information.

There are different types of visas for different types of travelers. Generally tourists or business travelers must obtain a tourist visa and students may need a student visa. The best information on every country, including the website addresses for the country’s embassy in the U.S., is available at the U.S. Department of state travel website.

U.S. Embassies

It is important that you register with the U.S. Embassy in your country of destination in case of emergency or if the U.S. government needs to get in touch with all U.S. citizens in a certain country. This is especially important if you are visiting a country that is experiencing civil unrest, a volatile political climate, or in case of a natural disaster. Its also a good idea if you are staying longer than one month.

Click here to register yourself with the U.S. Embassy.

Cultural Resources

It is important to know about the culture of a country or city before you depart so you can familiarize yourself with the history, topography, climate, current events and vocabulary. This will make your stay in the country much easier and the locals will view you in a good way if you have some knowledge of their culture.

Good guidebooks can be purchased at your local bookstore or online. Try Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Rick Steve’s or Frommer’s guides. All of these are readily available on almost any country. Search your country on Google and Youtube and find out more about how to dress so you don’t stand out as an American, what to eat, and the best places to visit.


It is very important that you pack very carefully when traveling abroad. If you forget something, you may not be able to buy it in your host country, such as medication. Don’t forget to pack adapters and converters for the plugs in other countries. Also remember to check the climate before you leave- you don’t want to show up with a bathing suit in the middle of winter!

When you board your plane, make sure you have all your identification with you as well as your passport. You also will want to make plans for a hotel or hostel once you arrive. Airports usually have taxi and/or bus service and these services are easy to find once you arrive at your destination. Bring a copy of the address of the place in case you do not speak the language.

Click here to see a packing checklist to make sure you bring everything you need!


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