The State Department of the United States has numerous resources and programs that can help make traveling and living overseas safer and keep you informed about what is happening in the country where you are traveling or living.
One of the easiest steps to preparing for your trip is to join the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate step.state.gov/step. Once you are enrolled in STEP, you will receive valuable information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
This program also will help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency. It will also help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency. When living abroad you will need to update your local address each time you move, and to make sure that your telephone number is current.
Also, check the Travel Advisory and Alerts for your destination(s) at travel.state.gov/destination:
- Be sure to read carefully the “travel alert” section which clearly lays out the current situation in the country.
- There are also further country-specific details on this page that could affect your travel, such as entry/exit requirements safety and security, local laws and customs, health conditions, transportation, and other relevant topics.
- I would advise you to read each section carefully so you will not be caught unaware of critical issues. This page will have the phone number for the USA embassy which you would use for regular questions and the emergency number to be used in case of dangerous situations requiring immediate action. You should program these numbers into your phone or carry them in your wallet.
If you live abroad, it would be wise to carefully read What Can You Do in a Crisis Abroad? provides practical information on how to prepare for and be safe in a crisis situation.
What the Department of State Can and Can't Do in a Crisis gives clear information about how the State Department will help you during a crisis. If they are able to evacuate people, evacuation costs are ultimately your responsibility and you will be asked to sign a form promising to repay the U.S. government. While crimes against expatriates are infrequent,
Help for U.S. Citizen Victims of Crime is a great resource in the event you are a victim of a crime.
There are more helpful articles on the Department of State webpage including details about international events (right now there is information about the Winter Olympics) or specific information for women travelers or older travelers.
It will be time well spent reading these and the other helpful articles on the State Department site.
About the Author: Scott is the IDEAS Director of Project Operations in Asia and is one of our advisors on safety and security. For further reading, check out Computer Safety While Living or Traveling Abroad.