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SAFETI Clearinghouse


Student Guide
Adapted from "The Handbook
by Bill Hoffa



The overall cost of living abroad can be higher, or lower, than at home. Because you are in an unfamiliar environment, with local costs stated in a currency you may not be able to translate immediately into dollars, it is easy to be misled. You may also be confronted with an almost endless array of entertainment possibilities and attractions. A cautious approach to buying makes the most sense. Try to live within a prudent budget that will take care of allnecessitiesand allow you to live on the means available to you for the duration of your stay. There is nothing more dismaying than to run out of funds overseas, with no easy or quick means of replenishment. The following suggestions may be helpful:

  • Make both weekly and daily budgets and stick to them.
  • Learn the "value" of the money (i.e. in relation to the U.S. $) wherever you are and as quickly as possible.
  • Be consistently alert for special student rates and discounts, wherever you go, and know what is available through the use of your International Student Identification Card (e.g. travel, accommodations, entrance fees, etc.)
  • Shop when possible in street markets or major chain supermarkets. Avoid specialty shops and convenience stores (which add a 20-30% mark-up). Put off making major purchases as long as you can, when you have learned the range of available selections and prices.
  • When you travel, stay in Youth or Student Hostels, or in modest bed-and-breakfast accommodations, as opposed to hotels that cater to tourists and business travelers and charge accordingly.
  • Take care of your belongings and safeguard your traveler's checks and cash. Losses from
    carelessness are difficult enough at any time. They are even more inconvenient abroad
    and petty theft is universally common.


It is not recommended that you carry large amounts of cash with you. Traveler's checks are the safest and most convenient way for carrying your money. Lost or stolen cash cannot be replaced; traveler's checks can be refunded.Be sure to keep a separate record of the serial numbers of your traveler's checks.Should the checks be lost or stolen, you will need to have these numbers available in order to obtain a refund.

Traveler's checks are available in various denominations of various currencies (e.g. American dollars, British pounds, French francs, etc.) and can be obtained at most banks. There is a I% or more commission charge for traveler's checks purchases. Buying traveler's checks in small denominations means carrying a bulkier package of checks with you, but it also means that you have greater control over the amount of currency you receive each time you cash one or more of these checks.

American currency can be exchanged for foreign currency at most intemational airports prior to your departure; at the international airport after you arrive; and at major banks and railroad stations abroad. It is often helpful to have some local cash-on-hand before you leave the airport, for buses, taxis, a cup of coffee or a snack. The exchange rates and service fees at U.S. airports are invariably less favorable than at the international airport of your arrival. Try to avoid having to exchange currency at hotels, restaurants, or retail shops, as the exchange rate will generally be outrageous.

Banks abroad provide you with the fairest exchange rate available. You can expect to pay a commission (which varies from one country to another) every time you exchange currency. In some countries the commission is based on a percentage of the amount you exchange, while in others there is a flat fee regardless of the amount of the transaction. Always inquire BEFORE you make the transaction!

ATM's are becoming widely available overseas, especially in Western Europe. ATM's allow you to withdraw money in the host country's currency directly from the machine. The exchange rate at an ATM is normally more favorable than at a bank or currency exchange. Check with your bank about ATM availability and PIN's before you leave.


The quickest way, although the most expensive, is by cable transfer from your American bank to a bank abroad. It is wisest to investigate this before you leave. Your hometown bank may have to process cable transfers through an internationally recognized American bank, which will in tum have to deal with a comparable internationally recognized bank overseas.

American Express money orders are relatively fast. Transactions must be initiated at an American Express office in the United States and completed at one of their branch offices abroad, either of which could prove inconvenient, depending on their location. American Express can cable money to one of their overseas offices, where it can be picked up, with appropriate identification. Since not all American Express offices can prepare money orders or cable money, it is wise to find this out in advance.

It is also possible to obtain from an American bank a foreign currency draft drawn against a recognized bank in the foreign country (e.g. a check in Spanish pesetas drawn against the Banco Hispano-Americano in Madrid for a student in Salamanca). This draft can then be sent to you (by registered or certified mail) for cashing abroad.

Should you prefer receiving a bank draft in American currency, a cashier's check drawn against a major American Bank (e.g. Chase Manhattan) can probably be obtained from your hometown bank and forwarded to you abroad (Use Registered or Certified mail).

However this may prove to be a relatively slow way of obtaining the money you need, since you still have/to wait for the foreign bank to confirm the check's validity. Needless to say, personal checks drawn against your local hometown bank will be virtually worthless because of the long amount of time it takes each bank to clear the check.


Credit cards make foreign currency transactions easy and are invaluable in a financial emergency. Take a credit card along, if you can but USE IT WISELY; overspending is so easy to do and fees and interest charges can be costly. Also, the loss or theft of a card abroad can be a huge inconvenience when you are traveling.

Possession of an American Express card, Visa card, or MasterCard will be helpful should you need to acquire emergency funds while awaiting money from home. You can go to an American Express office and cash a personal check for up to $1000 (only the first $50 will be provided in cash, the balance in traveler's checks). With a Visa card you can usually obtain a cash advance against your account from a foreign bank. The bank will take your passport number and your credit card number and phone them both into a central computer to prevent you from exceeding the established limit.

Credit cards can also come in handy when you wish to charge a purchase to your account rather than pay cash. However, not all merchants abroad accept credit cards, regardless of the name brand: many of your gifts and/or souvenirs may be obtained at small shops and bazaars that do not provide charge services. The amount charged to your credit card bill is based on the exchange rate on the day that your bank or credit card company processes the transaction.

In the case of all financial transactions abroad, be sure to have adequate identification with you (e.g. your passport).

Note: Not all of the preceding counsel may be true in every country--indeed, it is probably more accurate for the major Western European countries, than for the rest of the world. But, banking IS a world-wide phenomenon these days, so the above is more or less accurate for many locations.


  • The risk of becoming ill while traveling abroad may depend on three important factors: Making adequate pre-departure preparations
  • Knowing what health and safety risks are involved where you are
  • Following sound medical counsel

In addition, you should know that living away from a familiar cultural environment can cause a degree of mental and emotional stress--which, in turn, can trigger physiological consequences. The impact of studying abroad on personal relationships, on counseling sessions (if you are in therapy), and on your general health (if you are on medication of any kind) is something you need to consider as you prepare for your sojourn abroad.


  • Be sure that you have adequate health insurance and understand your family and/or institutional policy, especially what is and isn't or may not be covered outside the U.S.A.
    Make sure you know how this system works, meaning how bills are paid, in the case of a
    medical emergency, and also routine treatments.
  • The International Student Identity Card (ISIC), available from IPS or Council Travel, provides basic coverage only, though it does include emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of remains.
  • Personal liability insurance against injury or damage caused by or resulting from your
    acts or omissions during enrollment in any program is highly recommended.

Should you require medical attention abroad, it may be necessary for you to have sufficient cash on hand to make payment at the time of treatment since the foreign physician and/or hospital may not be able to process medical bills through an American insurance company. In such cases, be sure to obtain a receipt to submit with your insurance claim for reimbursement upon return to the U.S.. It might also be helpful to carry a few blank claim forms with you in case you should need them while abroad.


The on-site coordinator or director of your program should be able to help you contact the appropriate physician or other medical authority when attention is required. In order to provide such persons and local medical authorities abroad with sufficient information to respond promptly and effectively to situations that require medical attention, many programs ask you to complete a medical history form at the time of acceptance.

During weekend or post-program travel, you may find yourself in a variety of unfamiliar and possibly remote locations. If you are not fluent in the language of the host country, of course try to seek out an English-speaking doctor if you need medical attention: when it comes to health matters, you will not want to take any chances on a breakdown in communications. American embassies and consulates, many large travel agencies (e.g. Thomas Cook) and a number of the larger hotels will have lists of English-speaking physicians.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or simply are concerned about health facilities while you are overseas, you must take steps to find out about health care in each countries in which you expect to spend any time.


Should you currently be under the care of a physician or require regular medication or injections (e.g. insulin or allergy shots), be sure to check with your personal physician for any advice or recommendations concerning your welfare while abroad. It is a good idea to notify the on-site coordinator of any special needs.

If you need medications regularly, take an adequate supply with you. Do not buy medications "over the counter" while you are overseas unless you are familiar with the product: "Over the counter" drugs abroad are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

If you have diabetes, are allergic to penicillin, or have any physical condition that may require emergency care, carry some kind of identification (tag, bracelet, or card) at all times indicating the specific nature of the problem, in case you are unable to communicate this information yourself.

Allprescription medicinesmustbe accompanied by a letter from your physician.This letter should include a description of the condition, the dosage of prescribed medications to assist medical authorities during an emergency, and the generic name(s) of medicine listed.

Any special health needs or medical conditions should be noted on medical history forms. If you are required to take a medicine containing habit-forming or narcotic drugs you should carry a doctor's certificate attesting to that fact. It is also advisable to keep all medicines in their original and labeled containers. To avoid potential problems and because laws may vary from country to country, if you need to carry such medicines you should consult the embassies of the countries you will visit before departing the U.S.


The following is excerpted from a brochure prepared by CIEE on AIDS and International Travel.

Everything you already know about what AIDS is and how it is contracted is as deathly true overseas as it is at home. Knowing this and taking all advised precautions is the only way to protect yourself. AIDS is considerably less an epidemic in some countries than in the U.S., and considerably more in others. Whatever the situation in the country you are going to, you are not more likely to contract AIDS there than here--IF you act sensibly and refrain from unprotected sex and other behaviors and habits with carry the risk of infection.


Ifthe Country Requires an HIV Antibody Test:Some countries now require incoming foreigners, including students, to take the HIV antibody test. Usually this is required for long term stays. Check to see if the country you are going to requires HIV-testing. You may need a "doctor's certificate" showing the results of an HIV antibody test. Consulates in Washington DC and/or New York City carry information on HIV testing as well. If you decide you want to be tested, do so only at a center that offers pre- and post-test counseling. There are many institutions whose primary focus is AIDS counseling. Allow yourself two weeks for the testing process. Finally, consider getting tested twice--first anonymously, (which allows you the privacy to decide what you want to do if the result is positive), then again for a doctor's certificate, if needed.

Overseas Blood Transfusions and Blood Products And HIV Screening:While many countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, and the western European countries have mandatory screening of donated blood for the AIDS virus, not all do. You should find out before you go from your campus resources, from your local Red Cross and/or western embassies about safe sources of blood overseas. In some locales, ascertaining the availability of HIV-screened blood and blood products may be difficult. Because of obvious uncertainties, consider these precautions: If you are injured or ill while abroad, avoid or postpone any blood transfusion unless it is absolutely ilccc~my. If you donccdblood, try to ensure that 3oreoned blood is used.Regardless of the blood screening practices abroad, alwaystry toreduce the risk of serious injury that may require blood transfusions by taking everyday precautions.

If you are sexually active,ALWAYSUSE A LATEX CONDOM. Take a supply with you as conditions, manufacturing and storage of condoms in other countries may be questionable.

Overseas Injections andAIDS:. Be advised that some foreign countries will reuse even disposable equipment. In some countries, if injection is required, you can buy needles and syringes and bring them to the hospital for you own use. Avoid injections unless absolutely necessary. If injections are required, make sure the needles and syringes come straight from a package or have been sterilized with chemicals or by boiling for twenty minutes. When in doubt, ask to see how the equipment has been sterilized.

Use caution regarding instrument sterilization applies to all instruments that pierce the skin, including tattooing, acupuncture, ear piercing and dental work.

The Center for Disease Control recommends that "Diabetics or other persons who require routine or frequent injections should carry a supply of syringes and needles sufficient to last their stay abroad." Be aware that carrying needles and syringes without a prescription may be illegal in some countries. Take a note from your doctor if you do need to carry needles and syringes. Some countries have needles and syringes for sale. DO NOT use or allow the use of contaminated, unsterilized syringes or needles for any injections, e.g., illicit drugs, tattooing, acupuncture, or for medical/dental procedures.


In the countries of Africa, Asia, South and Central America, the South Pacific, Middle and Far East, living conditions and standards of sanitation and hygiene can vary greatly, depending on where you are. Some cities in these areas provide safer and healthier environments than outlying rural areas. But the opposite can also be true. The key to survival and good health is, beyond everything else, in knowing what to expect.

Wherever you go, if your travel is limited primarily to tourist areas, there is understandably less risk of exposure to food or water of questionable quality, and thus the risk of disease remains narrow. But as a student, you may travel to cities off the usual tourist routes or live in small villages or rural areas for extended periods of time. In doing so, you of course enrich your education, but you may also in a greater risk of acquiring infectious diseases through exposure to water and food ofuncertainquality.


Because of specific health concerns and conditions in various countries, proof that you have received certain immunizations may be required. If you are going to such a country, an official record of your immunizations must be carried with you and is usually asked for when you enter the country and have also to show your passport and required visa. The sponsoring organization or institution for your program will advise you on what is required for entry into the country where your program occurs. BUT, if you plan personal travel to other countries before, during, or after your program, it is your responsibility to know what immunizations are required. And it is probably wise to find this out and have the shots before departure.

You can demonstrate that you have had the required immunizations by having this information listed on an "International Certificate of Vaccinations." This form is issued by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare and approved by the World Health Organization. It is obtainable from your local Department of Health, a passport office, or from many physicians and travel agencies. It must be filled out and dated by the physician or medical clinic that provides the immunizations. Most campus health service offices can either provide this form, as well as any needed inoculations and other assistance, OR can refer you to clinics where these can be obtained.

At the present time, no immunizations are required for entry to or return from Australia, Western Europe, Japan, Israel, or the Commonwealth of Independent States (Russia). This, of course, can change periodically, depending on the prevailing health conditions, so it is always a good idea to check on the latest status just prior to your departure.

Protection against cholera and yellow fever are recommended for those going to certain parts of Africa, along with medicine for protection against malaria. Remember that to be effective, these anti-malaria drugs must be taken regularly and in strict accordance with the doctor's instructions. Even though you may be limiting your travel to Western Europe, you may still wish to discuss with your personal physician the advisability of receiving certain basic immunizations, like tetanus and typhoid fever. Since you will probably be doing a lot of knocking around overseas, it will be easy to suffer a few minor cuts and abrasions on occasion; it is always a good idea to have protection against tetanus just in case such a wound might become contaminated.

Some Not-Too-Uncommon Diseases

Diarrhea is a common affliction that usually strikes a couple of days after arrival in a new area of the world and seldom lasts longer than about five days. Diarrhea is nature's way of ridding the body of noxious agents; intestinal motility serves as the normal cleansing mechanism of the intestine. The most important way of coping with this disorder is to maintain adequate fluid intake to prevent dehydration. Most cases of diarrhea are self-limited and require only simple replacement of fluids and salts lost in diarrhea stools. Fluids that are readily available, such as canned fruit juices, hot tea, or carbonated drinks, may be used. Your physician may be able to prescribe medication to take along for relief of the symptoms. However, it is strongly recommended that you consult a physician rather than attempt self-medication if the condition is severe, does not resolve itself within several days, if there is blood and/or mucus in the stool, if fever occurs with shaking chills, or if there is persistent diarrhea with dehydration.

Tetanus, commonly known as "lockjaw," is an infection of the nervous tissue produced by a contaminated wound or injury. Severe muscle spasms are produced, and if left untreated, tetanus can be fatal. Cleanliness (lots of soap and water to remove contamination of a wound or injury) is one of the most effective weapons to prevent this kind of infection. Tetanus immunization i,q available, often in combination with the diphtheria vaccine. Tetanus boosters are recommended every ten years after the initial series of three injections administered one month apart.

Hepatitis A (Infectious Hepatitis) is most prevalent in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. However, it is possible to contract the disease anywhere (including in the United States) that living conditions are crowded and unsanitary. Hepatitis A is transmitted orally through the ingestion of contaminated food or water; clams, oysters, and other shellfish, especially if eaten raw, are common sources of the disease in contaminated areas. A variety of symptoms are associated with the disease, including fever, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, and yellowing of the eyes.

Malaria, which is transmitted by the female Anopholine mosquito, is common to parts of the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Anti-malaria medication is available and is required for those who will be participating in a program in Africa. Instructions on taking the medication must be followed carefully to insure adequate protection; you must usually begin taking the medication prior to your departure, during the entirety of your visit, and for two or three weeks after return to the United States. (The organisms that cause the disease do not invade the red blood cells until about a week or so after the bite of the mosquito.)

Other Infectious Diseases:Certain viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections acquired abroad may not result in any immediately illness. Some diseases (such as malaria) may not produce symptoms for as long as six months to a year after a traveler returns. Should you become ill even well after returning to the United States, you should not hesitate to inform your physician of your travel outside the United States within the 12 months preceding onset of the illness. Knowledge of the possibility of exposure to certain diseases abroad will help the physician arrive at a correct diagnosis.

Take good care of yourself while traveling! Don't wear yourself down, watch out for excessive exposure to heat, drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration, and get plenty of sleepl


In areas where chlorinated tap water is not available, or where hygiene and sanitation are poor (most of Western Europe is excluded from this category), travelers should be advised that only the following may be safe to drink:

  1. Beverages,such as tea and coffee, made with boiled water.
  2. Canned orbottled carbonated beverages,including carbonated bottled water and soft drinks.
  3. Beer and wine:Where water may be contaminated, ice (or containers for drinking) can also be considered contaminated, and it is generally safer to drink directly from the can or bottle of a beverage than from a questionable container. Wet cans or bottles should be dried before being opened, and surfaces that come into direct contact with the mouth should first be wiped clean. If no source of safe drinking water is available, e.g. verifiably safe bottled-water, tap water that is uncomfortably hot to touch may be safe, once it has cooled and put in a thoroughly cleaned container; it can also be used for brushing teeth as well as for drinking.
  4. Fresh Fruit and Vegetables:In areas of the world where hygiene and sanitation are known to be poor, to avoid illness, fresh food should always be selected with care. You should avoid unpasteurized milk and milk products, such as cheese, and eat only fruit that you have peeled yourself. You may prepare your own fruit juice from fresh fruit. Iced drinks and non- carbonated bottled fluids from water of uncertain quality should be avoided.
  5. Street-food:Many developing (and developed) countries offer an abundance of food sold from stands, along the road. It is advisable to avoid such food unless and until you have ample evidence from reliable local sources that it is safe for visitors to eat.Note: many locals may have no trouble with such food or drink, but this is often because they have developed over time bodily immunities against its possible impurities, which is not the case for visitors.



While you are visiting another country you are subject to the laws of that country. Legal protection taken for granted in the United States is left behind when you leave the U.S. American Embassies and Consulates are very limited in the assistance they can provide: the names of competent attorneys and doctors, but not any financial assistance in paying for legal or medical services. Nor can they intervene on your behalf in the administration of justice as seen from the point of view of the host country.

Bail provisions as we know them in the United States are rare in many other countries and pretrial detention without bail is not uncommon. Prison conditions in developing or fundamentalist countries may often be deplorable, in comparison to conditions in the United States. Theprinciple of "innocent until proven guilty" is not necessarily a tenet of legal systems abroad.The best advice is of course to know the laws and obey them scrupulously. If you get in trouble, seek local legal assistance as quickly as possible.

DRUGS:Avoid any possible involvement with drugs. Drug laws of course vary from country to country, but in many cases they are extremely severe, regardless of whether the drug in your possession is for personal use or for sale to others. Bail is not granted for drug-trafficking cases in most countries. Pre-trial detention, often in solitary confinement, can last for months. Many countries do not provide a jury trial, and in many cases you need not even be present at your trial.

Most prison and law enforcement officials abroad will probably not speak English, the significance of which you may not fully appreciate until you are confined and feeling helpless, in very hard conditions. The average jail sentence in drug cases worldwide is about seven years. In at least four countries (Iran, Algeria, Malaysia, and Turkey) the death penalty can be imposed for conviction on some drug charges. Do not wrongly assume that buying or carrying small amounts of drugs cannot result in their arrest. In reality, Americans have been jailed abroad for possessing as little as three grams (about one-tenth of an ounce) of marijuana.


Packing: Don't carry everything in one place! Never pack essential documents, medicine--anything you could not do without--in your checked luggage. Put them in your carry-on bag.

Cash:Never carry large amounts of cash. American Express traveler's checks are a good idea. Have three lists of checks. Leave one at home. Carry one list with your checks and carry one list separately from your checks. Keep two lists up-to-date as you cash checks. Keep the receipts for your checks separate from your traveler's checks. For the small amount of cash you need, try using a necklace pouch or a money belt.

Credit Cards: Take only the cards you will use on the trip. Keep separate a list of, cards, numbers, and emergency replacement procedures.

Insurance:Since it may be necessary to contact your insurance agent(s) while abroad, keep all names and phone numbers, as well as your policy number(s), with you, in a safe place.

Luggage:Mark all luggage, inside and out, with your name and address. If you have an itinerary, put a copy inside each bag. Keep a list of what is in each bag and carry the list with your other documents. Mark your bags in some distinctive way, so they are easily found. COUNT YOUR PIECES OF LUGGAGE EACH TIME YOU MOVE! Try to travel light, it's safer and less cumbersome!

Medicines:Take all you need for the trip. Take copy of your prescription(s), with the generic name of the drug(s). Keep medicines in original drugstore containers. Take extra glasses and your lenses prescription with you.

Passport:Carry with you--separate from your passport--two extra passport pictures, passport number, date and place issued, and a certified-not photocopied-copy (not the original) of your birth certificate or an expired passport. If your passport is lost, report to local police; get written confirmation of the police report and, take the above documents to the nearest United States Consulate and apply for a new passport.

Ticket:Make a copy of your ticket or, list your ticket number, all flights included, and name and address of issuing agency, and keep this list separate from your ticket.


CRIME, VIOLENCE, AND TERRORISM:Most countries in the world have less street crime and personal violence than is potentially present in urban and suburban American. Indeed, in many countries U.S. students report when they return that they had never felt safer in their lives. This does not mean that there is no crime and that your safety is assured--because of, or in spite of, the fact that you carry a U.S. passport in a perhaps statistically more peaceful local environment.

The simple fact of being a foreigner and not knowing quite what is and isn't safe behavior increases the possibility that you can be victimized by petty crime, such as fraud, robbery, theft, or even physical attack. Further, in certain places and at certain times, it is very possible to get caught in the midst of forms of political strife which may not be directed at you personally or even at you as an American, but nevertheless can be very dangerous.

With regard to the threat of terrorism, in those few sites where even remote danger might occasionally exist, program directors work with local police and U.S. consular personnel and local university officials in setting up whatever practical security measures are deemed prudent. In such places, you will be briefed during orientation programs and reminded at any times ofheightened political tension about being security conscious in your daily activities. Terrorism is a twentieth- century reality and is not likely to diminish significantly. To succumb to the threat by reacting in fear may well be the objective that terrorists seek to achieve. Nevertheless, there are certain rather obvious precautions that American students abroad can take.


  • Do your homework, listen and heed the counsel you are given.
  • Keep a low profile and try not to make yourself conspicuous by dress, speech, or behavior, in ways that might identify you as a target.
  • Do not draw attention to yourself either through expensive dress, personal accessories
  • (cameras, radios, sunglasses, etc.) or careless behavior.
  • Avoid crowds, protest groups, or other potentially volatile situations, as well as restaurants and entertainment places where Americans are known to congregate. Keep abreast of local news. Read local newspapers, magazines, etc. and speak with local officials to learn about any potential civil unrest. If there should be any political unrest,do not get involved.
  • Be wary of unexpected packages and stay clear of unattended luggage or parcels in airports, train stations, or other areas of uncontrolled public access.
  • Report to the responsible authority any suspicious persons loitering around residence or instructional facilities, or following you; keep your residence area locked; use common sense in divulging information to strangers about your study program and your fellow students.
  • If you travel to countries beyond your program site and expect to be there for more than a week, register upon arrival at the U.S. consulate or embassy having jurisdiction over the location.
  • Make sure the resident director, host family, or foreign university official who is assigned the responsibility for your welfare always knows where and how to contact you in an emergency and your schedule and itinerary of you are traveling, even if only overnight.
  • Develop with your family a plan for regular telephone or e-mail contact, so that in times of heightened political tension, you will be able to communicate with your parents directly about your safety.
  • The U.S. government monitors the political conditions in every country around the world. For current information, advisories, or warnings contact the State Department in Washington DC (202- 647-4000) or the local U.S. embassy or consulate where you are (see the section on U.S. embassies or consulates abroad in this handbook).
  • Be aware of local health conditions abroad: especially if you are traveling to remote areas, you should be aware of any public health service recommendations or advisories. For current health conditions abroad contact local officials, contact the country desk at the State Department (202-647-4000), or the Centers for Disease Control (404-639-3311).
  • Know local laws: laws and systems of justice are not universal. Do not assume that just
    because it is legal in the United States, that it is legal abroad.
  • Use banks to exchange your money: do not exchange your money on the black market, on the street. Do not carry on your person more money than you need for the day. Carry your credit cards, etc. in a very safe place.
  • Do not impair your judgment due to excessive consumption of alcohol, and do not fall under the influence of drugs.
  • Female travelers are sometimes more likely to encounter harassment, but uncomfortable situations can usually be avoided by taking the following precautions: Dress conservatively. While short skirts and tank tops may be comfortable, they may also encourage unwanted attention. Avoid walking along late at night or in questionable neighborhoods. Do not agree to meet a person whom you do not know in a non-public place, Be aware that some men from other countries tend to mistake the friendliness of American women for romantic interest.



Should you encounter serious social, political, health, or economic problems, the American Embassies and/or Consulates can offer some, but limited, assistance. They can provide the following services:

  • list of local attorneys and physicians;
  • contact next of kin in the event of emergency or serious illness;
  • contact friends or relatives on your behalf to request funds or guidance; provide assistance during civil unrest or natural disaster;
  • replace a lost or stolen passport.

They cannot, however, provide the services of a travel agency, give or lend money, cash personal checks, arrange free medical service or legal advice, provide bail or get you out of jail, act as couriers or interpreters, search for missing luggage, or settle disputes with local authorities. Remember that their primary occupation abroad is to help fulfill the diplomatic mission of the United States government; they are not there to play nursemaid to American travelers.

There are several useful pamphlets about travel and residence abroad, prepared by the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. Two are of particular interest: "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Your Trip Abroad." You can usually pick them up free in any U.S. Passport Office. Otherwise, you can order them for $1 each from:

The Superintendent of Documents U.S. Government Printing Office Washington DC 20402.

It is recommended that U.S. citizens residing abroad for any extended period of time register with the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are on a study abroad program, this will usually be done on your behalf by program staff, but this is not always true. Check to be sure.


Should your family need to contact you while you are traveling (e.g. after the program is over), emergency assistance is available through the Citizens' Emergency Center of the Office of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS), operated by the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs. The office is open from 8:15 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and can be reached at (202) 647-5225.

For emergency communication between 10:00 p.m. and 8:15 a.m. or over weekends, contact can be made through the Overseas Citizens' Services duty officer at (202) 634-3600 (or at (202) 647-5225 on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.).

This office can transmit emergency messages from your family, provide protection in the event of arrest or detention while abroad, transmit emergency funds to destitute nationals when commercial banking facilities are not available, etc. It would be wise for you to provide your family with at least a tentative itinerary so that in an emergency, they can give the State Department some idea where to begin looking for you.



In other countries, as in the U.S., holding a wage-earning job while on a student visa is considered illegal and can be grounds for expulsion. Your student visa authorizes only living and learning in the country, usually only for the period of your formal enrollment, plus perhaps some additional time for tourism. You are likely to be busy enough with your studies and the other demands and pleasures of being in a new place that you will not have time to do much else.

If you wish to add a work experience to your time away, this must be done either before your program begins or after it ends, and can only be done legally if you have a Work Permit. Work Permits are simply not available for work in certain countries, and are very difficult to obtain in most others, since employers are usually forced to demonstrate that a potential employee from another country has skills and experience which are not possessed by the citizens of that country. This is usually a very hard case to make.

The United States has entered into agreements with a limited number of countries that allow the reciprocal exchange of students seeking short-term paid employment. The Council on International Educational Exchange administers the largest of these arrangements. You must apply for the Work Permitbeforeyou depart from the U.S. (It cannot be obtained overseas.) The application process is non- competitive. The cost is approximately $200. Opportunities for three to six month Work Permits exist for any time of the year in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and Ireland, and in the summer in Costa Rica, Jamaica, and New Zealand.

Although CIEE gets you the work permit, you must find the job and a place to stay on your own. For basic information, eligibility, criteria, and application forms, see the CIEE Work Abroad brochure from CIEE Work Abroad, telephone: 800/INTL- JOB or The CIEE Participant's Handbooks, included in the program fee, provide invaluable suggestions for finding a job and place to live in that foreign country.


INCOME TAXES:Attention Year-Abroad and Spring Semester Program Participants:If you have earnings which require you to file federal an/or state income tax returns, you must remember that you will be out of the country between January 1 and April 15th. Persons temporarily living abroad may normally request an extension (June 15) on the deadline for filing federal income tax. The best advice is to contact the American Consulate or Embassy in your host country for information on your tax obligations; they may have 1040 forms and may even be willing to help you with questions. You can file from abroad if you make arrangements with your parents to send you the necessary state and federal forms and other documentation.

POWER OF ATTORNEY:If your signature will be needed for any official or legal document during your absence you should make arrangements for "power of attorney" to be held by an appropriate person to act on your behalf. You can do this by writing out in detail the specific duties that the person you choose will execute. Take this to a notary and have it notarized.


As you enter ANY country from another country via an international flight (or other means) you have to show your passport and any required visas and proof of immunizations. This usually occurs just after you have left the plane and entered the airport but before you have your luggage. Remember that admission to the country is entirely at the discretion of the immigration officer. It is wise to be polite and to dress neatly. The immigration officer, who determines the length of stay to be authorized and stamped into your passport, will normally ask you about the purpose of your visit and how long you plan to remain in the country.

After your passport has been stamped, and you have collected your luggage, you must pass through a customs inspection. You will probably receive a customs declaration form to be filled out on your plane (or train). Your bags may be very carefully examined, and you may be detained or asked to pay duties if there are any irregularities or violations of customs regulations. You may also be waved through with no special attention whatsoever.Note: Do not "JOKE"' about 'bombs' or smuggled items!

Version as of January 22, 1999