Here are our quick tips for international travel planning…
Airport Security, Follow the 3-1-1 Rule
Check Your Passport
Pack smart to get through the airport security checkpoint faster. Be sure
you're following the TSA's 3-1-1 rule: 3-ounce containers; a 1-quart clear
plastic zip-top bag; one bag per flier). When
in doubt, leave it out. If you're not sure about
whether you can bring an item through the checkpoint, put it in your checked
bag or leave it at home.
Make sure you have a signed, valid passport and visa, if required, and fill
in the emergency information page of your passport. Check the expiration
date. Many countries require that it be valid for six months after your
return date. You can find out a country's entry requirements by going to
copies of your passport data page and visas with family or friends, so you
can be contacted in case of an emergency.
Call Your Credit Card Companies
Contact your credit card companies and let them know before you go. You
don’t want your credit card frozen or ‘declined’ for suspected fraudulent
use while traveling abroad (or even out of state).
Blending in will help you avoid being targeted by pickpockets and unethical
taxi drivers. Do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts
American travelers are usually identified by their white sneakers. Keep your wallet
and valuables in your front pockets or in a security pouch. Choose a cab
with a meter and make sure it's running, or set the price before you get in.
Do not accept packages from stranger or leave unattended luggage in public
International converter/adapter kits for use on most U.S. travel appliances, usually include a converter and
polarized adapter plugs for use in almost any foreign country. Converters
keep your 110-volt appliances like a curling iron from burning up in
countries that use 220/240-voltelectricity. Adapters change prongs to fit
Simply plug your appliance into the converter and then plug the converter into the wall or use one of the polarized plug
adapters ensure a fit on most foreign outlets. Remember: adapter into the
wall, then converter/transformer, then the appliance. Converter/Adapter
kits are available at travel stores or online, check it out before leaving
on your trip.
What is Value Added Tax (VAT)/Refund?
Value Added Tax (VAT) is a form tax is much like the sales tax paid
in the United States. The European Union, Japan and some South American
countries assess VAT at a rate of 15-25 percent. The main principle of VAT
is that governments do not charge the tax on exports of goods to other
countries. They extend this principle to include purchases made by foreign
visitors when they take goods back to their country. Tourists can apply for
VAT refunds on merchandise, but not services. Custom officials must
validate this merchandise to prove that the merchandise is indeed leaving
For the tourist, reclaiming a VAT: get documentation when you make a purchase,
stipulating the amount of refund due. Allow extra time at the airport to
get your sales tax refunded. Show the documents to customs officials upon
leaving the country to claim your refund. Most countries specify a minimum
amount you must spend in a particular shop to claim a refund.
Another way to reclaim VAT is by purchasing items at stores participating
in the Europe Tax-free Shopping program. When your buy from these merchants
you show your passport and get a Tax-Free Shopping Cheque showing the amount
of refund owed to you. When you leave the country, you show your purchases
to an appropriate customs official, who stamps your checks. You then claim
your refund from a Europe Tax-free shopping desk on site, or have the refund
mailed to you.
Check your overseas medical coverage.
Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if
it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not,
consider supplemental insurance.
Designer jewelry, clothing, handbags, watches and accessories at discount
Most of us know there's no way you can buy a real Hermes scarf for two bucks
or a Seiko watch for ten. Did you know that the Bureau of Customs and
Border Protection (CBP) works tirelessly with intellectual property rights (IPR)
owners to prevent such goods from being imported? The international trade
specialists in CBP's Office of Strategic Trade work as a team with other
internal offices to prevent counterfeit goods from entering the country.
Beware when buying the $100 Rolex watch. Customs and
Border Protection can seize counterfeit copyrighted and trademarked articles
when you come back into the United States. For more information, visit the
U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at:
Register your travel plans with the State Department
through a free online service at:
This will help the State Department contact you if there is a family
emergency in the U.S., or if there is a crisis where you are traveling. In
accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts
will not be released to others without your authorization.
Airport Departure Tax
Returning home, don’t’ be surprised, be ready to pay a fee at the airport.
In many countries a departure tax and an airport security tax must be paid
at the airport.