Traveling is great; safe travel is best. Come back to the States with wonderful experiences, not problems. Here are some great tips to prepare.
Safety Research: BEFORE leaving the States, research these important websites:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Toll-free 877-FIY-TRIP; Immunizations; health tips, etc. www.cdc.gov/travel
US Department of State:
- US Embassy locations; safety issues; etc. http://travel.state.gov
- Travel Warnings. http://travel.state.gov/travel/warnings_consular.html
- Health and Safety Issues Abroad. http://www.travel.state.gov/travel
- Us Citizens Abroad Crises: Toll free US: 1-888-407-4747 or from overseas: 001-202-501-4444 http://travel.state.gov/travel/overseas_contact.htmlhttp://travel.state.gov/travel/overseas_contact.html
Transportation Security Administration (TSA): New regulations http://www.tsa.gov
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK): Travel advice for UK citizens or people traveling to the UK. http://www.fco.gov.uk
BEFORE leaving the States, register with the US State Dept in case of national or other emergencies. This free, easy on-line process is now called the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) — http://travel.state.gov/travel/tiprs/registration/registration_4789.htm.
Check out US Embassies abroad (http://usembassy.gov) for locations, services, etc.
Besides your Passport, travel with a copy of your Passport “picture” page (be careful if you carry the actual copy, losing this copy would be the same as losing your passport info) OR put the info in your phone or home computer which can be accessed from abroad OR (if you signed up for the program in Tip #2) access your Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) account. Also leave your Passport info at home with a trusted family member or friend. If you lose or have your Passport stolen, this source will speed up the “getting a new Passport” process.
Understanding British Accents
Check out this fun, easy-to-use pronunciation site if you are having trouble with the various dialects; choose one of the “British speakers” to help with pronunciation: http://www.oddcast.com/home/demos/tts/tts_example.php?sitepal.
Buy a money belt (neck or waist) or “cross-body” purse that resists pickpocket; be especially alert in Tube Stations and large touristy places. If you are being distracted by an event going on around you, realize that distractions are the main tool of people (young to old) who want your passport/money. When using ATM (Cash Point) Machines, be aware of your surroundings; everyone knows you are usually getting money out when you use one. Check out AAA, Rick Steves, Travel Smith, LL Bean, etc. for appropriate safety equipment.
Carry an Emergency Card and leave one at home for family member or friend.
Personal Emergency Form: your name; citizenship; health insurance name/numbers/contact info; housing/hotel info; family contact info; blood type; regular and emergency numbers for your credit cards, bank, dentist, and doctor ; closest American Embassy Info (American Embassy in London; 24 Grosvenor Square; London W1A 1 AE 0207-499-9000 www.usembassy.org.uk) Family/Friend version: In addition to all of the above, add “to/from” flight info; dates of trip.
Bank and Credit Cards
Contact your US bank/credit card companies four – five days BEFORE traveling to inform them about your travel dates/destinations and to ask questions. What do they charge for ATM withdrawals abroad? What is the maximum daily cash withdrawal amount? Does your bank have an arrangement with any UK bank which could prevent expensive ATM use fees? Does your credit card company offer the widely-accepted “Chip and PIN” credit card (not just the magnetic-strip USA version)? (Your magnetic-strip credit cards may NOT work in Britain’s smaller businesses and at rail terminals. Research your options: Travelex sells preloaded “Chip and PIN” cards loaded with Pounds or Euros, but check out its fee charges and regulations: www.us.travelex.com.) Without this phone call, your debit or credit cards may be rejected when traveling abroad, since the issuing agent may assume your card is stolen. ATM Locator Info: www.mastercard.co.uk; www.visa.via.infonow.net/locator/global
Luggage Locks and Tags
Use TSA luggage locks that can be opened by airport agents (especially in the US) without breaking the locks off. Theft problems can happen between the check-in desk and the plane. Your luggage tags should be the covered-flap version, so your name and address are NOT visible. On your flight TO Britain, use your hotel address instead of your home one. Change that info each time you change locations. Coming home FROM Britain, use your home address. Your luggage, if lost or delayed, should follow you on your travels. Check out AAA, Rick Steves, Travel Smith, LL Bean, travel stores, etc. for luggage locks/tags.
In the UK, use “999” or “112” instead of the US “911” for emergency situations. Always take note of local sites/tube stations, so you know your location at all times.
Trust everyone; trust no one
Read to become more knowledgeable about your travel sites, the country, and its people. Spend time on Londontopia, Anglotopia, Kwintessential, travel blogs, Frommers, Rick Steves, etc. For guidelines on international business etiquette/customs for business people traveling abroad, go to http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/etiquette/doing-business-in.html. Its regular website also has cultural awareness quizzes, interesting facts, website translation, articles, specific country info, etc. http://www.kwintessential.co.uk.
Check out another great website: Project Britain (Woodland’s Junior School British Life & Culture website) for Tourist Info, Etiquette, Money, Pubs, Government, Sports, Royal Family, Symbols, Weather, Calendars of Event, Glossary of American/British Words, etc.