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Preparing to Travel

Preparing to Travel 2017William Hope, SKMC '17

Travel Documents


To travel to a foreign country, you will need a valid passport. If you currently have a passport, make sure it is valid for at least 6 months after you return from your trip. We advise you to renew it if it expires less than 6 months after your return date. Do not pack your passport or any important documents in your suitcase.

If you do not have a valid passport, you will have to apply for one. Currently routine applications are taking 4-6 weeks. Please make sure to plan accordingly. For more information on the application process, visit the Department of State website:


You may need to obtain a visa in order to enter your host country. Whether or not you need a visa depends on many factors, including the length and purpose of your stay. The Department of State website has country-specific information on visa requirements ( If you intend to visit neighboring countries during your stay, make sure to check all visa requirements as well before you leave the U.S. =

Make at least two copies of all your travel documents.

Carry a copy with you (instead of your passport) around your host country.
Leave the other copy with family/friends.

Health Preparations


Before traveling abroad, it's important you get all the necessary immunizations. You can find a list of recommended vaccinations on the CDC website (

To help prepare you for your travel, you can visit Travel Medicine Service at TJUH. Their staff can assess your immunization needs, administer needed immunizations and provide health travel tips and information. Appointments should be scheduled ideally four to six weeks before travel by calling (215) 955-0860. No insurance carrier is accepted at this time.


It is EXTREMELY important to consider what insurance coverage you want/need to cover you during your trip. If you already have health insurance here in the U.S., you should contact your insurance carrier to find out if you are covered while abroad.

OIA strongly encourages you to purchase Evacuation and Repatriation Insurance. In the case of an emergency, the benefits of this insurance will far outweigh the costs. The following companies offer varying levels of travel insurance coverage of all types:

Pharmacies are more accessible in some countries than in others.

Make sure to take all prescription medications with you when you leave.
Ensure that all your medications are legal in your destination country.

Money Matters

Before you leave on your trip, find out the availability of withdrawing funds and using a credit card or debit card in the country you will be visiting. Contact your bank for information on foreign ATM fees. You also want to inform your bank and credit card company of your overseas travel plans. This will avoid the possibility of having your account frozen due to suspicious activity. Make sure to take a contact number for your credit card company with you. Keep in mind that 800 numbers do not work in some countries.

A significant portion of your living abroad experience will depend on your ability to handle transactions in a foreign currency. As part of your preparations, you should familiarize yourself with the currency in your host country and with a currency converter such as Once there, carry a pocket conversion table with you for easy reference.

Making your Dollar Count

Quick tips to consider:

  • Make a budget: Weekly budgets are a good way to control your spending. Remember to factor into your budget the possibility of unforeseen expenses and make sure to make it realistic.>
  • Stick to the budget: It's not enough to make a budget, make sure you actually stick to it!
  • Watch what you eat: A good portion of your money will go towards food. Many established programs include at least one meal in their rates. Make sure you take advantage of this deal. You can also speak with the locals to find out about inexpensive places to eat in the area.
  • Do as the locals do: Areas more frequented by tourists will be more expensive overall than areas frequented by locals. Speak with your contacts to get recommendations.

Communicating with Home

While abroad, it's important you have a way to communicate with family and friends back home. There are many ways you can achieve this: SKYPE, emails, instant messaging, calling cards, etc.

Make sure to research the area you will be staying (there might be internet cafes close by) and ask program coordinators (if there are any) about available computers with internet capabilities where you will be living.


The first step in packing for your trip abroad is learning what you will need/not need on your trip. You will have to find out about the weather, the customs and the availability of stores in your destination. One way you can do this is by reading some of the reports Jefferson students have written about their past trips. These reports are a good way to find out the availability of personal items in your host country (toilet paper tissues, lab coats, gloves, aspirin, etc.).

Another way you can get information on your host country is by speaking with the program organizers (if applicable) and by researching online (specifically the Department of State website:

Pay special attention to looking up cultural customs for the area you will visit. Remember that you will be a visitor and should respect the customs and obey all laws of your host country. Example: in Islamic countries, females are advised to keep their arms and legs covered.

You also want to keep in mind that you may need to take gifts for those who host you or help you while you are in their country. In some countries, a supply of colored pencils may be perfect for the children you will meet.

When packing just try to remember that less is more. Many items can be bought in the host country, which should reduce the amount of luggage you take. Sometimes it is appropriate to pack protein bars or other breakfast food. Handi Wipes may also be useful. Do not pack your passport or visa documents in your suitcase.


Make sure you register with the Department of State at their website:

Responsibilities of Participants in
Study Abroad Programs

Participants should:

  • Assume responsibility for all elements necessary for their personal preparation for the program and participate fully in orientations.
  • Read and carefully consider all materials issued by the sponsor that relate to safety, health, legal, environmental, political, cultural, and religious conditions in the host country (ies).
  • Conduct their own research on the country (ies) they plan to visit with particular emphasis on health and safety concerns, as well as the social, cultural, and political situations.
  • Consider their physical and mental health, and other personal circumstances when applying for or accepting a place in a program, and make available to the sponsor accurate and complete physical and mental health information and any other personal data that is necessary in planning for a safe and healthy study abroad experience.
  • Obtain and maintain appropriate insurance coverage and abide by any conditions imposed by the carriers.
  • Inform parents/guardians/families and any others who may need to know about their participation in the study abroad program, provide them with emergency contact information, and keep them informed of their whereabouts and activities.
  • Understand and comply with the terms of participation, codes of conduct, and emergency procedures of the program.
  • Be aware of local conditions and customs that may present health or safety risks when making daily choices and decisions. Promptly express any health or safety concerns to the program staff or other appropriate individuals before and/or during the program.
  • Accept responsibility for their own decisions and actions.
  • Obey host-country laws.
  • Behave in a manner that is respectful of the rights and well-being of others, and encourage others to behave in a similar manner.
  • Avoid illegal drugs and excessive or irresponsible consumption of alcohol.
  • Follow the program policies for keeping program staff informed of their whereabouts and well-being.
  • Become familiar with the procedures for obtaining emergency health and legal system services in the host country.


Pre-Arrival Checklist

Consider buying a reliable travel guide (eg. Lonely Planet) and note the places you want to visit while on your trip.
Make a realistic budget for your time abroad. Make sure you follow your budget.

Make a list of important contacts and their phone numbers (eg. Information on the U.S. Embassy closest to you). Register your travel at

If need be, apply early for your passport and any necessary visas. Make copies of these documents and leave a copy with family or friends
If you are taking prescriptions medication with you, it's a good idea to ask your doctor to write you a letter. Also make sure the medicine you're transporting isn't considered a controlled substance in your host country
Find out from your insurance provider whether or not your policy covers you while abroad. Make sure you have evacuation/repatriation coverage.
Get all necessary immunizations well before your trip (check the CDC website at for a comprehensive list or make an appoinrtment at Jefferson Travel Medicine, Phone #: 215-955-0860). 
If you are interested in getting credit for your experience, make sure to speak with the Office of the Registrar to get approval before you travel. 
Inform parents/friends of your travel arrangements. Make sure to leave them a copy of your proposed itinerary.
Get a calling card, SKYPE accounts, email accounts, etc. depending on how you want to communicate with home while abroad. Check your mobile phone carrier for calling and texting charges. 
Make a list of things you need to pack. Take as little as you need, but remember to take small gifts for people who will host you. Do not pack chocolate in your bags. 
If you are a SKMC student, read the AAMC guidelines.