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Chapter 15: Practical advice for international travelers.


International travel by its very nature causes clients, especially first-time travelers, to have many questions. Some aspects of international travel are not questioned but should be. It is the travel counselor's responsibility to answer these questions and explain the less obvious concerns about international travel. By understanding and relating information about passports, visas, and health concerns, the travel professional is giving the client added service. Client anxiety is more common when considering international travel, and this can be greatly reduced by a few minutes of discussion between the travel professional and client.


At the conclusion of this chapter, you should be able to:

* advise clients about proof of citizenship.

* advise clients how to obtain a passport.

* know where to obtain information about passports and visas.

* understand the importance of Consular Information Sheets.

* advise clients of health concerns for international travel.

* explain how monetary transactions might be handled.

* explain entry procedures into another country and the differences that might be encountered.

* advise clients about duty-free allowances and the procedures for returning to the United States.


altitude sickness

Consular Information Sheet


customs declaration form


exchange rate

International Certificate of Vaccination

jet lag


proof of citizenship

tourist card

value added tax (VAT)


visa service, visa expediter

World Health Organization (WHO)


Long before a client is ready to make international travel plans, he probably has many questions and concerns that must be addressed. He could request numerous publications from tourist bureaus and buy additional travel books at the local bookstore, search the Internet, or he could approach his travel counselor. The easiest of these methods, and the most beneficial for him and for the travel counselor, is making use of the counselor's expertise, experience, and vast reservoir of reference material.

International travelers often have many more questions and concerns than do domestic travelers. A good travel counselor can be of tremendous help to the international traveler-this is definitely added value for the client. Addressing the client's preliminary questions and concerns is actually the first step in the selling process. This is the time for the counselor to prove his worth as a travel counselor in anticipation of making the travel arrangements at the appropriate time. If the counselor successfully handles the client's questions and concerns, it is likely that this client will want the counselor to make the arrangements.

Suppose the client did all of this advance leg work himself at the bookstore, on his own initiative (or perhaps because the counselor offered no assistance with answering his questions). When he is ready to make his reservations, why should he return to this agency instead of the agency down the street, because all travel agencies sell basically the same products? In fact, he probably won't come back to this agency; he will use another travel counselor or deal directly with the suppliers for his travel arrangements.

If the counselor is armed with some specific knowledge and knows where to look for the answers he does not know (the counselor cannot know everything, but can try), the above client scenario will be quite different.

A good travel professional is prepared for almost any question from the client--but what are the usual questions asked by international clients? Furthermore, what are the questions the international client should ask but may not think to ask? The unasked question should also be answered by the travel professional who is adept at understanding the travel situation and alleviating potential trouble spots and client anxiety.

On completion of this chapter, you should have a firm understanding of entry requirements for foreign countries, healthy international travel, money concerns with foreign currency, and immigration and customs procedures. These subjects are the topics that many clients ask about as they begin to consider traveling internationally. Sometimes, however, these important questions never cross the client's mind, and it is up to you to initiate the discussion of these matters.


One of the first questions asked by many potential international travelers is about documentation needed to enter the foreign destination--as well it should be! As you will learn, obtaining the necessary types of documentation can be a time-consuming process and must be planned for well in advance of travel.

There are four basic types of documentation: proof of citizenship, tourist card, passport, and visa. Entry requirements vary by destination, but one or more of the four basic types of documentation is required by the government of the foreign destination. It is your responsibility as a travel counselor or airline reservationist to advise the client of the required entry documentation. So, how do you learn what documentation is needed for your client?

The most up-to-date reference source for entry requirements (aside from the State Department) is your airline computer system. Although the method of retrieving this information and the format in which it is displayed is slightly different in each system, the content of the data is basically the same. Your airline computer system is the most reliable source for this information because entry requirements can change daily, and computers have the flexibility to change quickly.

Two other excellent ways of learning about entry documentation are the U.S. State Department, Bureau of Consular Affairs and the consulate or embassy of the country being visited. Both of these sources can be contacted by phone. The U.S. State Department, Bureau of Consular Affairs maintains an excellent Web site and many foreign governments also have Web sites for their consulates or embassies. Because these sources are the "final word" with regard to entry documentation, they are extremely accurate and up-to-date.

Most countries have Web sites sponsored by the national tourist bureau, and although these sources are probably accurate with regard to entry documentation, the sources previously mentioned can always be relied on and are better choices. Printed reference sources such as the Travel Planner series, Fodor's, and Michelin should not be used for entry documentation. This type of information, like vaccination requirements, is time sensitive, something to which printed references cannot easily adapt.

Important Industry Web Sites

Centers for Disease Control:

Tourism Offices Worldwide:

U.S. State Department, Bureau of Consular Affairs:

U.S. State Department, Consular Information Sheets:

U.S. Treasury, Customs Division, "Know Before You Go":

World Health Organization:>

Proof of Citizenship

Every traveler to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean is required to carry proof of citizenship in addition to a photo I.D., such as a driver's license. What is considered proof of citizenship?

1. original, state-issued birth certificate with raised seal

2. certified birth certificate copy with raised seal

3. naturalization certificate

4. valid passport or, in some cases, a passport expired less than eight years

It is important to note that if the traveler is using his birth certificate and his name has been changed, supporting documentation is required. If the name change is due to marriage, a marriage certificate must also be carried. Other types of name changes can be substantiated by a notarized affidavit.

In a very few areas in the Caribbean and Canada, a voter's registration card is accepted as proof of citizenship, but its acceptance is being phased out. A driver's license, marriage license, Social Security card, or baptismal record is not proof of citizenship. You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to drive, get married, get a Social Security card, or be baptized.

Tourist Card

In a handful of countries, Mexico being a prime example, a tourist card is required by all visitors in addition to proof of citizenship or a passport. Tourist cards may be obtained from the nearest consulate, but many travel agencies maintain a supply of Mexican tourist cards as a convenience to their clients. Travelers arriving by commercial means (e.g., airline, cruise ship) are given Mexican tourist cards en route.

Single or divorced parents traveling to Mexico with their children are required to carry an additional document. We have all read stories of children being kidnapped by one of their own parents, and Mexico has developed a policy in response to this unfortunate situation. A notarized letter (or death certificate) from the absent parent giving the child permission to travel must accompany the proof of citizenship and the tourist card. Other countries may also adopt this policy in the future, so it is always wise to check the agency's reference sources when children are to travel.


All countries except Canada, Mexico, and Caribbean nations require U.S. travelers (including infants and children) to have valid passports. A passport is a multiple-page booklet, issued by the federal government, that states the traveler's citizenship.

There are three types of U.S. passports:

1. Regular (blue cover)

2. Official (maroon cover)

3. Diplomatic (black cover)

Who you are determines which type of passport you are issued; for most of us, it is a regular passport. For U.S. citizens 16 years of age and older, a passport is valid for 10 years; passports for citizens under the age of 16 are valid for five years.

To obtain any type of new passport, you need an application form. This tan-colored form may be obtained at designated post offices, any court clerk's offices, or the passport offices throughout the United States. Passport applications can also be printed from the Internet by accessing the URL: <>. Many travel agencies maintain a supply of application forms as a convenience to their clients. Most applicants prefer to complete the application forms at home, and then proceed with the processing. Note: Advise your client not to sign the application form at home! The traveler must sign the application form in front of a designated "passport agent."

In addition to the application, the traveler is required to provide:

1. Proof of citizenship.

2. Proof of identity. This can be anything with both the applicant's name and photograph on it, such as a driver's license.

3. Two identical, full-face 2" x 2" photos, with white or off-white background, signed on the back. Photos taken at the local mall's automatic booth are not acceptable; only professional photographers and some travel agencies can provide passport photos.

4. New adult passport--$45 plus a $15 execution fee; new child (under 16 years old) passport--$25 plus a $15 execution fee.

Once all the necessary forms have been obtained, the traveler is ready to begin the passport processing, achieved by one of two methods. Most travelers take all of the documents and the application to the nearest designated post office or court clerk's office. The passport officer verifies that all information is complete and then obtains the traveler's signature on the application form.

The traveler's application, proof of citizenship, and fee are sent to the nearest passport office. Currently, passport offices are located in Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Stamford, and Washington, DC.

Depending on the time of the year and the passport office's workload, the proof of citizenship and passport are mailed to the traveler's home address in 1 to 12 weeks. The average return time is two to three weeks.

The passport office will handle application for a new passport in an expedited fashion for an additional fee of $35, plus overnight mailing costs. This special service results in a new passport being issued within three days of receipt of the application. If overnight mailing services are used, the total processing time is five business days; one day en route to the passport office, three days for processing, and one day en route to the traveler. It is important to note that a copy of the airline ticket should be sent with the passport application, substantiating the need for expedited handling.

The second method of processing is called "walking it through." In this procedure, the traveler takes the documents directly to a passport office. This method is used when a passport is needed immediately. The passport office advises travelers to arrive at the office early and be prepared to spend most of the day. Sometimes the traveler carries the paperwork to each processing area of the office. Other times, the applicant begins the processing, leaves the passport office, and returns to the office at a specified time. In either case, the applicant returns home that same day with a passport in hand.

Advise your client to sign the passport as soon as it is received. The signature must be identical to the way the printed name appears on the passport.

A passport renewal is a much more convenient process, handled completely by mail. The traveler must obtain a pink renewal application from one of the same locations as for an original application. Once the renewal application form is completed and signed, it can be mailed, along with the old passport (expired not more than eight years), two new photographs, and $40, to the nearest passport office. The addresses for the passport offices are listed on the back of the application form. When mailing a document as important as a passport, the passport office recommends using certified mail with return receipt requested. On receipt of the new passport, the traveler should immediately sign it exactly as the printed name appears.

As with new passport applications, the renewal process can take between 1 and 12 weeks, depending on the time of the year and the passport office's workload. The average return time is about two to three weeks on passport renewals.

PASSPORT TIPS Applicants for passports should begin the process as soon as possible. The processing time can be longer than average, especially if the passport office is overloaded by applications or its computers go down.

Advise your clients to make a copy of each printed page of the passport. Travelers should carry these copies and two extra passport photos separately when traveling. If the passport should be lost or stolen, these copies make replacement much easier.

Travelers should guard their passports when traveling just as though they were money. In several areas of the world, a U.S. passport is worth $1,000 or more on the local black market! When at home, keep the passport in a safety deposit box or safe.

A passport can be "amended," such as in a case where the traveler's name has been changed. An amendment form can be obtained from the locations discussed earlier. Instructions for processing are on the amendment application form and there is no fee.


Not all countries require U.S. travelers to obtain visas, but many countries in Central America, South America, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia do. A visa is a foreign government's written permission for a traveler to enter that country for a specific reason and length of time. Usually, a visa is a rubber stamp on one of the blank passport pages, rather than a separate document.

There are four basic types of visas: tourist, work, student, or business. A visa is issued by the foreign consulate of the country being visited. As mentioned earlier, foreign consulates are located in several U.S. cities. As a service to their clients, many travel agencies assist in obtaining visas.

To obtain a visa, the traveler must first be in possession of a valid passport. Other required paperwork, processing cost, and validity period for the visa depend on the country to be visited and the type of visa needed. A visa application is always needed, no matter what the reason for travel or the country being visited.

Unfortunately, no two visa application forms look the same. However, the information requested on one specific country's visa application is very similar to that of any other country's application form.

Other required items for obtaining a typical tourist visa, in addition to the visa application and valid passport, can include photos and a consular fee. Obtaining a business visa may also require a company letter stating the reason for travel and that sufficient funds have been provided by the company. In many cases, the traveler must also supply a copy of onward transportation.

Once all the required material has been gathered, the processing can be handled by one of three methods. The traveler or the travel counselor can send all the material to the consulate of the country to be visited. For safety, it is recommended that certified mail with return receipt requested be used. Overnight delivery, such as Federal Express, can be used when the visa is needed quickly. If the client is traveling to several countries that each require a visa, the procedure is repeated for each country's consulate.

The second method of processing is the use of a visa service or visa expediter. A visa service or expediter is very beneficial when the traveler needs several different visas. All paperwork is sent to the visa service or expediter instead of the consulate. A courier of the visa service or expediter hand-carries the paperwork to each consulate, obtains each visa, and returns the passport with all necessary visas intact. A fee per visa (usually $30 to $50) is charged, in addition to any applicable consular fees.

The third method is for the traveler who is part of an international group tour. Some tour operators provide visa applications to tour members and handle processing. The tour member or travel counselor sends the required documents and the traveler's passport to the tour operator. The tour operator then obtains all required visas on the traveler's behalf and returns the passport to the tour member. Some tour operators charge a small fee for this assistance, similar to that of a visa service or expediter.

Entry Documentation in the CRS

Most travel counselors rely on their CRSs to obtain information about entry documentation, required vaccinations, and so on. Each CRS has a special format or command that is typed, resulting in a display of this information for the appropriate country. A sample display from Worldspan for Kenya is presented here.

As you can see in this example, basic information is given for both U.S. and Canadian citizens. Travelers from these countries entering Kenya as tourists and on business need a passport (P) and a visa (V). Transit without a visa (TWOV) is allowed up to the time of the connecting flight. In other words, U.S. and Canadian citizens can change planes in Kenya without having a visa, but if they stay longer, a visa is needed.
*** USA ***                        *** CANADA ***
TOURIST--PV                        TOURIST--PV
BUSINESS--PV                       BUSINESS--PV

REGULATIONS                        >GDOC KEHEALTH (OTHER


Below the basic information, you can see menu options for several topics. Travel counselors can type the formats shown at the right of each topic, or they can use the "tab" key to select a specific topic. Notice that these topics include entry requirement specifics, information about health regulations, information for non-U.S. and non-Canadian citizens, U.S. State Department information, and the addresses of Kenyan consulates in the United States. An added feature is that visa applications can be obtained and printed from the TDS Web site.
proof of citizenship

Any document that proves
the holder's citizenship:
original birth certificate,
certified copy of a birth
certificate, passport, and
naturalization certificate.

tourist card

A type of documentation
required of all incoming
visitors by some countries.


An official document issued
by a national government
that states the holder's


Official written permission
of a government for a
traveler to enter that
country for a specific reason
and length of time.


A branch office of an
embassy. Consulates issue
travel visas to people
visiting that country.

visa service, visa expediter

A company that obtains a
visa or visas for a traveler
at a price.


The State Department performs a very important function for international travelers by keeping abreast of changing political, business, and health situations around the world. The State Department publishes (on paper and in most airline computer systems) Counsular Information Sheets for most countries of the world. These sheets contain a variety of useful information and, in some cases, much more.

Should a country or area within a country become dangerous for U.S. travelers, the State Department includes a statement of warning or caution within the Consular Information Sheet. The reason for the warning or caution could be anything from increased violence against tourists to a national strike to a shortage of medical supplies.

When diplomatic relations between the United States and a foreign country are severed, the State Department usually prohibits or restricts travel to that country.

If you pay attention to the news, you may know to which countries the State Department has advised against traveling. However, less severe incidents happen frequently and political situations may change without notice. It is your responsibility to check the State Department's Consular Information Sheet for every international trip you sell, and it is a good idea to provide your client with a copy of the information.
Consular Information

A U.S. State Department
publication for each country
that always includes general
information, possibly a
statement of caution, or a
restriction against travel.


When traveling abroad, many clients ask, "Do I need any shots?" The answer is, it depends on where the client is going. The World Health Organization (WHO), a division of the United Nations, monitors health standards throughout the world. In conjunction with foreign governments, the WHO determines if vaccinations are required and for which diseases.

Required and Recommended Vaccinations

Generally, travelers to Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and Australia need not worry about vaccinations, as these areas are not considered "infected areas." When travel is to Central America, South America, Africa, or Asia, you should immediately determine if vaccinations are required or recommended. Travel to these areas may require or recommend vaccinations against yellow fever, cholera, or smallpox.

Yellow fever is usually found in African and South American countries, especially in rural areas. A yellow fever vaccination may be required for all visitors or just for those travelers coming from or traveling through an infected area.

Cholera vaccinations may be required, especially when travel is to some African and Asian countries. The disease is usually contracted from contaminated food and water. Depending on the destination, a cholera vaccination may be required for all visitors, or a vaccination may be required for just those travelers who come from or travel through an infected area.

Worldwide eradication of smallpox has recently been achieved, but there is still a possibility that the disease could reappear. Therefore, you should verify the smallpox status occasionally.

How does a travel professional determine if vaccinations are required or recommended? Again, perhaps the most up-to-date reference source for world health standards is your airline computer system. Vaccination requirements can change quickly. Because a computer system has the capability of updating data whenever needed, the computer may provide more reliable data than does printed material. Travel publications issued by each foreign tourist office, as well as Travel Planners, also contain information about required vaccinations but, like all printed material, can become outdated rather quickly.

Another avenue for information open to travelers and travel counselors is the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. The CDC can be reached at 404-329-3311, or by accessing their Web site.

Required vaccinations are administered by the client's physician and are logged on an International Certificate of Vaccination. A vaccination certificate is a multiple-page, yellow booklet that is supplied to physicians by the WHO. The booklet must be carried by the traveler along with her passport.

Many countries, especially those located in tropical, jungle areas, may recommend a vaccination against typhoid. In addition, these countries and local physicians strongly urge that travelers take malaria tablets before, during, and after the trip.

VACCINATION TIPS Not all doctors have vaccines on hand. The traveler may need to obtain the vaccination from a physician in a larger city or state capital.

Most vaccinations have an incubation period. This means that it takes some time before the vaccination is effective. The actual amount of time varies depending on the type of vaccination.

Some vaccinations are dangerous when given during pregnancy. Advise your client to ask a doctor before obtaining the vaccination.

Children less than six months old are usually exempt from cholera vaccinations. Yellow fever vaccinations are usually not given to children under one year of age. Certain existing medical conditions, such as heart disease and high blood pressure, may exempt a traveler from obtaining a particular vaccination.

If a traveler has been exempted from obtaining a specific vaccination, she should ask the doctor for a statement indicating the reason for exemption and the date. The doctor should use office letterhead and sign the statement.

U.S. travelers have usually been vaccinated against diphtheria, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) as children. If they were not, or if they have not been given boosters, the counsel of their physicians should be sought before traveling to risky destinations.

With the ongoing AIDS epidemic, several countries are examining their policies for health requirements. These countries may require incoming visitors to provide a statement attesting that the traveler has tested negative for the HIV virus, especially if the visitor is staying for an extended period of time.
World Health Organization

A department of the United
Nations that is responsible
for monitoring worldwide
health standards and
making recommendations

International Certificate
of Vaccination

The official booklet that is
completed by the physician
who administers various

Web Activity

1. Your client, Jackson Michaels, must travel to Singapore on business
in August and it is his first trip to the Orient. He has to know about
entry documentation and health regulations, but he also has asked about
the local customs of the people, religion, and language. Using
information obtained on the Internet, prepare a fact sheet for your
client that includes this information as well as the practical data
about travel to Singapore.

2. Ruben Rosenthal and Karen Weiss have come into your office to plan
their honeymoon in May to Mexico. They are staying at an all-inclusive
resort in Cancun and are renting a car to visit the Mayan
archaeological sites on the Yucatan Peninsula. Using information
obtained on the Internet, prepare a fact sheet for your clients,
including all of the practical and cultural information you think they
should know about their trip to Mexico.

Jet Lag (Desynchronosis)

During long flights that cross several time zones, some passengers may experience a condition known as jet lag. Symptoms of jet lag include extreme fatigue and alterations in waking and sleeping patterns. These symptoms may be worse on the second or third day of the trip. Passengers on westbound flights tend to feel the effects of jet lag more than do passengers on eastbound flights.

For example, a flight leaves JFK at 8:00 A.M. (Eastern Time) and arrives in LAX at 9:00 A.M. (Pacific Time). This flight appears to take only one hour because of the three-hour time difference between New York and California, but it actually takes four hours. Passengers have three additional hours before normal California bedtime. Imagine what the passenger on a 17-hour flight will experience!

There are, however, some things travelers can do to lessen the effects of jet lag.
1. If possible, schedule arrival time close to a normal bedtime
(destination time). If the arrival time is in the middle of the day,
don't retire for the night until your normal bedtime. A short nap upon
arrival is fine, but it is wise to begin to function on the
destination's time as soon as possible.

2. Experienced international travelers have learned not to plan
strenuous activity on the first day in the destination; they use this
day to relax and become acclimated to the environment.

3. Two to three days before departing on an international flight, begin
to change your eating and sleeping times to those in the destination.

4. At the beginning of the flight, change your watch to the correct
time in your destination. Your mind can sometimes trick your body into
thinking that it is functioning on the destination's time.

5. During flight, drink plenty of nonalcoholic beverages. The air in an
aircraft is very dry, which causes many passengers to retain water and
feel excessively thirsty. Alcoholic beverages only compound the

6. During the flight, exercise as frequently as possible. Stretch your
arms and legs and walk around in the aircraft.

Intestinal Problems

Although it is known by many names (e.g., turista and Montezuma's Revenge), diarrhea is no laughing matter. Many doctors recommend that passengers carry anti-diarrhea medication, such as Lomotil or Imodium, when the destination has questionable health standards.

It is usually safe to drink the water in major world cities because the water is treated to kill harmful bacteria. However, disease-causing microorganisms thrive in the water supplies of many rural areas and less developed countries. In less-than-sanitary locations, bottled water or canned beverages should always be used for drinking.

Travelers may not think of it, but bottled water should also be used for something as simple as brushing teeth. Brewed tea and perked coffee are usually safe because they have been made with boiled water and the heat kills bacteria. The cup the tea or coffee is served in may not be safe because it was probably washed in tap water! Another problem area is ice made from regular tap water because bacteria can survive the cold.

In remote areas, travelers can purify local water by boiling it or treating it with tincture of iodine, chlorine, or Halazone tablets. Directions for these procedures are provided free of charge by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia.

Fruits and vegetables also play host to disease-causing bacteria. It is recommended that travelers eat only cooked fruits and vegetables because the cooking heat kills the bacteria. If these foods must be eaten raw, they should at least be peeled.

Many bodies of water are terribly polluted. The Ganges River in India is a prime example. Advise your clients not to wade or swim in polluted rivers or lakes because these same diseasecausing bacteria can enter the body through the skin.

Altitude Sickness

Many travelers and travel counselors are very aware of the problem of motion sickness, but what about altitude sickness? At destinations of 10,000 feet or more above sea level (e.g., Cuzco or La Paz), some travelers become quite ill. Symptoms of altitude sickness include shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, and extreme fatigue. In travelers with heart or lung problems, these symptoms are intensified. Advise your clients, especially older ones, to talk to their doctors before embarking on a journey to high altitudes.

Medical Assistance Abroad

Should all precautions for good health fail, there is help. Most hotel desk clerks and the U.S. Embassy can assist travelers in finding adequate medical treatment facilities. Many travel counselors provide the address of the destination's U.S. Embassy to their clients before the trip begins. This is especially important for those traveling on their own without a guide or escort.

Some travelers use the services offered by U.S. companies that were formed specifically to assist American traveling abroad. Once a traveler pays a membership fee to one of these companies, his benefits can include medic alert identification, medical insurance, a directory of English-speaking health professionals abroad, and general health tips. Following are a few of these service companies.

* Assist-Card, 800-874-2223, <>

* Healthlink International, 800-579-8710, <>

* International SOS Assistance, 800-523-8662, <>

For more information about international insurance, the Health Insurance Association of America is an excellent source. The HIAA can be contacted by phone 800-942-4242 or via their Web site at <http://www.hiaa.ogr>.

Another important organization is the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers. Travelers and counselors can contact IAMAT to obtain a list of English-speaking physicians and other health-related information for many countries worldwide. The phone number for IAMAT is 716-754-4883 and the Web site is <>iamat>.

HEALTH TIPS Travelers with acute sinus conditions should consult their doctors before flying. The changing air pressure and dry air in an aircraft can cause extreme discomfort. Many physicians recommend taking a decongestant prior to and during the trip.

Infants and children with chronic ear trouble may suffer during air travel, especially at takeoff and landing. Air travel has a profound effect on the eustachian tubes in a child's ears. Swallowing helps equalize the pressure in the inner ear, reducing the pain. In adults, this condition can also occur, and sometimes chewing gum can help.

Advise your client to carry any medication in its original container. Immigration officials get nervous and are apt to ask questions when they see drugs (even prescription ones) in homemade packaging! All medication should be kept in the carry-on-baggage; checked baggage can get lost, and replacing medication can be a problem in a foreign country.

International travelers should be advised to carry an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses. In fact, taking the prescription for eyewear is also a good idea. Should the glasses or lenses become lost or damaged, getting them replaced is much easier with the prescription.

Many enlightened travelers never go anywhere without a first-aid kit that contains antiseptic, bandages, and baking soda. Baking soda? When mixed with water, baking soda makes an excellent paste remedy for insect bites and sunburns.

In several African countries, including Egypt, eye infections are prevalent. Never loan a camera or binoculars to local residents. Doing so can spread the infection.
jet lag

A medical condition that
may affect air travelers on
some flights that cross
several time zones.
Symptoms include extreme
fatigue and difficulty in
adjusting waking and
sleeping hours to the local

altitude sickness

A condition that affects
many travelers at altitudes
over 10,000 feet. Symptoms
include extreme fatigue,
shortness of breath,
dizziness, and nausea.


Strange as it may seem, some travelers never question the type of currency used in a foreign country; they appear to think that the U.S. dollar is a global currency. The fact is that nearly every country has its own currency, which usually looks completely different from the currency of its neighbor countries. To compound the matter, each currency has a different buying power. For example, a hotel room that costs $100 per night in the United States might be expressed as 63 pounds sterling in the United Kingdom. In Japan, that same hotel room's rate might be expressed as 10,673 yen.

To compare U.S. dollars (USD) to any other world currency, you must first know the exchange rate. Most large newspapers and your airline computer system can provide the current exchange rate for most world currencies. But what do you do with the exchange rate? The answer to that question depends on whether you are converting from U.S. dollars or to U.S. dollars. For example:

To convert $100 USD to pounds sterling, exchange rate 1.5871:

100 USD / 1.5871 = 63.01 pounds sterling

To convert 63.01 pounds sterling to USD, exchange rate 1.5871:

63.01 pounds sterling x 1.5871 = 100 USD

Some travel counselors provide clients with a list of exchange rates for the countries they will visit. The client can use a pocket calculator when shopping or doing business and figure the cost of an item in USD. The exchange rates can fluctuate daily, but the rates provided by the counselor help the client determine if he is getting a bargain, a fair price, or a raw deal.

Thirteen European countries (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, and Spain) have formed a cooperative that affects a variety of business, governmental, and economic areas. One of the features that impacts European travelers the most is that these countries use a single currency, called the euro, divided into 100 euro cents. The symbol for the euro is a. Euro notes and coins will be available in January of 2002 and all national currency will be removed from circulation by July of 2002.

What this means to European travelers is that they will be dealing with only one currency, assuming of course, that the traveler confines his travels to countries within the cooperative union. Notable exceptions to the European cooperative include the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland), Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. These countries will continue to use their own national currencies.

Before beginning an international trip, the client should determine how he will handle purchases in foreign countries. He has five choices.

1. Buy foreign currency before leaving home.

2. Buy foreign-currency traveler's cheques before leaving home.

3. Buy USD traveler's cheques and exchange as needed.

4. Use a credit card.

5. Use an ATM.

As with all choices, there is no one perfect answer. Each method of handling transactions abroad has advantages and disadvantages.

It is always helpful to have some small change on arrival for porters, taxis, and so forth. Large banks carry a small supply of only the major world currencies, such as British pounds sterling, the euro, and Japanese yen. If the client is traveling in other than major countries, he may not be able to purchase the correct currency. If the traveler is going to several countries, he should keep each currency separate, which is easier said than done.

Foreign-currency traveler's cheques are a good option, if the desired currency is offered in traveler's cheque form. Again, only major currencies, such as those listed previously, can be purchased in traveler's cheques. Imagine using a pound sterling traveler's cheque to purchase an item in euros, and then attempting to calculate the USD cost! There are three exchange rates at work in this situation. As in the United States, some smaller establishments may not be equipped to cash a traveler's cheque. Those that are may charge a small fee.

Purchasing USD traveler's cheques may be the best solution because it doesn't matter whether major countries are visited or how many countries are included in the itinerary. The client only has to compare USD to one currency at a time. However, the traveler may still experience problems cashing USD traveler's cheques in smaller retail outlets, and there may be a cashing charge.

The use of credit cards sounds wonderful in theory; no foreign currency or exchanges to deal with. However, not all establishments handle credit cards, and those that do may accept only certain kinds. Note that the exchange rate in effect on the day of purchase is not the one used to calculate the actual amount charged! When the charge form reaches the client's home bank, the exchange rate in effect on that day is used. Let's see how this could affect the amount the client will pay.

Gold necklace purchased on April 11--cost of 125 pounds sterling April 11 exchange rate--1.899, USD equivalent $237.38 Charge reaches client's bank on July 15--exchange rate 1.539 July 15--actual cost of gold necklace is $192.38

This scenario worked to the client's advantage. But what if the situation were reversed, and the exchange rate on July 15 were 1.975? The necklace would cost $246.88 instead of $192.38!

Another option is using an ATM (automated teller machine) to obtain local currency at the destination. ATMs can be found in major tourist destinations in the Caribbean and Europe and in some major cities worldwide. Most ATM transactions offer reasonable exchange rates and the typical fees for ATM use are charged. Because ATMs are not easily located in many countries, and don't exist at all in some areas, reliance on ATMs should not be recommended.

Money Tips

Many areas of the Caribbean, Canada, and Bermuda accept not only their own currencies but also U.S. dollars as payment on a one-to-one basis. If change is given, it's usually in local currency.

Advise your clients to keep receipts of all currency exchange transactions and purchases. Customs officials may ask to see them as the client departs the foreign country.

In some places, it is impossible to exchange leftover foreign currency back into dollars; travelers should attempt to spend all of that currency. Many countries will convert banknotes back into dollars, but not coins.

Many locations ask to see the traveler's passport before converting currency or cashing a traveler's cheque.

It is illegal in some countries to leave the country with local currency, not even a few coins for souvenirs.

On entering some foreign countries, travelers are required to state how much cash and traveler's cheques they have. This declaration is compared to receipts when the traveler departs the country.

In some countries, independent travelers (not part of a tour group) are required by immigration officials immediately to convert a specific amount into local currency.
exchange rate

see bank buying rate (BBR).


Many travelers are confused by embassies and consulates and believe them to be two completely different and separate agencies. An embassy is the office of the ambassador who is one country's representative stationed in another country. Consulates are regional offices of the embassy. The United States has embassies in more than 160 capital cities of the world as well as more than 80 consulates in other major world cities. Likewise, most countries have an embassy in Washington, DC and many countries have consulates in other major U.S. cities.

The U.S. Embassy or its Consular Section's two primary functions follow.

1. To issue visas to foreign nationals visiting the United States

2. To assist U.S. travelers in their international destinations by

* issuing a replacement passport when it is lost or stolen

* assisting with finding medical treatment

* helping with an emergency situation at home

* helping arrange for the transfer of funds from home

* assisting with finding legal representation

* making arrangements when a traveler dies in a foreign country

* assisting in a local disaster requiring evacuation

It is important to note that the U.S. Embassy or its Consular Section cannot get the traveler out of jail, settle disputes with local merchants or service providers, or act as a post office or message service.

Now, let's look at embassies and consulates in another way. For example, the Japanese Consulate located in the United States will issue visas to U.S. travelers to Japan. The Japanese Embassy or its Consular Section also provides similar services to citizens of Japan traveling in the United States.

Because of the assistance provided by the embassy, many travel counselors give their international clients the U.S. Embassy phone number and address for each country being visited. This information can be found in the CRSs, on the Internet, and in many printed reference sources.

The office of one country's
ambassador within a host


Many international travelers, especially novices, are unsure of what to do and where to go when they arrive at a foreign airport. This is understandable when you consider that everything is suddenly different. As a rule, though, most international airports are well marked, many times in English. Airport signs instruct incoming passengers how to get to an area called "Immigration," "Customs," or "Passport Control." Whatever this area is called, its purpose is the same.

One by one, each incoming passenger is asked to show his documentation. Depending on the country, this can be proof of citizenship or a passport. The immigration officer may ask the reason for the visit, how long the passenger will be in the country, and if the passenger has anything to declare. The immigration officer is referring to excess amounts of liquor, tobacco, and so forth. The Travel Planner has guidelines for each country's import allowances.

When the immigration officer decides that the traveler is harmless, he may place a stamp on the documentation, stating that the traveler has "cleared," or he may just verbally clear the passenger. Once cleared, the passenger is directed by signs to the baggage claim area.


Travelers to another country may experience many differences; language, money, time, electricity, laws, social customs, history, art, and so on. In fact, some of these differences are what makes the destination interesting and probably helped the traveler choose the location. Unfortunately, some of these differences can cause the traveler a bit of anxiety. The travel counselor can easily eliminate this anxiety by doing some research and taking the time to explain to the client what he can expect.

In many countries, religion has a major impact on the lives of residents and the laws of the land. In countries where the majority of the citizens are Moslems (followers of Islam), shops may close during the times of prayer and certain foods and beverages may not be available, especially during Ramadan. Laws in Islamic countries can be very strict and punishment quite severe compared to U.S. norms.

Not knowing the social customs of a country can cause a traveler to put his foot in his mouth. For example, in some countries the left hand should never be used to hand something to another person, the U.S. hand sign for "okay" is considered an obscene gesture, and touching a person's head is the height of bad manners. There are dozens more mannerisms and gestures that are considered rude.

Many travel counselors rely on Dos and Taboos Around the World (ISBN 0-471-59528-4) written by Roger Axtell. This book is arranged alphabetically by country and gives a thorough account of the local customs as well as ways that travelers can cause offense. No one likes to "stick out" or appear rude while traveling abroad and this book is one of the best resources we have found.

Some countries, especially those in Europe, have a tax on products and services called a value added tax (VAT). This tax can be compared to a sales tax in the United States although the VAT can be as high as 30 percent. Because this tax is supposed to be for citizens of the country, it may be possible for travelers to get a tax rebate. Depending on the country, the rebate can be obtained at the airport before departure or it can be mailed to the traveler, less a processing fee. Some stores offer rebates for purchases over a certain value. Travel guides and national tourist bureaus are good sources for information about VAT rebates.

Using electrical appliances in an international destination is something that many travelers may not consider. The United States uses 110 volt whereas most of the rest of the world uses 220 volt. To compound the problem, the prong configuration in most countries is different than that in the United States. Travel counselors should always point out these differences to international travelers and explain that they will need plug adaptors and a current converter. Retail outlets that sell luggage often carry kits that include the adaptors and converter and they may also offer dual-voltage appliances. Travel supply vendors such as Magellan's and Orvis offer a full range of electrical products.

As you learned in the rental car section, many countries measure distance in kilometers (km) instead of miles (mi). This can cause problems when reading maps or looking at speed limit signs. Most countries use the metric system: liquids are measured in liters, solids are weighed in grams and kilos, centimeters are used instead of inches, meters are used instead of feet and yards, and so on. Many travel guides include conversion charts for these measurements as well as clothing and shoe size comparisons. Travel counselors should make sure their clients are aware of these facts and many counselors provide international travelers with conversion formulas.

At first glance, language may be the first difference noticed by international travelers. As a courtesy to the people of the country being visited, it is a good idea to learn a few simple phrases: please, thank-you, yes, no, hello, excuse me, and so on. People who travel frequently to other countries have learned that knowing and attempting to use simple phrases in the local language is an important way to show respect for the country and its people.

Important Industry Web Sites

Convert It!:

Currency Conversion:

Language Translator:
value added tax (VAT)

A type of tax that is
charged on goods and
services in some countries.


Travelers who have been out of the United States for at least 48 hours can return with up to $400 in foreign purchases, free of duty (tax). If the traveler has been out of the United States less than 48 hours, the allowance is $200. When travel has been to the Caribbean, the duty-free allowance increases to $600. When travel has been to the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or Guam, the allowance is $1,200. Travel to certain Third World and developing nations can also increase the allowance. The duty-free allowance is given once every 30 days.

The U.S. Customs Office allows international travelers to send gifts of less than $100 value ($200 from a U.S. Territory) to friends and relatives back home. A package can be sent once a day, to one address, duty free. The package must be marked "unsolicited gift" and the contents and value of the package must appear on the package.

In Chapter 14, on cruises, you learned about forbidden items called contraband. In many international airports, there are containers called amnesty bins. Customs officials hope that passengers with forbidden items in their possession will throw them away in the amnesty bins before they are found and confiscated. Custom officials have the right not only to confiscate the contraband but also to fine or arrest the offender.


A client who is beginning a trip home may notice different security measures used in many international airports. In these airports, passengers do not walk through the familiar metal detector arch; instead, hand-held devices are used. Each passenger is asked to stand with legs and arms apart as the security officer moves the detector completely around the passenger's body. In many international airports, it is common to see security officers with rifles over their shoulders! At first glance, this may be unnerving, but to most travelers, these increased and visible security measures are a welcome sight.

At the first U.S. airport entered, each returning passenger must clear customs. This means that on a flight from Amsterdam via New York to Cedar Rapids, the passenger will clear customs in New York.

Incoming passengers are first directed to the baggage claim area. After claiming their luggage, signs direct them to the customs area. Most customs areas use the "red light-green light" system. If a passenger has exceeded his duty-free allowance, he must go to the red-light area. Passengers who have remained under the allowance go to the green-light area. All passengers are asked to produce a customs declaration form. This document is provided to them en route by the airline.

Passengers exceeding the duty-free allowance have to pay duty, usually about 10 percent, on the excess amount. The exact percentages and other helpful information can be found in the U.S. Customs Office publication, "Know Before You Go."

When the customs officer is convinced that the traveler is not a spy or a smuggler, he may or may not stamp the documentation. Passengers on connecting flights have to check their luggage for their trip home.

Advise your clients who are traveling with expensive jewelry or foreign-made electronic equipment to register these items with customs before leaving the United States. If these items are not registered, the customs officer on the return trip may think that they were purchased abroad on the current trip and charge duty on them.
customs declaration form
A U.S. Treasury document
that must be completed by
all U.S. citizens returning to
the United States from
abroad, indicating all items
purchased during the trip.
Other countries have similar
requirements and forms for
their citizens.

? What Would You Do?

Hector Sanchez calls your office and says that his father
has suffered a heart attack and is in the hospital.
Mr. Sanchez wants to fly to Madrid as soon as possible to
see his father but he doesn't have a passport.
(He is a U.S. citizen.)

1. Would you tell Mr. Sanchez that travel to Madrid is not
possible for at least two or three weeks?

2. Would you suggest that Mr. Sanchez mail his passport
application in immediately?

3. Would you explain how a passport can be obtained in one
day in an emergency situation?
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Title Annotation:SECTION V: International Air Travel
Publication:A Guide to Becoming a Travel Professional
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Previous Article:Chapter 14: Setting sail.
Next Article:Chapter 16: International air travel basics.

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