Overseas Travel Information
If you never traveled overseas, you’re in for a wonderful experience. International travel
is accessible to anyone seeking a little adventure or looking to expand his or her horizons.
All that’s required is a little know-how about traveling. That’s why we at Gateway Travel
have prepared this primer especially for you. We’ve listed answers to our customers’
most frequently asked questions and concerns—the ones that keep you up the night
before you take off. Now you can read up on a few items that you may have wondered
about, relax, and enjoy!
First things first—your passport is your official set of wings to the places of your dreams.
A passport is an official government document that certifies your identity and citizenship
and grants you permission to travel to other countries. To obtain a passport, a native-born
American citizen needs a certified copy of his or her birth certificate. A naturalized
citizen needs naturalization papers. If you don’t have a copy of your birth certificate,
write to the State Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics in your home state.
You will also need two passport-sized photos (2 x 2 inches), in color or black and white,
and $60 for the application fee ($45 for applicants 15 and under). The passport renewal
fee is $40. Adults’ passports are valid for ten years and children’s passports are valid for
five years. You must apply for your passport in person at a passport agency, a designated
post office, or a county courthouse, depending on your city.
Many countries also require a visa. A visa is a stamp or document placed in your passport
that grants permission to travel to the country issuing the visa. We’ll let you know if you
need a visa for the countries to which you’re traveling. If you have any questions about
this, just ask.
Most countries do not require immunization. If it is needed, you must obtain an
International Certificate of Vaccination with verification from an administering physician
and carry it with you as proof of compliance. We will let you know if your itinerary
includes travel into an area under regulation by the World Health Organization. If it does,
we’ll provide you with immunization instructions and give you further recommendations
regarding food and drink. In the meantime, this should not be a concern.
International Driving Permits
An international driving permit is required in many countries and is highly recommended
even for those countries in Western Europe that do not require it. The permit is in a five-
language format that is very useful if you’re stopped on the road. Permits can be issued
right here in our office. All you need is two passport-size photos, your valid driver’s
license, and $10 for the application fee.
If you’re torn about whether to drive or not to drive on your vacation, consider your time
allocation. Driving is a more leisurely, slower mode of travel. Check gas costs. Driving might not be cost efficient. Consider traffic. Driving in most major cities is not for the timid! And remember that, in some countries, driving is on the left side of the road. The Language Barrier
Do your best! Chances are you’re not fluent in the language of every country you want to visit. Carrying a pocket phrase book is useful, and natives appreciate your effort. You’ll
be surprised how far the equivalent words for “hello” and “thank you” can go toward bridging the language gap and making your stay more enjoyable.
Most experienced travelers learned about this the hard way. If you’re going to pack your
hair dryer and electric shaver, make sure you also bring a set of adapter plugs. These can be purchased at a hardware store and will enable you to use dual-voltage appliances (those that have a switch for 110 volt or 220 volt AC). If your appliance does not have this switch, you must bring the adapter plugs and a converter, a small, 3-ounce attachment. Converters will not work on Direct Current (DC), which is found in some countries or on some ships and planes. Check the outlet before using. Remember that adapters cannot convert the voltage of appliances, but will merely enable you to plug into different types of outlets.
U.S. Customs Requirements
Each traveler is allowed to bring back into the United States up to $400 worth of duty-free purchases. If your purchases are not over this amount, you need only tell the customs official when you are checking through. If you have exceeded this amount, you must fill out an itemized list on a declaration form that will be distributed on your return trip. On the overage amount, you will be required to pay 10% up to the next $1000 worth of declared items.
Some items are considered duty free, such as works of art and antiques, if they are over 100 years old. Some items, including jewelry, are duty free if they come from certain designated countries. You can find out more by writing to the U.S. Customs Service for two valuable, free booklets: “Know Before You Go” and “GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) and the Traveler.”
The Value-Added Tax (VAT)
In Western Europe, Israel, and Japan, you’ll find a tax on goods and services that is
usually hidden in the purchase price. This tax can vary from 6% to 33%, depending on the country. Tourists have to pay this tax at the time of purchase, but they are eligible for a refund on items they are taking home with them. However, not all stores offer refunds, and some countries require a minimum purchase to apply for the refund. Ask the sales clerk for a VAT refund form. Show your passport, and the clerk will fill it out the refund form and you will sign it. Then give the form to the customs official when you’re leaving
the country. If you paid by charge card, your account will be credited. If you paid in cash,
you’ll receive a check. We recommend that you pay by charge card for goods subject to a
VAT refund. You’ll get your refund sooner, and you’ll avoid currency-conversion
charges. Some countries allow you to avoid the VAT altogether by shipping your purchases home from the store, which does incur a shipping-and-handling charge. Calling Home
Often, calls made from foreign hotels are subject to hefty surcharges. You can avoid this by phoning from a post office during business hours or by using a coin-operated phone. You might also consider purchasing a prepaid telephone card. You can check with telephone companies about prepaid telephone card service. They should be able to provide you with information about prices, sales locations in the United States, and ordering the service by telephone. If you decide to purchase a prepaid telephone card, be sure the card you choose will work outside the United States. And remember the time difference when you call!
If you require the services of a doctor while traveling, most large hotels can assist you in finding one. If you want to be better prepared for an emergency, there’s a non-profit
organization that will send you a free pocket-sized directory listing names, addresses, and phone numbers of hundreds of English-speaking doctors around the world. Most of these doctors are specialists in internal medicine or cardiology. Write to the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT), Empire State Building, 350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 5620, New York, NY 10001.
The American Embassy
You would only consult your consul at the American Embassy of the country you are visiting in the unlikely event of an emergency or serious difficulty that could lead to legal or police involvement. The American Embassy cannot perform the functions of a travel agent, an information bureau, a bank, or even the police. They cannot help you find lost luggage or help you settle a dispute with a hotel manager. So, know that they are there, and have no occasion to make a formal visit!
For specific information on foreign destinations, we can supply the address and phone numbers of the foreign government tourist offices in the United States for the following countries:
Antigua Germany Peru
Argentina Great Britain Philippines
Aruba Greece Poland
Australia Guatemala Portugal
Austria Haiti Puerto Rico
Bahamas Hong Kong Russia
Barbados Hungary Samoa
Belgium India Scandinavia
Bermuda Indonesia Singapore
Brazil Ireland South Africa
British Virgin Islands Israel Spain
Cayman Islands Italy Sri Lanka
Chile Ivory Coast St. Lucia
China Jamaica Switzerland
Columbia Japan Tahiti
Costa Rica Jordan Taiwan
Curacao Kenya Tanzania
Cyprus Korea Thailand
Czech Republic Luxembourg Trinidad & Tobago
Denmark Malaysia Tunisia
Dominican Republic Malta Turkey
Ecuador Morocco Uruguay
Egypt Netherlands Virgin Islands
Fiji New Zealand Zaire
France Paraguay Zambia