Make sure your passport is current – keeping in mind that some countries now require that your passport must be valid for at least six months after your return to the United States. If you don’t have a passport, get one as soon as possible. You’ll need proof of US citizenship (an official birth certificate from the county where you were born), proof of identity (a driver’s license will do), two recent two-inch by two-inch color photographs, and a completed official passport form. You may obtain a passport from a State Department Passport Agency, federal or state courthouse, or US post office. The fee for obtaining a passport will be listed on your application. Passports are valid for ten years from the date of issue for adults and five years for children. You should apply for your passport at least three months before you plan to travel. There will be an additional fee for a rush passport.
Guard your passport
Don’t hand your passport over to unauthorized persons or pack it in your luggage. It’s valuable! Keep a record of your passport number, the date and place of its issue. Take a photocopy of the first page of your passport with you when you travel and leave one with a friend or family member to be safe. If it is lost or stolen, immediately notify local police and the nearest American embassy or consulate. You will be able to get a temporary passport, but you will have to fill out a detailed report and follow the same procedure required to obtain your original passport.
Some countries require visas. A visa is an endorsement made in a passport allowing entry into the country you’re visiting, testifying that your passport has been examined and found in order. It permits you to visit that country for a specified purpose and usually for a limited time. Apply directly to the embassies or consulates of the countries you plan to visit. Gomega Travel will be happy to help you with this process. If you’re traveling with a group, some countries accept group visas as opposed to individual visas, and Gomega Travel will make these arrangements.
Carry extra copies of everything
Take at least two copies of all of your important documents. These include your passport, tickets, traveler’s checks, birth certificate, credit cards, and visas. Keep one with you, and deposit the other in a safe place.
If you have any special health problems, have your doctor prepare your medical history for a foreign doctor. It should include your name and address, social security number, insurance company name and address, name and address of person to notify in case of emergency, blood type, medical history, current medications and dosages (generic names), list of drug allergies, reasons for prior hospitalizations, list of immunizations and dates. Also you might carry a medical alert card in your wallet or purse. This a a compact card, available at most pharmacies, stating any special medical conditions, allergies, and your blood type. Medic-Alert, a nonprofit foundation, will maintain whatever medical data you entrust to them on their computers. The information can be retrieved via an emergency phone call from anywhere in the world. They’ll also supply you with an identification bracelet. You can contact them at www.medicalert.org or Medic-Alert, Box 1009, Turlock, CA 95381, or call 1-800-344-3226.
Get your shots before you leave. Ask your doctor what shots and/or vaccinations you need for a specific area, or check with the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia (404-332-4559) or www.cdc.gov. You should get any shots well in advance to avoid unpleasant side affects that could ruin your trip.
Finding medical help abroad
While planning your trip, ask your own doctor and dentist for lists of reliable practitioners in the area where you are traveling to. If you have no such list, find the nearest university teaching-hospital emergency room, or call the US embassy or consulate for recommendation. A nonprofit organization called the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers can provide valuable services in the event you become ill while traveling – from medical charts to lists of North American-trained, English-speaking doctors practicing abroad (who all accept standard fees). Membership is free, but the group relies on donations. Apply at least 8 weeks in advance. For information, contact IAMAT, 417 Center Street, Lewiston, NY 14092. Telephone: 716-754-4883 or online at www.iamat.org.
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