You’ve bought your ticket overseas, and you’ve read the travel guide. Hotel reservations have been secured, and you’ve drafted your itinerary. But before you begin your trip, it’s important to brush up on some basic legal tips, to make sure you are safe and worry-free before, during and after your sojourn overseas.
Here’s a simple checklist of 10 legal tips to keep in mind when you travel abroad.
- Know the local laws and customs before you go. Every country is different, and some countries have strict penalties for actions that are legal or considered minor crimes in the U.S. Be aware of these so you don’t unknowingly violate the law and wind up in big trouble.
- Study up on travel advisories and warnings. The U.S. State Department website (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/travelers-checklist.html) can be a great help.
- Make sure your passport is current and that it isn’t due to expire until at least six months after your trip is over. According to the U.S. State Department, you’ll need at least two blank pages per country in your passport, as well.
- Check travel Visa requirements, and read up on whether there are any required or suggested pre-travel inoculations.
- Regulation of medications differs widely throughout the world, and some medicines sold over-the-counter or by prescription in this country may be illegal in others. Make sure any drugs you transport are legal in your country of arrival.
- Know what you can and cannot bring into the country, and what’s legal to bring back home. Even duty-free shopping has regulations and limits, so know what you can legally bring home before you buy it. And keep in mind, U.S. customs regulates a number of items, including illegal substances, firearms, plants, animals and more. Know whether you can legally bring your treasures into the U.S. and/or which permits or licenses you need to do so.
- If traveling with minor children, be sure to secure any necessary custody documents or written consent from the other parent if that parent is not accompanying you. You can check with the embassy of your country of destination for their specific regulations.
- Watch for scams. Tourist rip-offs are common; don’t become a victim. Search for common tourist scams online, especially those that are most common in the country you are visiting.
- Carry copies of all of your travel documents in a safe place separate from your actual documents, upload copies to the cloud, and give copies to someone on home soil.
- Keep local emergency numbers on hand. And wherever your travels lead, always carry contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate in the region you are visiting. The U.S State Department recommends taking down this information in both English and the language native to the country you are visiting. In the event you get into legal trouble or experience other problems, you will always be able to find around-the-clock assistance through the embassy or consulate.
As you pack your bags, remember to review this checklist, and bring along a carry-on of common sense. It’s a lot to consider, but following these legal tips can be essential to having a safe and enjoyable trip overseas.
Article by Maureen Kinney, La Crosse WI Attorney at Johns, Flaherty & Collins. For more legal information on traveling abroad, call her at 608-784-5678.