State Department Urges Caution When Traveling Abroad

State Department Urges Caution When Traveling Abroad


Millions of Americans will be traveling abroad this summer, filling hotels, airports and city streets from Rio to Bonn and from Beijing to Sydney. Although the economy is struggling, so many travel operators have slashed prices that both avid and new travelers aren’t about to let opportunity pass them by.

IllinoisThe U.S. State Department which is currently headed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is the cabinet-level foreign affairs agency of the United States government. The State Department is tasked with providing support for activities conducted abroad by other US agencies, to protect American citizens while abroad, offer assistance to US based businesses working internationally, and carry out US foreign policy.

Travel Warnings, Guidelines

As part of its initiative to help Americans traveling abroad, the State Department routinely issues warnings and guidelines. Those warnings include information about potential hot spots Americans should avoid while the guidelines includes information that every American traveling abroad should know about. Per the State Department, the following are the guidelines currently offered by the US government for traveling Americans:

  • Register so the State Department can better assist you in an emergency:  Register your travel plans  with the State Department through a free online service at  This will help us contact you if there is a family emergency in the U.S., or if there is a crisis where you are traveling.  In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts will not be released to others without your express authorization.
  • Sign passport, and fill in the emergency information:  Make sure you have a signed, valid passport, and a visa, if required, and fill in the emergency information page of your passport.
  • Leave copies of itinerary and passport data page:  Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends, so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.
  • Check your overseas medical insurance coverage:  Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation.  If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.
  • Familiarize yourself with local conditions and laws:   While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws.  The State Department web site at has useful safety and other information about the countries you will visit.
  • Take precautions to avoid being a target of crime:  To avoid being a target of crime, do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money.  Also, do not leave unattended luggage in public areas and do not accept packages from strangers.
  • Contact us in an emergency: Consular personnel at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad and in the U.S. are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens.  Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates appears on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at  Also note that the Office of Overseas Citizen Services in the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs may be reached for assistance with emergencies at 1-888-407-4747, if calling from the U.S. or Canada, or 202-501-4444, if calling from overseas.

Exercising Caution

Of course, the U.S. Government can’t be everywhere you are planning to go so use caution when traveling outside of the United States. Foreign travel can be fun, relaxing and tremendously enriching; do your part to stay alert for possible changes which could impact your itinerary.

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Categories: Travel Tips

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".