U.S. State Department Travel Information
The U.S. State Department maintains two websites that provide travelers with a wealth of information about traveling and living overseas: travel.state.gov and studentsabroad.state.gov. Both websites provide information on preparing to travel abroad and dealing with medical, financial, and legal problems while abroad. The “Before You Go” section of the U.S. State Department website, available at travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/go.html may be of particular interest.
All travelers should consider purchasing personal insurance to cover, at least partially, any financial loss incurred by trip interruption or cancellation, as well as loss of baggage and personal effects while either traveling or living abroad. Many, but not all, homeowner’s insurance policies contain a clause extending this coverage worldwide. Check to see if your family’s policy contains such a clause. Normally, a copy of the police report filed at the time of loss or theft is required by the insurer before any claim will be considered.
Excess luggage can be expensive to transport, but if you have crucial items that do not fit into your airline’s luggage limit, you can 1) pay for excess luggage on your flight (do not forget that you will still have to transport your luggage from the airport to your destination!) or 2) have packages sent to you at your destination.
Check luggage and carry-on regulations for all airlines on which you will be traveling. Airlines are strict about weight and size requirements. Visit the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for information about prohibited items in carry-on and checked baggage: www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/prohibited-items.
Mark all luggage, inside and out, with your name and address. You may want to mark your bags in a distinctive way, so you can easily find them. Count your pieces of luggage each time you travel from place to place.
Immigration and Customs Inspections
Upon entry to any country, you must show your passport and any required visas and/or proof of immunizations. At an airport, this usually occurs just after you deplane, but before you recover your luggage. Remember that admission to the country is entirely at the discretion of the immigration officer. It is wise to be polite and to dress neatly. The immigration officer will normally ask you about the nature of your visit and how long you plan to remain in the country.
After your passport has been stamped and you have collected your luggage, you must pass through a customs inspection. You will probably receive a customs declaration form to complete prior to arrival, and customs officials will examine it when they look at your luggage. Your bags may be carefully examined, and you may be detained or asked to pay duties if there are any irregularities or violations of customs regulations. You may also be waved through with no special attention.
Returning to the U.S.
In advance of your departure, you should consult the U.S. Customs and Border Service website (www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel) for information about duties and tariffs that may apply upon your return. You should save receipts for any major purchases you make overseas and intend to take home.
U.S. residents are usually permitted to bring $800 worth of goods purchased abroad into the U.S. duty free. All articles acquired abroad and in your possession at the time of your return to the U.S. must be declared to Customs officials, either orally or in writing. This includes gifts you received or that you purchased for someone else, personal purchases, goods you intend to sell, and purchases made in duty-free shops. Declaration forms will be distributed during your flight back to the U.S. Before you return, you might want to check the items you plan to bring back to be sure they are not prohibited or restricted (see “Know Before You Go”: www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/kbyg).
Personal belongings of U.S. origin taken abroad may be sent back by mail duty-free if, on the outside wrapper, it is stated that the articles were taken out of the U.S. as personal effects and are being returned without having been repaired or altered while abroad (“American Goods Returned”). Should you need assistance on matters relating to U.S. Customs while abroad, customs representatives are available in American embassies.