If you travel frequently, you know there are different risks when you are away from your home or community. Not only are there risks you wouldn’t have otherwise, but the support network you usually depend on may not be readily available. No matter the risk, the conversation should start with how to understand, identify, and prepare for the risk before its too late.Before you begin your journey, you should do some fact-gathering. Learn what is going on in the country before you go. This will help you become familiar with cultural expectations, and check for unrest, health hazards, or other security risks.
International SOSAn excellent resource you should consider is International SOS, one of the world’s leading medical and travel security services company. Adventist Risk Management (ARM) partners with International SOS to provide value-added benefits for travelers insured through one of ARM’s travel policies. International SOS provides medical and travel security information and expertise before, during, and after your trip to help safeguard your personal health and safety. (https://www.internationalsos.com/)
Get your paperwork in orderThrough your research, you will know if you need a visa or certain vaccinations to enter the country you plan to visit, as well as passport requirements. Some nations require you to have at least six months remaining before your passport expires. Other helpful information includes what type of currency is used and how money is exchanged (credit cards may not be accepted everywhere).
Consider travel insurance as part of your trip expenses. If you are traveling on church business or a church-sponsored mission trip, you must purchase short term travel insurance for those participating on the trip. Adventist Risk Management offers travel insurance through our website, which can protect against lost baggage, sickness, accident, or canceled flights.
Be sure that you have communicated effectively with in-country contacts in the country you are visiting. Ensure you are working with reputable organizations/individuals and coordinate your plans with the church administrative offices in that territory. For those traveling from the North American Division on a mission trip, organize your plans with the Volunteer Ministries Department of the North American Division. You can do this at HeSaidGo.org, which has many helpful resources as you plan your trip.
Health and MedicalAre you fit for travel? This is an important question. Always make sure you are healthy and do not undertake a trip when you have known conditions.
Some countries may require certain vaccinations. It’s essential to know what is required and have the documentation. This can prevent problems during immigration processing. Does your destination have malaria or the Zika virus? Do you have the medications and personal protective equipment to prevent these types of diseases?
While it may seem simple, bringing sunscreen and insect repellent to most hot weather locations is fundamental. Do not count on being able to pick up supplies at the site but rather plan ahead. Sometimes if the products can be found, they are much more expensive or less effective.
For visitors, drinking the local water and even eating fresh foods like salads or peeled, or unpeeled fruits can be a severe risk in some parts of the world. You might need to make some adjustments in diet, such as eating only hot, cooked food items, and only drinking bottled water. I tend to forget these tips when I’m exhausted from a long trip. Unfortunately, this can have disastrous consequences and ruin your time in that country.
Clothing and LogisticsRemember, there are places in the warm climates that may be at times very cold, as well as the reverse. This is why research and planning are so important. You do not want to find yourself stranded or in miserable conditions because you failed to bring warm clothing or rain gear. What starts out as uncomfortable can quickly become a severe problem.
What you choose to wear matters for the climate and weather, but you should consider your clothing also in the context of security and how you fit in on the street. Try to learn about how people dress at your destination and look for ways to fit in or at least avoid standing out. Avoid wearing things like a flashy watch, graphic t-shirts, or camouflage pants from Army surplus. In some parts of the world, dressing up will help you fit in, and in other dressing down is the norm. How well you can do that depends on the research you do ahead of time.
For those unfamiliar with international travel, be aware that different countries use different power attachments. Adapters are available, but be sure you have the correct model for where you are going. Many international countries use different power voltage as well. Be sure you do not fry your electronics when plugging it into the outlet.
What to Bring
- Travel documents including passport, required visas, proof of vaccinations, and travel insurance
- Printed supporting information including contact information (for contacts at home and destination), maps, and itinerary
- Clothing appropriate to the culture and climate
- Money in different formats and locations (I tend to travel with some cash as well as more than one credit card. I stow these in multiple places on my person.)
- Power adapters
- Medical kit (do not bring more than your personal supply)