Smart Traveler: Government App for Vacationing Abroad

The warm weather south of the United States makes it an appealing travel destination year-round, but depending on where you’re going, we believe the political climate can be just as important to monitor.

Perhaps you’re interested in traveling to South or Central America, or checking into a trip to Cuba now that its relations with the U.S. are back on track. Regardless of the destination, it’s a good idea to discover what’s going on internationally before you book a flight there.

To help American travelers make plans, the U.S. State Department has an app that provides up-to-date information on every country. First launched in 2011, “Smart Traveler” can be downloaded on the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android devices.1

Smart Traveler provides the latest travel alerts, maps, U.S. relations updates and official country information from government sources, including the location and contact information for each U.S. embassy. You can browse an alphabetical list of countries or type one in specifically.

It’s also a good idea to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service that registers travelers with the local U.S. embassy or consulate in the countries they plan to visit. By enrolling, the U.S. embassy will have an easier time locating or contacting you in the event of an emergency, including a natural disaster, civil unrest or a family crisis.

Remember that when you travel internationally, procedures aren’t all the same as in the U.S., and you are subject to the local laws even if you’re not aware of them. Being a U.S. citizen does not make you immune from arrest or prosecution if you break the law in another country.

Also, before leaving home, give your health insurer a call to find out what coverage your policy provides when you travel abroad. Many health insurance companies will pay “customary and reasonable” hospital costs when traveling out of the country. However, if yours does not, consider purchasing a short-term policy that does.

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1U.S. Department of State. Jan. 24, 2014. “About the Smart Traveler App.” Accessed May 4, 2016.

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