International Travel Issues for Americans

Find helpful resources for Americans before traveling outside of the U.S., including how to exchange money, get visas for certain countries, and sign-up for government travel programs and safety alerts. Also, learn how to apply for an international driver’s permit.

Trusted Traveler Programs

Learn about the Trusted Traveler Programs to help expedite your international travel. The Department of Homeland Security offers several options based on how you are traveling between the U.S. and other countries and how often you travel outside the U.S.

Traveling? Spend Less Time in Line

TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, and other “Trusted Traveler” programs let pre-approved travelers get through security and customs screenings faster, whether they’re traveling within the U.S. or abroad.

Americans Driving Outside the United States

When visiting another country:

  • You may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) or similar document in addition to your license to legally drive.
  • Your American driver’s license is good in the U.S. and Canada. For all other countries, check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are planning to visit.
  • If you are planning to rent a car, contact the rental car company to learn about local driving and auto insurance requirements.

Get an International Driving Permit (IDP):

  • People with American driver’s licenses can get an IDP only from the American Automobile Association (AAA) or American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).  National Automobile Club (NAC) is no longer issuing IDPs as of October 1, 2016.
  • The cost is $20 for a permit plus shipping and handling fees.
  • Beware of scams related to IDPs.

Note: The AAA also offers an Inter-American Driving Permit required in Brazil, Uruguay, and other countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Currency Exchange

Each country has its own currency or monetary system for buying and selling products and services. The exchange rate between two countries tells you the price you pay to buy another country’s currency. When you travel internationally, you will want to have some of that country’s currency to buy products or services.

Exchanging Currency

Research the costs and process of purchasing currency for a foreign country:

  • Use online currency conversion tools to compare the value of your country’s currency with the value of other countries’ currencies. Each week, the Federal Reserve Board lists  the currency value of over 20 countries against the value of the U.S. dollar. The rates are not in real time.
  • Check with local banks to learn how to buy currency for another country.
  • Use currency exchange booths, exchange vending machines, and ATMs at international airports or train stations. These booths may charge a fee for the exchange service.

If you plan to use a credit card or ATM card abroad, the exchange rate may be different than the rates at currency exchange booths.

Cash Limits When Traveling Abroad or Entering the U.S.

  • Look up the country or countries you plan to visit for their currency guidelines and country information.
  • Find out if you must declare the amount of money you take out of the United States.

Emergency Help for Americans Abroad

If you are a U.S. citizen abroad or if you’re the relative of an American citizen needing help abroad, visit “Get Help in an Emergency” on Department of State (DOS) website. They can help with emergencies including lost or stolen passports, medical emergencies, victims of crime or arrest, missing persons, parental child abductions, death abroad, and natural disasters.

Financial Assistance

The Department of State (DOS) can assist you if you need money transferred or wired. If you have no other means to get money, you may be able to get a temporary loan through the DOS or a U.S. Embassy or consulate.

Note: If you get a loan through DOS or a U.S. Embassy or consulate, you must repay it.

Stay Safe When Traveling Abroad

To keep safe when traveling abroad:

  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive the latest travel updates and information.
  • Check travel alerts and warnings from the Department of State (DOS).
  • Review safety tips for Americans traveling overseas.
  • Check health information and vaccine requirements for all of the countries you will visit.
  • Know where to get help in an emergency.
  • Check driving and insurance requirements, if you plan on driving.

Travel to U.S. Territories or Freely Associated States

U.S. Territories

If you are a U.S. Citizen traveling to and from:

  • Guam – You need an American passport, even if flying from Hawaii.
  • American Samoa – You need an American passport.
  • Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands – Does not require an American passport.
  • U.S. Virgin Islands –  Does not require an American passport if coming from the U.S. mainland or from Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto Rico – Does not require an American passport if coming from within the U.S.

Non-U.S. Citizens have to present a valid passport or other valid travel documents.

Freely Associated States

Countries that used to be administered by the United States are considered “Freely Associated States.” They are considered foreign countries and U.S. citizens will need passports to travel there:

  • The Federated States of Micronesia
  • The Republic of Palau
  • Republic of the Marshall Islands

Visas for U.S. Citizens Traveling Abroad

U.S. citizens may need a visa to enter a foreign country. Before traveling to another country, contact its embassy or consulate as far in advance as possible to find out:

  • Whether you must apply for a visa to visit the country, and when.
  • If the country has any other requirements you must meet before you can enter.

Source: Government Information and Services:

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