I am often asked how to travel internationally safely. And when asked, I always suggest travelers should learn as much about their destination prior to traveling as possible. To help all travelers do just that, the State Department developed an app that helps them complete this important step—and much more. This can be a great tool in helping students and their parents learn about their destination in advance.
The app, called Smart Traveler, is available as a free download in App Store.
After you have downloaded and opened the Smart Traveler app, you’ll see a listing of countries. On the bottom of the page are four categories: Countries, STEP, Advisories, More. Let’s focus on the Countries tab.
To start, select Countries and select the one to which you plan to travel. You will see a list of important subjects:
- Embassies & Consulates
- Destination Description
- Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
- Safety & Security
- Local Laws & Special Circumstances
- Travel & Transportation
Embassies & Consulates
Find phone numbers, emergency after-hours phone contacts, and e-mail addresses for each embassy or consulate in the country selected. These are important numbers to have while traveling, in case of an emergency or if a student or other member of your group loses a passport.
See a brief description of your destination. A link is provided to get more facts about the country you are visiting.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
Review all passport and visa requirements easily stated, with many links to learning even more.
Safety & Security
On this page you may be informed about any alert system used in the country as well as information about crime, what to do if you are a victim of crime, and warnings of any current scams local to the destination.
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Learn about criminal penalties, special circumstances such as potential health screenings, custom rules, safety concerns, accessibility expectations and even LGBT rights.
This section informs you about medical facility availability and expectations doctors may have of payment methods.
Travel & Transportation
Get a general overview of road conditions and information such as which side of the road vehicles drive on. You might be reminded not to text while driving. You may also find general information about aviation and how it is governed.
I highly encourage anyone traveling out of the country to consider downloading this app. It has helpful information that is also available on the U.S. Department of State website. If you don’t have a smartphone, the information can be accessed from any computer at www.state.gov.
This current version of the Smart Traveler app allows you to enroll in the STEP Program, aka Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, to register your trip with the U.S. State Department and stay further informed.
Here’s wishing you all safe and healthy travels!
Written by Michael J. Bowers, Safety Consultant, Center for Student Travel Safety.