Section 4 Directory
How much money will I need?
It is a good idea to keep close track of how you spend your money now so that you can gauge your personal spending habits and learn to budget your money carefully. Be aware that small expenses tend to add up and that you will have many such items to purchase while abroad such as bus and train fares, snacks, stamps and postcards, newspapers, beverages, gifts, telephone cards and books. Bear in mind that spending varies widely from person to person according to personal habits, resources at hand, and the amount of travel that is done.
$ Money Tips $
—Know the official currency used in the country where you will be staying and the approximate rate of exchange to the U.S. dollar.
—Exchange a small amount of money prior to your departure (or immediately once you’re there) in order to have some cash-on-hand upon arrival.
—Make a small guide that lists various amounts of money in U.S. dollars, and their value in the other country’s currency that you can keep in your wallet to refer to while shopping.
—A small calculator or currency converter is invaluable when traveling.
—Remember to have your passport with you as identification when you exchange money.
Where can I get foreign currency in the U.S.?
Foreign currency can be obtained through larger banks and even through the Internet. If you are from a small town and do not have easy access to large banks which exchange currency, you can exchange money in the airport before your international flight departs. However, exchange only a small amount of currency in the airport since airports have poor exchange rates.
It is wise to have a small amount ($100-$200) of currency before you depart, as this will allow you to survive comfortably until you can find a bank to exchange larger amounts of money. This is especially important if you arrive on the weekend, since many more essential services are closed on weekends and local official holidays that are different from what you will encounter in the States.
Shop wisely when changing money
You will get a better rate for your dollar in the host country than in the U.S. Banks will offer a better rate than hotels. Try to anticipate how much you will need for a particular country (during a multi-country trip). It is costly to convert all your money to a new currency because each time you convert, you pay a commission. Coins cannot be changed if they aren’t used.
*Forms of cash*
Traveler’s checks are the safest and most convenient way of carrying large amounts of money, since they can be refunded if lost or stolen but cash cannot. Traveler’s checks are available at most banks. Be sure to keep a separate record of the serial numbers of your traveler’s checks in a safe place while you are away from home. Remember to cross off the number as you cash the checks so you have an accurate record of your traveler’s checks.
Credit Cards, Charge Cards and Bank Cards
MasterCard, Visa and American Express credit cards are accepted in many countries. The services offered will vary from card to card and country to country. Credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, American Express) or bank cards (VISA, Plus, Cirrus, etc.) offer access to Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) or cash advances in most countries.
Availability of ATMs varies widely from country to country. Check with your bank or credit card issuer to learn whether your card can be used at your study site. Charges: Before you go, ask your bank or credit card company about finance and service charges. For ATM and debit cards, there is usually a charge for using the local machine AND a charge from your home bank for every transaction. PIN: Be sure your PIN is no more than 4 digits long and is in numerals, not letters, as the numeric/alphabetic keypad of U.S. phones is often not the standard in other countries. Your bank can give you instructions for changing your PIN, if necessary. Cash Limits: ATMs often have a daily cash limit of the equivalent of $200-$300. Plan ahead if you will need larger sums of cash, or use traveler’s checks. Inform your financial institution, i.e., bank or credit card company, if you plan to use your card(s) overseas. They have the right to put a hold on your account if it suddenly shows unusual activity. If you tell them ahead of time that you will be traveling, they will know that you are the one making charges and not someone who stole your card.
KNOW YOUR CREDIT LIMIT!!!!
—Obtaining a credit card with a $500 limit may be a lifesaver in emergency!
KEEPING IN TOUCH
U.S. Calling Card, billed to a US address: Check with your long-distance provider to ask about options and rates. Of course, you’ll need to know where your bill will be sent and who will pay it while you are abroad. U.S. pre-paid calling card and message service: Zaptel and Ekit are two companies providing pre-paid international air time plus services such as voice mail that you can retrieve anywhere. Local international phone card: More and more frequently, pre-paid phone cards purchased abroad are the least expensive and most convenient option for calling home. Cell phones: Most U.S.-based cell phones will not work outside the U.S. Check your program information to see what cell phone system is used in your host country. Often, the least expensive method is to rent or purchase a cell phone and phone service locally. Or, you can look into getting a phone that accepts “SIM” cards, small chips that fit into the back of a phone and provide a phone number for a specific country plus rechargeable air time. A few providers of these items are,www.telestial.com ,www.worldroam.com www.planetfone.com (NOTE: Allegheny College does not endorse any phone service provider over another) – www.skype.com if you have a computer with a microphone you can use this website to “call home” far more cheaply, check it out for details.
Post offices around the world will accept and hold personal mail. It should be addressed to “your name, Post Restante, name of city, name of country”. When you get to the town, go to the main post office and ask for the Post Restante in your name. This service is free.
American Express also offers Post Restante, through their world-wide bureaus. Some AMEX offices require that the customer be a cardholder to use this service, while others charge a small fee or provide mail free of charge. Remember always to keep families aware of your travel plans and to leave your itinerary with an onsite person when on short trips.
Students who know that other people will be attending the same program often chose to travel together. The extra moral support when you are jet-lagged in a strange environment can make a trip much easier! In general, it’s not a bad idea to arrive sooner at your study site to travel independently or settle in (if the latter is possible). Make arrangements early for the best prices.
Coping with Jet Lag
In today’s global business climate, you may find yourself taking more long-haul flights and feeling the effects of jet lag afterwards. Here are some suggestions for minimizing the foggy feeling you may experiences after traveling across time zones.
Get plenty of rest before your trip begins.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which interfere with your body’s natural “clock” and cause dehydration.
Drink plenty of liquids, such as fruit juice and, especially, water. Exercise at your seat, in the aisles, or at the back of the plane.
Sleep for a few hours rather than watching the movie.
Try resetting your watch to the destination’s time as soon as you get on the plane. If it is daytime in your new destination, try to stay awake. When it is nighttime there, try to sleep.
Take a short nap and a walk outdoors, if possible. Try to stick to the local bedtime—–you’ll adjust faster that way.
Don’t schedule important meetings for the hours right after your arrival. Arrange these appointments for the second day, when you’ll have a clear head.
Upon arrival in a new country you may have all your bags checked by a customs official. If you have only personal items and clothing, you should experience no difficulty. Any person found with illegal drugs will be subject to the laws of the country in which they are found and the fact that the offender may be an American citizen is not grounds for leniency in the punishment that may be meted out. For more discussion on this, refer to Travel Warning on Drugs Abroad.
Go to https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/customs-and-import.html for information on customs specific to your host country. Be sure to carry proof that any foreign-made items in your luggage that you are taking abroad with you were purchased before you left the U.S. Otherwise, you might have to pay duty on them when you return. Items to be concerned about include photographic equipment, jewelry, computers, tape recorders, watches and binoculars. A sales receipt, repair bill or insurance policy may suffice. The safest course is to take the items to Customs at the airport for registering before you leave. Be sure to allow sufficient time for this, however.
Shipping items to your study abroad site or shipping items home while abroad requires special considerations. There are specific customs regulations for shipping/mailing items. Surface mail is the least expensive method, although it can take up to several months from some places. It is frequently more expensive and sometimes less secure to ship items from abroad. Check carefully to be sure that the mail systems are reliable, particularly if you are using surface rates.
Traveling on Your Own While Abroad
Most programs have vacation periods during which you can travel independently. For specific dates, please see the program information. The responsibility for travel expenses during your study abroad experience is yours with the exception of field trips included in some programs. We encourage you to travel as much as possible (though not on class days!) and to learn everything you can about the countries you will be visiting. Our advice to you is to profit to the fullest extent possible from your travels, remaining open and sensitive to the new cultures around you.
At the same time we must advise you to exercise caution while traveling. Do not do anything that you would not normally do at home in the States (such as roaming alone at night, especially in the cities). Try to travel with friends when possible. We strongly discourage hitchhiking. Keep your passport, money and valuables on your person at all times, perhaps in a money-pouch worn around the neck or waist and hidden under your clothing.
How should I plan for my trip?
A travel guide for the country or region you are going to study in is essential if you plan on taking weekend trips. Tourist Information offices are usually found in airports and large train stations. Be sure to ask where they are if you cannot readily find them yourself. They can often book cheap accommodations, bus and tram passes, provide city maps and pamphlets, sightseeing trips in and around cities, and advise on student discounts. You can also purchase maps of cities around the world on the Internet.
In Europe, student travel offices are organized by the national student unions of each country and are located at most universities. They are very helpful in assisting students with low-cost travel options within their countries as well as in other countries of Europe, Africa and Asia.
How can I get there?
The most popular way of transportation in many countries is the train. European trains are common, dependable and convenient as airplanes in the U.S., and the rail network is as extensive and accessible as the U.S. highway system. You should become familiar with the schedules used in the rail stations and learn key words in various languages that will help you become oriented (such as the word for track, platform, arrival and departure, entrance and exit). If you are planning to cover a lot of country and explore a number of different cities you should investigate the various types of rail passes. If your plans include some long distance treks, a rail pass will save you the frustration of long lines at stations, the bother of saving local currency to purchase tickets and, of course, the cost of regular fare.
Plan ahead if you want to purchase passes since they must be bought in the U.S. If you decide to buy one once abroad, it should be possible to have your parents or a friend buy it for you (they’ll need your passport number) and mail it to you via registered mail. Please be advised that it is technically no longer possible for you to buy an Interrail pass for student train travel. It is specifically for European residents, and you may have to forfeit your ticket if you use it. Some students still report using the Interrail, however, since sometimes it can be purchased if you can prove that you have lived in Europe for at least six months.
Where can I stay when I am traveling?
You have several options of places to stay while you are traveling, depending on your budget. Youth hostels are a great place to get to know other students from around the world and are ideal if you are traveling alone. Pensions or inexpensive hotels may be a better option if you are traveling in a big group.
INTERNATIONAL YOUTH HOSTELS
Youth Hostels are part of the International Youth Hostel federation and require membership in the American Youth Hostel association. You can purchase the card from your travel agent before leaving the U.S. You are also advised to purchase a copy of the International Youth Hostel Handbook (or check the web at Hostelling International-USA www.hiayh.org).
The Youth Hostel card entitles you to cheap accommodations that may vary from place to place, ranging from the dingy to the romantic. These are located in university towns and cities and are great bargains. They are popular and very crowded in the summer, so plan ahead and make reservations if possible. They lodge two to four individuals per room and may have dormitory facilities with bedding provided. Some places have campgrounds or outdoor “tent cities” that provide bedding, if necessary, and are great for summer. The card is good until the end of the calendar year when purchased, so if you don’t travel much until the next calendar year, you should wait and purchase membership in a youth hostel federation in Europe or Asia.
INEXPENSIVE HOTELS, PENSIONS, B & Bs, AND GUEST HOUSES
Clustered around railroad stations, inexpensive hotels are a great alternative for students traveling in major cities abroad (If you don’t mind walking a few blocks away from the station, however, you will find the prices are a bit cheaper). Remember to use your best judgment about hotel safety. A place may be cheap, but if it feels unsafe, splurge a few extra dollars on a more secure location! Use national tourist offices and hotel booking services at train or bus stations for tips and for making reservations. There is, however, sometimes a small fee for this service. Other possibilities are pension hotels, which include breakfast in the price and serve lunch and dinner at an extra charge. In Britain, and in some other countries (including in the States), these types of accommodations are called “Bed and Breakfast” hotels or guesthouses.
[Source: The information contained in this handbook was adapted from the University of Kansas Study Abroad Manual]
U.S. State Department– How to apply for an U.S. passport; entry requirements to foreign countries for U.S. citizens; Travel warnings; tips for travelers for different world regions:http://travel.state.gov
Centers for Disease Control- Health information by country: http://www.cdc.gov
Mobility International- Information on traveling abroad for people with disabilities:http://www.miusa.org
Lesbigay Links- Links to sites dealing with issues involving the lesbigay community and international travel: http://www.indiana.edu/~overseas/lesbigay
U.S. Postal Service- International shipping rules, regs and rates:http://www.uspsglobal.com
Currency conversions- http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/
Global Information Network- Time zones, telephone codes and more: http://www.whitepages.com/intl_resources
Map Quest- Maps of various cities around the world: http://www.mapquest.com
Tourism Websites- offices worldwide: http://www.worldtourismdirectory.com/
Hostels- (by country): http://www.hostels.com
Travelocity- for airline and train tickets, etc., online: http://www.travelocity.com
Student Travel Association- http://www.sta.com
European and British railpasses: http://www.railpass.com
- Lonely Planet: http://www.lonelyplanet.com
- Rough Guides: http://www.roughguides.com
- Let’s Go: http://www.letsgo.com
- Fodor’s: http://www.fodors.com
TRAVEL WARNING ON DRUGS ABROAD February 2000
From: UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE BUREAU OF CONSULAR AFFAIRS
Hard Facts: Things You Should Know Before You Go Abroad
Each year, 2,500 Americans are arrested overseas. One third of the arrests are on drug-related charges. Many of those arrested assumed as U.S. citizens that they could not be arrested. From Asia to Africa, Europe to South America, U.S. citizens are finding out the hard way that drug possession or trafficking equals jail in foreign countries.
There is very little that anyone can do to help you if you are caught with drugs.
It is your responsibility to know what the drug laws are in a foreign country before you go, because “I didn’t know it was illegal” will not get you out of jail.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of women arrested abroad. The rise is a result of women who serve as drug couriers or “mules” in the belief they can make quick money and have a vacation without getting caught. Instead of a short vacation, they get a lengthy stay or life sentence in a foreign jail.
A number of the Americans arrested abroad on drug charges in 1994 possessed marijuana. Many of these possessed one ounce or less of the substance. The risk of being put in jail for just one marijuana cigarette is not worth it.
If you are purchasing prescription medications in quantities larger than that considered necessary for personal use, you could be arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking. Once you’re arrested, the American consular officer CANNOT get you out!
You may say “it couldn’t happen to me,” but the fact is that it could happen to you if you find yourself saying one of the following:
- “I’m an American citizen and no foreign government can put me in their jail.“
- “If I only buy or carry a small amount, it won’t be a problem.“
If you are arrested on a drug charge it is important that you know what your government can and cannot do for you.
The U.S. Consular Officer CAN
Visit you in jail after being notified of your arrest
Give you a list of local attorneys (The U.S. Government cannot assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of these individuals or recommend a particular attorney).
Notify your family and/or friends and relay requests for money or other aid – but only with your authorization.
Intercede with local authorities to make sure that your rights under local law are fully observed and that you are treated humanely, according to internationally accepted standards.
Protest mistreatment or abuse to the appropriate authorities.
The U.S. Consular Officer CANNOT
Demand your immediate release or get you out of jail or the country.
Represent you at trial or give legal counsel.
Pay legal fees and/or fines with U.S. government funds.
Contact Information and Personal Documents
Be sure to give the folks at home your contact information and itinerary. Keep them and the International Office updated of any changes.
Copy of passport – one at home and two to take with you.
Bank information, copy of credit card info at home and with you.
Visa(s), if required.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, consult with a foreign student adviser to make sure your U.S. visa and other papers are in order.
Make sure program fee is paid in full by deadline, or special arrangements made, in writing, with the International Office
Obtain small amounts of local currency to bring with you.
Credit, Debit, and/or ATM cards have 4-digit numerical PIN number.
Card numbers and emergency assistance numbers – leave one copy at home and take one with you, separate from the cards.
Traveler’s checks purchased and check numbers recorded – leave one copy at home and take one with you, separate from the checks.
Plan with folks at home for emergencies – can money be deposited in an account at home that you can access overseas?
Inform program staff or director if you have pre-existing conditions which may affect your participation at some point or which may be critical to know if you are ill/injured and unable to speak for yourself.
Your health insurance card – bring it and know how payment/reimbursement works if treated overseas and if you need to bring back specific documentation.
Get appropriate vaccinations, immunizations in the recommended time frame. Obtain prophylactic medications, if necessary.
Your regular prescription medication – obtain a supply adequate for the duration of your stay plus two weeks. Keep prescriptions in their original containers from the pharmacy! Bring copies of prescriptions.
Know electrical current and plug adapters used in your host country. Obtain appropriate transformers, converters or adapters for appliances you will bring.
Clothing packing list – know generally accepted standards of dress. Know range of temperature and precipitation for the area you will visit.
Obtain rail passes, hostel cards, etc, if desired.
What kind of luggage should I bring?
Remember that you will be carrying your own bags on and off trains, through subways, up and down stairs and escalators and racing through terminals, so be sure that you can handle the burden. Select a lightweight suitcase, avoiding those with zippers that can break easily. Inexperienced travelers often make the biggest mistake of bringing too many clothes and too many suitcases.
Lightweight canvas or nylon (not heavy, hard material) makes the best luggage. Consider bringing a backpack, it will come in handy for short trips abroad. An expandable bag with “fat” wheels is a good carry-on for flights and short trips, too. Remember that airlines require identification on all checked bags, regardless of type. We recommend that your name and address are visible on the inside of your luggage should the outside tag be lost.
There are regulations on the weight and dimensions of baggage on international carriers. Be sure to read your airline ticket for the regulations specific to your airline as the regulations change from time to time or check with your travel agent.
What should I bring?
The essential word is utility. Carefully choose your clothing and other things.
Keeps in mind that in very few other cultures (if any) do students have the large number and variety of clothing items of the typical American student. No one will be surprised to see you repeatedly in the same outfit. Bring clothes that go well together in a variety of combinations. You may want to consider bringing some older clothes so you don’t feel bad leaving them behind if you can’t fit them into your suitcase at the end of the program.
Think Utility Are your clothes easy to launder (shrink-, fade-, bleed, – pill- and wrinkle-resistant)? Can they easily be washed by hand? Will they dry quickly? Are they heavy or bulky? Do tops and bottoms mix and match?
Consider climate For instance, students going to Britain might consider that the weather is not as severe as one might expect, because the Gulf Stream serves to moderate temperature extremes. In general, residences and classrooms abroad are not heated to the same extent as here (the average temperature is between 50 – 60 F). Therefore, the best way to keep warm is to follow the trend of the “layered look” – a jacket over a sweater over a shirt over an undershirt, for example.
Casual items such as jeans, shirts, at least one sweater, and appropriate outerwear are essential on all programs. You should also bring a sturdy pair of comfortable walking shoes, which will adequately support your tired feet. Remember, dress casually, but you will need to dress up occasionally if you go places such as the opera, clubs, concerts, or restaurants.
Although everything should be available abroad to meet your needs and wants as far as toilet articles, cosmetics and non-prescription drugs, many of these items will be more expensive than in the U.S. It is usually worth paying the higher price abroad than going to the trouble to take a semester or year’s supply of everything that you will need with you.
Try to bring an adequate supply of prescription medications for your entire trip, when possible, and keep them in the original pharmacy containers. Ask your doctor to give you a prescription in case you are questioned at customs. Learn what services are offered in the country, for example, allergy shots are not usually given in the United Kingdom. Also, check with consulate websites and customs to see if you are allowed to bring such medicines into the country you are visiting.
Don’t bring your most prized possession on your program or your weekend trips. We suggest that you don’t take Grandma’s beautiful cameo or a $400 camera with you unless you’re prepared to watch them attentively. If something is irreplaceable, leave it at home.
If you are a photographer, bring your camera and a moderate supply of film, which tends to be expensive abroad. It can, however, be purchased at student outlets and duty free at reasonable prices. To save on developing charges you can purchase pre-paid development packets in the U.S. before you leave and then mail your film to a developer (e.g., Kodak) in the States and ask that your film be sent to your permanent address when processed. If you’ve gone digital
In most parts of the world, electricity is not as cheap as in the U.S. If you will be living with a host family, please take special note of the everyday use of electricity in your host country. Students on programs to places such as Costa Rica are discouraged from bringing electrical appliances like hair dryers, irons, or other equipment to these places since electricity is very expensive and the host family will most likely not appreciate the sharp increase in their electric bill.
The electric current in most foreign countries differs from that of the U.S., which operates at 110 volts alternating at 60 cycles. In must of the rest of the world, the standard current is at 220 volts at 50 cycles. In addition, plug prongs are often different. If you don’t use the proper converter or transformer, and plug adapter, you risk burning out your appliance and causing an electrical short. The best advice is to do without gadgets or purchase them there.
If you must bring a few gadgets to a country where the voltage is higher, you can purchase a current converter, which “steps down” the higher voltage abroad, and adapters to change your plug prongs to the local variety, but the difference in the rate of cycles will cause your equipment to operate more slowly. This makes it difficult to operate appliances such as clocks and tape recorders. Computers require a special transformer to operate successfully.
Many students find transistor or other inexpensive radios to be an excellent way of getting accustomed to the language and music of the host country. A “Walkman” type cassette or CD player with AM/FM radio is highly portable and private, and allows you to listen to your favorite music as well as monitor local radio broadcasts.
Do not plan to use a converter for electrically operated equipment since the quality will not be good; it is better to use battery-operated radios or tape players (be prepared for the high cost of batteries). Since they may be awkward to carry and easily broken, you should consider purchasing such items abroad to be sold at the end of your stay.
Should I bring a laptop computer? A computer is a large, visible, and valuable item that you will have to watch carefully and constantly. Check with returnees on advisability of bringing a computer. There are no programs that require a laptop, though some have the resources for using a laptop. If you decide to bring one, remember that you must have a special transformer, not just a converter or adapter, or you will “fry” your expensive hardware. Most computers have dual voltage capability.
What will your residence supply?Check with the specific program information to learn exactly what will be supplied in your living situation. Sheets are usually provided in all living situations. Students who will be living in dormitories or apartments should plan to bring their own towels, washcloths, and soap. These items may be provided if the student will be staying with families, but check in case there are items that you require that are not supplied. A favorite pillow might be welcome if you are willing to make room for it in your suitcase.
Sports Equipment and Musical Instruments:If you are a great sports buff, you may want to bring your own equipment such as a tennis racket or baseball mitt, but most sports gear is readily available to students for modest rental fees. If you are a musician, you might be considering bringing your instrument. Think, however, about the noise level of the instrument, whether it will be practical to practice in your living space, and the portability of the instrument (in addition to your luggage), particularly if you will be traveling before or after your program.
If you plan to stay in hotels during your travels, a sleep sack is essential. You can make a sleep sack by folding a twin flat sheet in half and sewing up the bottom and half of the side. Alternatively, you can purchase one from a travel store.
Other miscellaneous items you could consider bringing include an American cookbook, photographs from home and of Allegheny, several CD’s of obscure U.S. music, special novels or books in English, and an address book (or mailing labels) filled with the names and addresses of everyone you will write to during your stay abroad (and for your friends that you will make abroad so you can keep in touch). Some gift items such as Gator paraphernalia (magnets, note cards, etc.) or specialties of your hometown/state are useful, too.
Documents and Essentials
Money belt or neck wallet
Visa(s), if necessary
ATM, Credit or Debit card
International Student ID Card (ISIC)
Rail pass, youth hostel card, etc. if desired
Luggage locks and tags
Swiss army-type multi-purpose knife
Laundry kit, line, soap, flat drain plug
Alarm clock (battery-operated)
Adapter, converter, transformer, if needed
Camera and film
Favorite music, a couple of CD’s or tapes (and portable player).
A few notebooks and pencils to get you started
Phrase book or dictionary, if visiting a non-English-speaking country
Mug, cup, spoon
Sleep sheet for hostelling, if desired
Prescription medicine in original containers, prescriptions
Eyeglasses or contacts, spare pair, and lens prescription
First aid kit
Wash cloth and small towel
Sturdy, comfortable walking shoes
Shower shoes or slippers
2-4 pairs socks, hose, tights
4 sets underwear (or more if needed)
Work-out wear, bathing suit, if desired
2-3 pants or skirts
3-4 shirts or knit tops (or more if needed)
Sweater or fleece
Dress outfit (shirt and tie for men, nice dress or outfit for women)
Rain jacket, light jacket
Heavier outerwear, as recommended (coat, hat, globes, scarf)