If you’re planning to take a trip abroad, there’s a lot to prepare for, because sometimes things just go wrong—no matter how much planning you’ve put in. Just some real talk right there. Passports get stolen, wallets go missing, baggage gets lost, etc. This is the nature of traveling anywhere, really, so a good rule of thumb is to try not to sweat this stuff if it happens (because it happens to most people) and know that if any major emergencies come up, you can always locate your American embassy abroad and get support there. Never knew what those were for? Here’s a bit on the services they provide and what they can help you with:
First, know how to locate an American embassy or consulate abroad.
Find contact info for every US embassy and consulate here: https://www.usembassy.gov. In an emergency, Internet access may be a problem, so carry embassy or consulate contact details (in English and the local language if possible) in a travel notebook or on a piece of paper with the rest of your travel documents for the one nearest your destination.
You may be able to make an appointment at the embassy or consulate, or you may need to show up during open hours and wait your turn.
Second, know what services an American embassy or consulate provides.
In short, they help travelers help themselves out of whatever predicament they find themselves in.
- Replace a lost or stolen passport
- Contact family, friends, or employers back home
- Obtain appropriate medical care
- Assist with transferring or wiring money from home, as well as assist if you’re truly temporarily destitute because of an unanticipated emergency
- Address needs that arise as a result of a crime or arrest
- Help locate lost, missing, or presumed-missing travelers
- Provide assistance in case of death abroad or natural disaster
Email important documents to yourself.
Before you leave the United States, keep copies of travel documents (scanned as necessary) in the cloud as backup:
- Passport ID page
- State ID
- Your itinerary, including hotel and car-rental confirmations
- Credit and bank card collect-call numbers
- Medical and travel insurance cards
- Vaccination papers
Alternately, pack photocopies and store them in the bottom of your luggage or hotel safe. Guard them as you would the originals. Or put them on a USB stick and carry it safely.
Enroll in STEP.
Enrolling your trip with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) takes only a few minutes online, and it’s free. https://step.state.gov
- Receive travel and security updates about your destination
- Help the US embassy contact you in an emergency, whether it be natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency
- Help family and friends at home get in touch with you in an emergency