- Every traveler needs a passport. If you do not yet have one, apply immediately! Your passport must be valid 6 months beyond your return date. If it is not, review it now. You can pick up applications for new passports or to renew an old one at major post offices.
- United States and Canadian Citizens do not need a visa for any country in Europe except Russia.
- If you will be visiting Russia, you will need to acquire a visa before you depart on your trip.
- If you are neither a United States or a Canadian citizen, you will probably need visas for most of the countries your program visits. It is your duty to check which visas you will need and to get them before you depart. You must get a Multiple-Entry visa for any country you will enter more than once.
This information may have changed. Please visit the United States Department of State web-site for up-to-date information.
- No inoculations are required to visit the countries on your trip. You might consult your personal physician for any special health concerns. You may wish to pack with you any special medication or over the counter products, such as aspirin and cold medications you require.
- Pack a wardrobe flexible enough to handle marked weather changes as the climate can vary. As your trip nears, check your newspaper for temperature ranges in the cities you will be visiting.
- European electric outlets carry 220 volts. Some hair dryers and electric razors have a built in transformer and a switch to change voltages. Otherwise, you will need a transformer (converter). You will also need plug adapters to fit over American plugs so that they will fit into the different configuration of the outlet. Check to see what configuration the countries you will be visiting need.
- Please visit the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) web-site for up-to-date information and regulations.
- Consult your program itinerary for daily breakfasts, lunches, and dinners included on your trip.
- While gratuities to porters, chambermaids and restaurant waiters are included, tipping your tour director and bus drivers is not. Guidelines: Tour director approximately $3-$4 a day and $2 a day for your driver. Please consult the program leader(s) for more information.
- Each country has its own set of postage stamps and rates, and, of course, each country accepts only its own stamps when you mail something. You can buy your stamps at the local post office or the hotel's concierge desk. In Central Europe, stamps are sometimes available at tobacco and souvenir shops. Sending postcards and letters is straight-forward, but sending packages requires a green customs declaration form, giving the contents and name and address of the sender (use your current hotel's address) and recipient. Parcel post is inexpensive but slow (it can take from six to ten weeks to reach America).
- Not all public pay phones accept local coins; some use tokens or magnetically-encoded phone debit cards, in some areas credit card phones are also available. Tokens and cards are only valid in the issuing country, and there are no refunds on partially used up cards. Hotels levy extra hone service charges, usually the cost of a local call, even if you are using a telephone calling card. The easiest way to call home is with a telephone calling card if you know the AT&T/MCI/Sprint direct access numbers, and if your hotel room offers touch-tone dialing.
- Please consult the program leader(s) for each program to determine the availability of insurance.
- It is recommended that you have an ATM card through your American bank (checking account only). Be sure it displays the international symbols (ask your home institution if you are unsure), and has a PIN Code of 4 digits. Maximum in one day is about the equivalent of $200.
- It is not possible to cash personal checks outside of the United States. Travelers' checks are the safest and most reliable way of handling money. You can cash them at any Bank in the center of town or at an American Express office. Always remember to take YOUR PASSPORT with you when cashing travelers' checks. You may wish to shop around as the rate of exchange varies from bank to bank.
- Bring most of your money in the form of traveler's checks, since they are refundable if lost or stolen. A few U.S. dollars cash are handy, since they will likely be accepted when you can't or don't want to first buy local currency. Some smaller stores may not take traveler's checks or credit cards, so you might want to change a small amount of currency for reach country you will visit before leaving the U.S. Minimize the number of times you change currencies each time you change currencies, it costs you money! Spend or re-exchange any currency before you leave its issuing country, and note that you can only exchange bills, not coins, into a second currency. Banks generally offer the best exchange rates. Hotels, shops and restaurants can also change money for you, but their exchange rates are not as good and can vary greatly.
- Credit cards are now widely accepted in Europe, including Master Card, Visa and American Express (Diners Club is less common and Discover is virtually unknown). Often, credit cards offer even better exchange rates than banks. Bring at least one credit card, since many cards can be used to get cash advances or cash a personal check. Check with your credit card company about their policies in the countries you will visit. In many European countries you can find ATM machines linked to Cirrus System where you can get a cash advance in local currency.
- Except in supermarkets and department stores, most shopkeepers expect you to say “Hello” and “Good-bye” even if you are just browsing. In Mediterranean countries, bargaining is an established custom, where good negotiating skills can save you money. Stores tend to have shorter opening hours than at home. The opening hours are all mandated by law, so they are uniform in any one city. Generally, stores open during the week by 9 a.m. and close by 6 p.m. Most shops are closed on Sundays, and many offer limited hours on Saturday.
- When you return home, you will be responsible for customs duties levied on items you bought abroad and are bringing with you, even if you are just a resident and not a citizen. To prove what your new purchase costs, keep all sales receipts handy. As a rule, alcoholic and tobacco products are stringently restricted.
- If returning to the United States: There is a duty-free allowance for the first $400 worth of goods bought abroad, on the next $1,000 of souvenirs, you'll pay a flat 10% tax; for purchases exceeding $1,400, import taxes specific to the particular kind of item in question are imposed. Import duties must be paid in U.S. dollars. Please visit the TSA web-site for up-to-date information.
- Please refer to your program itinerary for sightseeing and excursion details.
- Meals and beverages other than those stated, laundry, passport and visa fees, personal insurance, excess baggage charges, items of a personal nature, etc., are not included in your tour package. Please contact the program leader(s) for more information.
- Pack lightly, and bring casual clothes. A sturdy, comfortable pair of walking shoes is an absolute must. A sports coat and tie for men, and one or two dresses or pantsuits for women are suggested. These outfits will suit most of the formal occasions in most countries. All travelers should bring sweaters, shirts and jackets that can be layered to suit a range of climates. The following items are recommended: hair dryer and razor, common toiletries, reading material (including a guidebook), a metric converter calculator, camera and film (if needed), and perhaps a notebook or diary to keep track of all your exciting days and nights while studying abroad.
Q: I have decided that I want to extend my stay. How can I change my return ticket? How much will it cost me to change my ticket? Can the program help me with this?
- Please refer to the general terms and conditions for your program. There are specific guidelines in regards to extending your stay and how to go about doing this.
Q: My passport was lost/stolen, what should I do?
- If you are an American citizen, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy immediately. It is very important that you file a police report in the city where your passport was lost or stolen; the U.S. Embassy will ask if you have done this or not. It is better to have this completed before you make a trip to the embassy. Immediately inform the On-Sight Program Coordinator about your lost or stolen passport. He or she can help you file the police report. Bring a copy of the police report with you in addition to copies of your passport and birth certificate. If you have any additional photo identification, such as a driver's license or military ID, please bring that with you as well. In some cases, you may have to travel to a major city where the U.S. Embassy or consulate is located. If you are NOT an American citizen, you will still need to file a report with the local police. Please contact the Embassy or consulate for the country that issued your passport. They will give you further details.
- Make sure that the program leader(s) are aware of what is going on at all times.
Q: I have lost my airplane ticket home, what should I do?
- Please inform your program leader(s) immediately. The program leader(s) will contact the travel provider and offer further details and how to take action.
Q: I want to return early from the program, what can I do?
- Please contact your program leader(s) and discuss with them why you want to return early. If you still decide that you'd like to return home early from the program, please let your program leader(s) know and they will contact your travel provider for further action.
- NOTE: you will not receive a refund for any portion of the trip you miss.