While all travel includes some degree of risk, the vast majority of trips go off without a hitch. Businesspeople should not let fear deter them from traveling internationally to explore business opportunities. Savvy travelers will consider security and health issues as part of planning for their trip, minimizing risks and preventing minor hiccups from turning into full-blown emergencies.
Q: What’s the best way to assess the risk of traveling to a given destination?
A: The U.S. State Department monitors conditions around the world. When conditions warrant, the State Department issues a travel alert. Alerts are issued for short-term events such as an election season that is expected to have strikes, demonstrations or disturbances; a health-related issue such as an H1N1 virus outbreak; or an elevated risk of terrorist activity. The State Department also issues travel warnings, which are more severe and are intended to deter people from traveling to the affected area. Travel warnings may be issued for reasons including government instability, civil war, ongoing intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist attacks. View a list of locations affected by travel alerts and warnings. For an additional source of information, visit the Canadian government’s travel advice and advisories page.
Q: What if conditions change for the worse while I’m outside the U.S.?
A: Prior to travel, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free service offered by the State Department that allows U.S. citizens and nationals to receive important information from the embassy about safety conditions, help the U.S. Embassy contact travelers in an emergency, and help family and friends get in touch when there is an emergency at home. Once you are abroad, make an effort to stay aware of local conditions. Many business class hotels make local English language newspapers available for their guests to stay abreast of local current events. In addition to helping with safety concerns, doing some research ahead of time and knowing a bit about local politics can help you engage in discussions with local contacts, partners and colleagues as well as taxi drivers.
Q: Is it safe to take a computer abroad?
A: A laptop, tablet or smartphone is an integral piece of equipment for international business trips—but these devices are also prime targets for thieves, both for the value of the devices themselves and for the information they contain. Minimize the number of devices you bring with you, and consider using “disposable” or “loaner” devices that can be cleaned of any personal or sensitive data prior to travel, minimizing the damage that can be done if they are lost or stolen. Before your trip, make sure your anti-virus systems and security patches are current; back up your data and leave that backup at home. Avoid connecting to unsecured public networks where your online activities and data transmissions may be monitored by others. If you must use these networks, limit your use to casual browsing such as checking the news, looking up restaurant or movie information, or flight information. Don’t do any banking via the internet while abroad.
Q: Should I take cash or credit cards for use during my trip abroad?
A: Using your credit card abroad often gets you a better exchange rate than converting dollars to the local currency at your hotel or a currency exchange window; look for a credit card that doesn’t apply a fee to transactions denominated in a foreign currency. Some local cash may still be needed for taxis or tips. Prior to your trip, familiarize yourself with the relevant exchange rate(s) and notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans; you don’t want your credit card to be declined when you need to pay for dinner with an important client.
Q: What can I do to anticipate and prevent health concerns while abroad?
A: Depending upon the part of the world and the type of locations that you will be visiting, you may be exposed to health issues ranging from serious to just plain inconvenient, and it is best to do your research and take precautionary measures. Consult with your physician or a local travel clinic to determine what the risks are in the area where you’ll be traveling (and share specific details of your trip, since urban environments pose different risks compared to the countryside). Be sure to start early: some immunizations may require multiple injections or pills over the course of several weeks. If you need to bring prescription medicines on the trip with you, carry them in their original containers that clearly identify what they are and the fact that they were prescribed to you. Pack them in your carry-on so you will still have them if your checked luggage is lost or delayed. In addition to your regular medications, it can come in handy to carry antibiotics, anti-diarrhea, allergy and general pain medication for trips abroad, so that if you encounter these issues you don’t need to visit a local pharmacy and deal with language barriers or deal with the local health care system. However, keep in mind that medications that are available on an over-the-counter basis here may require a prescription in your destination country and vice versa. Lastly, don’t forget your sunscreen—especially if your business trip is taking you to the Southern Hemisphere during its summer months (which are the Northern Hemisphere’s winter months) or to the tropics at any time of the year.
INterconnect: September 2017