International Travel Tips
Credit and ATM Card Fees
Some Canadian vendors (e.g., cabs, restaurants, gift shops) may accept U.S. currency for purchases, but attendees are better off using credit cards or exchanging U.S. dollars for Canadian, easily done and where the exchange rate is almost even. For quick cash, most major banks outside the U.S. will gladly accept debit cards, but ATM fees vary and could be steep. Get information on what your ATM card charges for foreign monetary transactions from your bank before you go. Charges to look for include foreign exchange fee (usually expressed in percentage) and charges for “foreign” ATM use (a per transaction charge for using an ATM not associated with the bank). Inquire about the supplier’s policy and request that fees be waived. You should also find out and write down phone numbers for contacting your bank from outside the U.S.
Canada’s Foreign Convention and Tour Incentive Program offers reduced tax incentives for international groups that hold their meetings in the country. For rebate information, requirements and forms go to the FCTIP website.
Passports are required for any air travel outside the U.S. and its territories. They’re no longer cheap (for adults, $135; for kids under 16, $105), can take up to two months to process, and first-timers must apply in person. For forms and info, go to travel.state.gov/passport.
The new iPhone 4S is a world phone. It can be bought from AT&T, Verizon and, for the first time, Sprint. Even if you get your iPhone 4S from Verizon, whose CDMA network is incompatible with the GSM networks used in most other countries, you’ll still be able to make calls overseas, either through Verizon or by inserting another carrier’s SIM card. Whatever mobile phone you use, you should call your wireless provider to make sure it is ready to make and receive calls in a foreign country. You can also check with your carrier for the exact rates in the countries where you’ll be traveling. Calls will be charged on a per-minute basis. For subscribers with U.S. cell phone service, domestic voice, text message or data plans do not apply when traveling in another country. SMS text messaging is typically the cheapest way to communicate with people in the country where you’re traveling and also with people back home in the U.S.
Create your own international tip sheet for attendees and include with event information.
The State Department posts current travel warnings and alerts on its site at travel.state.gov, which also has passport information. While the customs process has become more streamlined there are still certain restrictions and requirements. For specific dos and don’ts, choose “Tips for Traveling Abroad” on the international travel page. Lonelyplanet.com is also a useful site for international travelers. Users can click on the world map for information on global destinations, including crime and practical concerns.
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