International Travel Toolkit: Undergraduate Students

                                             Pre-Departure Tasks

                                              Click on each item for more information

Check your passport and get a visa

Passport basics

  • It can take several months to get a passport.  Apply now if you don’t have one or yours needs to be renewed:  visit the U.S. State Department website for information
  • Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after you return from travel

Passport Security

In some countries you must carry your passport at all times

  • Take your passport if you are taking a short trip from your base city

In many countries, hotels are required to photocopy or hold guests’ passports overnight

  • It’s common, but find out in advance if this is true for your destination:  consult the resources listed in the Learning about your Destination section

Report a lost or stolen passport immediately to your nearest embassy

Determine if you’ll need a visa

Try CIBT (Yale’s preferred vendor for visas), the U.S. State Department, or your home country’s embassy

Then ask these questions:

  • What type of visa do I need (tourist, student)?
  • How long will it take for my visa to arrive?
  • Will I need a transit visa (for a layover or travel through another country on the way to my destination)?

Do not make any travel plans (study, volunteer, internship, research, family vacation) that will conflict with the timing of the student visa application process for a fall or spring term abroad.  If you plan on traveling abroad prior to a fall term abroad, or between semesters for a spring term abroad, you will need to apply for your student visa prior to undertaking your summer or holiday travels.  During the visa application process you will not have access to your passport and the process may take from a week or two to a few months.  Further complicating matters, there may be a specific window within which you must apply for your student visa.  For example, in some cases visa applications will be accepted no less than one month and no more than three months prior to the start date of your study abroad program.

International students and visas

Non-U.S. citizens returning to the U.S. after travel can run into complications, so begin the visa process early

  • Meet with an advisor in OISS to ensure your immigration paperwork is in order and to consult about the visa process
Register your travel

Register with Yale through the Office of International Affairs (requires a NetID)

  • Help Yale locate and contact you in a major emergency
  • You can start your registration as soon as you know your destination and approximate dates of travel, then return to the registry as often as needed to add or update information about your flights, where you’ll be staying, local contact information and more, as those details become available
  • IMPORTANT:  You will need to login to the registry using your NetID and must use a Yale networked computer or a Yale VPN connection

Register with the U.S. State Department through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (if you are a U.S. citizen)

  • Help the State Department assist you in an emergency

If you are a citizen of another country, contact your country’s embassy in your destination to let them know your travel plans.

Review the Yale College International Travel Policy

The Yale College International Travel Policy restricts student travel to countries that UnitedHealthcare Global has rated a “5” or for which the U.S. State Department has assigned a “Level 4: Do not travel” rating.  Make sure you read the policy and review the safety and security ratings for your destination prior to making travel arrangements.  If you have questions, contact the Center for International and Professional Experience before finalizing your plans.

Even if Yale Policy does not restrict your travel, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How safe is my destination?
  • Is it OK to travel to a country with a threat rating of “4”?
  • Is the safety/security environment of the country in flux?
  • Would it make sense to visit a different, safer country instead?
  • If I go, what resources will I use to monitor changes in the security situation or respond in an emergency?

Visit the “Safety & Security” section of this toolkit to learn about the steps you can take to travel more safely.

Visit Travel Health Services for Students or your personal physician

Schedule a consultation

Schedule a travel consultation at least 6-8 weeks before you depart with Travel Health Services for Students at Yale Health Student Health Services, 203-432-8148; Passport Health at 203-285-3485 or; or your personal physician 

  • Schedule your appointment early; many immunizations are given in a series over time

Make sure to discuss:

  • vaccinations
  • traveling with medication
  • other health concerns for the destination

Travel Health is fee-for-service, meaning the cost of the visit will not be covered by your Yale Health insurance coverage (other insurance may cover it)

Understand your health insurance coverage

Check that you’re covered!

Don’t make assumptions about what will be covered.

1.  Determine if your current health insurance plan covers you while abroad, including for chronic medical conditions.  The Yale Health Plan provides coverage for urgent or emergency care only while you are abroad (see Yale Health coverage information below). 

2.  Check if your study abroad program or fellowship includes or offers health insurance for your travel, or requires that you purchase their health plan. 

3.  If you’re not covered abroad, or have incomplete coverage for your needs, consider purchasing an international travel health insurance policy for the duration of your travel. 

  • Insure My Trip is an online tool for helping travelers compare and identify appropriate international travel health insurance coverage.  The International Operations & Compliance Committee has not reviewed the information on that website to verify its thoroughness or accuracy and therefore travelers are advised to do their own due diligence before using this site and purchasing insurance.

4.  Discuss your options with your parents or guardian, and decide if you need to purchase an individual plan for yourself.

Whether you purchase supplemental health insurance or choose to rely on your existing plan, you may wish to ask the following questions of your provider so that you know the extent of your coverage while you are overseas and how it works:

  • Will the plan cover hospitalization for accidents and illness for the entire period I’m abroad?
  • Will the plan cover doctor visits and medications?
  • Will the plan cover care for pre-existing conditions?
  • Is there a deductible?  How much?
  • Is there a dollar limit to the amount of coverage provided?
  • What are the procedures for filing a claim for medical expenses abroad?  Do I pay up front and then get reimbursed?
  • What if I don’t have enough money to pay cash up front?
  • When does the plan begin and end?
  • What do I use as proof of international medical coverage?
  • Will this policy cover me in the U.S. for the insured semester/year if I decide, for medical or other reasons, to return to the U.S. before the end of the program?

Yale Health Plan Coverage

If you’re enrolled in the Yale Health Hospitalization/ Specialty Care Coverage, you are covered for urgent or emergency health care anywhere in the world.  Contact Yale Health Member Services at 203-432-0246 before you travel to verify that your coverage is in place while you are away from campus or extend it while you are abroad, if necessary. 

Important:  If you will be participating in a study abroad term or year-long program and you wish to have Yale Health coverage, you must purchase a Yale Health Affiliate plan.  Contact Yale Health Member Services at 203-432-0246 for more information.

Insurance Card

Very important – Take your Yale Health (or other) insurance card with you.

  • Obtain a card at the Yale Health Center or request one via the Yale Health website
  • You may not receive treatment without one 

Acute Care

Call the Acute Care telephone line (203-432-0123) from abroad to speak to a Yale Health clinician about a health matter.  Direct questions about Yale Health insurance coverage to Yale Health Member Services at 203-432-0246.

Print and take your travel assistance program card

Print the International SOS member card

Note that effective January 1, 2019, Yale’s travel assistance program moved from UHC Global to International SOS (ISOS).  For more information about ISOS, including guidance on travel while we transition to ISOS, visit

  • Keep it with you in your wallet or purse
  • Email it to yourself in case your wallet or purse is lost or stolen
  • Program the numbers into your cell phone

Emergency travel assistance

As a Yale traveler, you are automatically covered

Yale’s travel assistance program provides medical, security, and general travel assistance to travelers

  • medical and security evacuations
  • lost or stolen passports
  • legal referrals
  • emergency transfer of funds

Assistance is available 24/7/365, anywhere in the world (even in the U.S. more than 100 miles from Yale)

Be aware that Yale College policies, rules and standard of conduct apply while you are abroad

Before you depart review the Undergraduate Regulations and their application to Yale College students when away from campus

See to your financial needs

Plan to bring a combination of cash (though never carry too much at once), debit or ATM cards, credit cards, and traveler’s checks, if viable for your destination:

Tell your bank and credit card companies that you’ll be traveling

  • Ask if they charge foreign transaction fees
  • Ask if you’ll need a PIN to make purchases abroad

Clean out your wallet or purse

  • Take only the credit cards and ID you will need

Exchange some cash to your destination’s local currency to last the first couple of days

  • Exchange money at a bank before you leave the U.S. or get similar rates of exchange in the airport when you arrive

Find out about Arrival and Departure Taxes and Currency Restrictions

  • Be aware of any applicable arrival or departure taxes that you may encounter
  • Likewise learn about any restrictions your destination may have on how much currency you can enter and exit with

For information about researching the country you will visit, go to Learning about your Destination.

Share a copy of your itinerary with family or a friend

Confirm all travel accommodations and bookings prior to departure.  In addition to your itinerary, provide family or friends with a copy of your passport data page and any visas as well.  This will make it easier for them to contact you in an emergency.

Take photographs of important documents

Make copies of the following documents

  • Passport identification page and visa
  • Driver’s license and other identity cards
  • ISOS member card and health insurance cards
  • Credit and debit cards (front and back)
  • Flight and other travel itineraries
  • Immunizations and prescriptions
  • Significant medical history (e.g., surgeries, major illnesses)
  • The letter of admission to your university abroad or your study abroad program


  1. Leave a copy of each at home with family or a friend
  2. Keep a copy in your luggage (separate from any originals)
  3. Scan and email copies to yourself or store photos of them on your smart phone (but make sure access to the documents is password protected)
Look into cell phones and communicating

Cell phones

Ways to get a cell phone for your travel:

  • Ask your current cell phone service provider to unlock your U.S. cell phone;
  • Buy an international cell phone before you leave;
  • Buy a phone when you reach your destination then purchase a SIM card that can be recharged on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Check in

Upon arrival, check in with a family member so that they know you have arrived safely.  Consider setting a schedule for communication with friends and family at home keeping in mind it may not be as frequent as when you are on campus.

Receiving calls from home

Making international calls from your cell phone can be expensive, but incoming calls may be free.

  • Skype and Google Voice may offer cheaper international calling rates to and from the U.S.

Collect calls

Learn how to make collect calls from your destination.

Emergency cell phone use

If you are using your cell phone during an emergency that could last hours or even days, try texting instead of calling to save battery life on your phone.

Social Media

Use of social media can be another means of communicating with family and friends at home.

  • Realize that posts and blog entries may be read by a broader community than just your peers in the U.S.:  be sensitive to cultural considerations, legal restrictions, and ethics.
Consider personal property insurance

Protect your property

Consider personal property insurance for electronics or other expensive personal items   

  • See if your belongings are covered abroad by your parent/guardian’s homeowner’s policy
  • Try the personal property insurance program made available by Yale