Get to Know Your Destination Country

There is much that you can do to prepare for your trip abroad, depending on where you are going, how long you are staying, and your reasons for traveling.


The following suggestions and sources may be useful:

  • Read as much as possible about the countries in which you plan to travel. Informing yourself about a nation’s history, culture, customs and politics will make your stay more meaningful. Such information can be found in most libraries, bookstores and tourist bureaus. Although English is spoken in many countries, it is a good idea to learn what you can of the language of the country in which you will be traveling.
  • Travel agents can provide brochures and tourist information about the countries that you wish to visit.
  • Most international airlines can supply you with travel brochures about the countries that they serve. Many countries have tourist information offices in main cities in theUnited States where you can obtain travel brochures and maps.
  • Foreign embassies or consulates in the United States can provide up-to-date information on their countries. Addresses and telephone numbers of the embassies of foreign governments are listed in the Congressional Directory, available at most public libraries. In addition to their embassies, some countries also have consulates in major U.S. cities. Look for their addresses in your local telephone directory, or find them in the publication, Foreign Consular Offices in the United States, available in many public libraries or online.
  • The Department of State publishes Background Notes on countries worldwide. These are brief, factual pamphlets with information on each country’s culture, history, geography, economy, government, and current political situation. The Background Notes are available for approximately 170 countries. They often include a reading list, travel notes and maps. To purchase copies, you can contact the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, WashingtonD.C. 20402, or call (202) 512-1800. Select issues are also available from the Department of State’s Bureau of Public Affairs, fax-on-demand, by calling (202) 736-7720 from your fax machine or on the Department of State’s home page.
  • The Consular Information Program provides pertinent information for travelers. The U.S. Department of State issues fact sheets, known as Consular Information Sheets, on every country in the world. You should obtain the Department of State’s Consular Information Sheet for any country that you will visit. The sheets contain information about crime and security conditions, areas of instability, and other details pertaining to travel in a particular country.

The Department of State also issues Travel Warnings and Public AnnouncementsTravel Warnings are issued when the Department of State recommends deferral of travel by Americans to a country because of civil unrest, dangerous conditions, terrorist activity and/or because the United States has no diplomatic relations with the country and cannot assist an American citizen in distress. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term and/or transnational conditions, which would pose significant risks to American travelers.

If the Department of State has issued a Travel Warning or Public Announcement for any country that you plan to visit, you should obtain this information. Instructions on how to access the Consular Information Program follow.

How to Access Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements

Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements may be heard at any time by dialing the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, American Citizens Services and Crisis Management, Bureau of Consular Affairs, at (202) 647-5225 from a touchtone phone. The recording is updated as new information becomes available. Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements may also be obtained from any regional passport agency, from most airline computer reservation systems, from U.S. embassies or consulates abroad, or by sending your request, (indicating the desired country on the lower left corner of the envelope), in a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Room 4811, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818.

By Fax

From your fax machine, dial (202) 647-3000, using the handset as you would a regular telephone. The system will prompt you on how to proceed.

By Internet

Information about travel and consular services is available at Visitors to the site will find Travel Warnings, Public Announcements, Consular Information Sheets, passport and visa information, travel publications, background on international adoption and international child abduction services, and international legal assistance.

The above information is excerpted from the Consular Affairs Publications.