International Travel Issues for Americans

Find helpful resources for Americans traveling outside of the country.

Trusted Traveler Programs

Learn about the Trusted Traveler Programs to help expedite your international-travel. The Department of Homeland Security offers several options based on how you are traveling between the U.S. and other countries and how often you travel outside the U.S.

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Americans Driving Outside the United States

When visiting another country:

  • You may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) or similar document in addition to your license to legally drive.  
  • Your American driver's license is good in the U.S. and Canada. For all other countries, check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are planning to visit.  
  • If you are planning to rent a car, contact the rental car company to learn about local driving and auto insurance requirements.  

Get an International Driving Permit (IDP):

Note: The AAA also offers an Inter-American Driving Permit required in Brazil, Uruguay, and other countries in the Western Hemisphere.

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Currency Exchange

Each country has its own currency or monetary system for buying and selling products and services. The exchange rate between two countries tells you the price you pay to buy another country's currency. When you travel internationally, you will want to have some of that country's currency to buy products or services. 

Exchanging Currency

You have several options for purchasing currency for a foreign country:

  • Currency conversion tools are available online to compare the value of your country's currency with the value of other countries' currencies including a weekly list from the Federal Reserve Board showing the currency value of over 20 countries against the value of the U.S. dollar. The rates are not in real time. 
  • Check with your local bank or a travel agent before you travel to find out how to buy currency for the country or countries you plan to visit.
  • Most large international airports or train stations have currency exchange booths, exchange vending machines, and ATMs. Some institutions may charge a fee or commission for the exchange service.

If you plan to use a credit card or ATM card abroad, the exchange rate may be different, often better for you, than the rates at currency exchange booths.

Cash Limits When Traveling Abroad or Entering the U.S.

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Emergency Help for Americans Abroad

If you are a U.S. citizen abroad or if you're the relative of an American citizen needing help abroad, visit "Get Help in an Emergency" on Department of State (DOS) website. They can help with emergencies including lost or stolen passports, medical emergencies, victims of crime or arrest, missing persons, parental child abductions, death abroad, and natural disasters. 

Financial Assistance

The Department of State (DOS) can assist you if you need money transferred or wired. If you have no other means to get money, you may be able to get a temporary loan through the DOS or a U.S. Embassy or consulate.

Note: If you get a loan through DOS or a U.S. Embassy or consulate, you must repay it.  You can repay your loan online using Pay.gov.  Call 1-800-521-2116 (1-843-746-0592 from abroad) if you have any questions.

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Stay Safe When Traveling Abroad

To keep safe when traveling abroad:

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Travel to U.S. Territories or Freely Associated States

U.S. Territories

If you are a U.S. Citizen traveling to and from: 

  • Guam - You need an American passport, even if flying from Hawaii.  
  • American Samoa - You need an American passport.  
  • Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands - Does not require an American passport.  
  • U.S. Virgin Islands -  Does not require an American passport if coming from the U.S. mainland or from Puerto Rico.  
  • Puerto Rico - Does not require an American passport if coming from within the US.

Non-U.S. Citizens have to present a valid passport or other valid travel document.

Freely Associated States

Countries that used to be administered by the United States are considered "Freely Associated States." They are considered foreign countries and U.S. citizens will need passports to travel there:

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Visas for U.S. Citizens Traveling Abroad

U.S. citizens may need a visa to enter a foreign country. Before traveling to another country, contact its embassy or consulate as far in advance as possible to find out:

  • Whether you must apply for a visa to visit the country, and when.
  • If the country has any other requirements you must meet before you can enter.

Find additional information in the U.S. Department of State's information document for the country.

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Last Updated: May 18, 2017

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