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Travel Tips

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Identification
  • CISI Participant ID Card and domesitic medical insurance card
  • Airline tickets and itineraries
  • Local emergency service numbers (911 equivalent, hospital, taxi)
  • Local address and phone number
  • Host university and/or third party emergency numbers
  • U.S. contacts (family and friends)
  • U.S. Embassy/Consulate closest to you
  • Contact information of bank and credit card companies
  • Overseas program itineraries
  • Medical information (name of doctor and dentist, prescriptions, blood type, allergies, eye-glass/contact lenses prescription, immunization records, name of doctor and dentist, prescriptions, blood type, allergies, eye-glass / contract lenses prescription, your wishes in the event of serious injury or death)
  • Rails passes
  • Power of Attorney
  • Acceptance letter from the host institution or third party (for study abroad students)
  • International Student Identity Card (only for students who purchased it) 

We suggest the following regarding keeping your documents safe:

  • Original documents: Once you arrive at your destination, store them in a secure, private space
  • Emergency File #1 (Copies): This file should travel abroad with you. Once you arrive in-country, store it in a private space separate from your original documents
  • Emergency File #2 (Copies): Leave this file in the U.S. with a family member or friend
  • You could also consider uploading them to a secure location to ensure digital access

Bank Affairs

  • You need to provide your bank with your travel dates and all country destinations. Without this information, banks sometimes ‘freeze’ accounts after what appears to be suspicious overseas transactions
  • Ask if your cards and PIN numbers work abroad
  • Check if there are any user transaction fees
  • Verify your daily withdrawal limit (you might want to increase/decrease this limit)

Credit Cards

  • Generally, students have the most success with Visa, MasterCard and American Express
  • Major credit cards are well protected and easy to replace if lost
  • Merchandise may also be protected if lost or stolen
  • It may take up to a week for your bank to record the transaction, so be careful of over-withdrawing
  • Credit card companies make the exchange rate on the day the transaction is processed (this amount may be more or less than what you were paying at the time of the purchase) 

ATMs abroad

  • The most convenient way to access your U.S. bank accounts
  • You will get the local currency
  • You might be limited to withdrawals from your primary checking account only 


  • It is wise to have multiple sources of money available (cash in local and U.S. currency and a credit card)
  • Wiring money from the U.S. to banks abroad is possible but is often costly and can take up to two weeks
  • Order at least $100 in your host country’s currency from your bank before departure
  • Typically banks provide the best exchange rate (avoid airports, hotels, restaurants or retail shops)
  • Deal only with authorized exchange outlets (the black market is dangerous and illegal)
  • Students should consider opening a (student) account at a local bank in your host country (withdrawals may be free)

Consider these costs

  • Transportation
  • Meals
  • Communication
  • Entertainment
  • Souvenirs
  • Books
  • Personal Expenses

Budgeting tips for students

  • Make daily / weekly budgets and stick to them!
  • Expect to spend more money in your first week than during any other week there
  • Look for free or discounted entertainment events such as outdoor concerts and festivals
  • Look for student rates or discounts
  • Cook for yourself or eat in the student cafeterias
  • Buy transportation passes that offer discounts on multiple-day bus or train travel


  • Establish a communication plan with your family and always have a backup plan!
  • Rather than promising to call or e-mail as “soon as you arrive”, say you will call “as soon as it is convenient” as this could save your family considerable worry
  • Keep in mind the local WIFI may not be as readily available, fast or dependable as you are used to

"Should I take my phone with me...?" Opinions vary... 

Questions to ask your current provider:

  • Will my phone work abroad?
  • Is my current phone capable of international calling? If not, can I trade up to a different phone?
  • Can I unlock my phone to use abroad with a local calling card?
  • Will it only let me make local phones?
  • Are there pre-paid phone offers?
  • How much will it cost to add international calling to my current plan? Can I cancel that when I return to the U.S.?


Taking your phone with you

  • Your family will still be able to call a local number
  • If you are still locked into a contract, you won't have to pay any cancellation fees
  • International plans are expensive
  • High roaming fees (in exchange for receiving service outside of your continued data service outside of your mobile operator's coverage area. You can incur outrageous roaming fees simply for having the phone turned on.
  • Limits you in terms of local contact (you'll need a way to keep in contact with your new friends)


Changing Your SIM Card

Pros Cons
  • One of the easiest and most cost efficient ways
  • Allows you to keep your old phone
  • Replacing your U.S. SIM card with a local SIM card allows you to purchase minutes as you need them
  • Ensures that you can make and receive local calls, in addition to calls to the U.S.
  • Only works if you have an unlocked phone and compatible with overseas networks
  • You will get a new phone number


Buying a Local Phone and Number

Pros Cons
  • Very affordable option
  • Most effective for local contact
  • Easier to replace if lost or stolen
  • Contract phones are more cost effective, but most have minimum contracts of 18 months
  • Your family has to call long distance to contact you

To help you in obtaining the proper communications while abroad, email (NI&S Customer Service) or call at 540-231-2800 to discuss and obtain the plan that will provide you reliable communications while abroad. 

Network Infrastructure and Services (NI&S) now supports a soft client that can allow you to use your desk phone telephone number with a softphone application while you are traveling abroad.  The new service is referred to as Unified Communications (Softphone).  The service supports call extension, voice mail text notification and access to the softphone client. Using the softphone on Wi-Fi allows calling to and from the U.S. at no cost while traveling internationally.

  • It is highly advisable to have a notary public set up a Power of Attorney. It designates a trusted individual (usually a parent) to act on your behalf in case paperwork requires your signature (legal or financial documents, tax returns)
  • For bank related transactions, you and your designated person will need to set this up at your bank
  • You have the right to terminate or revoke the Power of Attorney at any time
  • Legal Defense /Liability Insurance (to get the assistance of a local attorney)
  • Lost baggage insurance
  • Program insurance (if program gets cancelled)
  • Motor Vehicle Coverage (in case you drive a car or ride a motorcycle/moped)


  • If available, opt to pay your bills online
  • Cancel subscriptions (i.e. Netflix, phone plan)
  • Obtain an International Driving Permit if you plan on driving abroad
  • Arrange to have your mail forwarded to family/trusted friend
  • Comply with your tax responsibilities before you leave (you need to file income taxes between January 1 and April 15)


Absentee Voting

If elections are scheduled while you are abroad, find out if you can vote by absentee ballot – It’s a free and simple process:

  • 1. Register to vote
    • Visit the Federal Voter Assistance Program (FVAP) website. The form takes about 15 minutes to fill out. To receive your ballot in time, you are encouraged to list your email address as your first preference address
    • Download and print the PDF forms
    • Send in your forms to your local election office
    • Virginia allows you to send in your registration forms by mail, by email or fax. For all other States you can check here
  • 2. Vote
    • After a few weeks, you will receive your ballot at the address you provided (preferably an email address)
    • Fill out the ballot
    • Mail your ballot to the local voter registrar’s office (address is in the instructions you received with your ballot. No voted ballots can be accepted electronically, by email or fax)
    • Virginia requires the voted ballot to be received by the close of polls on Election Day (November 8, 7:00 PM).  For all other States you can check deadlines here
  • The ISIC is an internationally-accepted proof of current student status
  • Costs about $25
  • Offers discounts at more than 33,000 locations in 103 countries
  • Offers cell phone and calling card packages
  • Includes membership to STA-Travel (agency that specializes in student travel)

Research the customary dress code in your host country 

  • What is appropriate to wear?
  • Are shorts worn?
  • Do people wear jeans?

What to pack

  • Bring a change of clothes in your carry-on (in case of lost luggage)
  • An adapter and / or a voltage converter for your laptop / tablet
  • Pack comfortable broken-in shoes: you will be doing a TON of walking!
  • Bring some of home along with you (i.e. photos)
  • Consider bringing VT tokens as gifts for host family/new friends
  • P.S. Pack pajamas for sleeping purposes only… The US is probably the only country where going to class wearing sweats or pajamas is somewhat socially acceptable

Consider a medical kit (keep the original package labels)

  • Motion sickness medication
  • Aspirin / Ibuprofen
  • Antacids
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Cold/cough relief 
  • Antidiarrheal medication
  • Constipation remedy
  • Vitamins/salt tablets
  • Water purification tablets if appropriate
  • Antibacterial soap
  • Band-Aids (for blisters)
  • Athlete’s foot remedy
  • Gauze and adhesive tape and bandages
  • Sunscreen / sunburn ointment
  • Thermometer
  • Insect repellents
  • Safety pins
  • Pocketknife
  • Flashlight
  • Matches

What not to pack

  • Do not pack valuables (passport, documents, medications) in CHECKED luggage
  • Do not pack any sharp objects in your CARRY-ON
  • If you can’t afford to lose it, DO NOT BRING it (family jewelry, items that have sentimental value)
  • Don’t bring inexpensive items you can buy abroad (t-shirts, toiletries)
  • Leave all keys and wallet content not needed at home 
  • Do NOT bring your own electronics but plan to buy these in host country (computers excepted)
  • Electric appliances, such as hairdryers often don’t work well, even with a converter 
  • DON’T ‘PACK’ Self-pity, Worries, Paranoia, Negativity, Judgment


  • Pack light!! Bring only as much as you can carry
  • Consider a backpack (uneven cobblestones, dirt roads, nature, stairs)
  • Save room for all the souvenirs you’ll buy
  • Check current luggage weight regulation for your (connecting) airline(s)
  • Check acceptable carry-on items (i.e. liquids, medicines, cosmetics)
  • Make covered luggage tags with your contact information
  • Also place your contact information inside your luggage
  • Create an itemized list of your luggage content for insurance purposes
  • Add a Hokie sticker for easy identification

On campus

  • Going Fall
    • Room: you cannot complete a housing contract for the academic year if you intend to go abroad in the fall and live on campus in the spring.  Instead, you must notify Housing and Residence Life during the fall semester. This can be done through the “Email Housing and Residence Life” option under the “Housing and Dining Services” menu on Hokie SPA.
    • Dining: during the fall semester, you can add your spring dining plan on Hokie SPA through the “Housing and Dining Services” menu.
  • Going Spring
    • Room: check out of your room properly and check the “Study Abroad” box on your Room Condition Form to cancel your spring semester’s housing contract. You can fill out a new housing contract for the next fall semester over the summer.
    • Dining: when you cancel your housing contract, your dining plan will also be canceled.  Check this through Hokie SPA under the “Housing and Dining Services” menu.

Off campus

  • Apartment: The best way to find apartments is through the Tech Off Campus website and through the VT Free and For Sale Facebook page.  It is often easier (and cheaper) to sublease into someone else’s apartment than it is to sublease your own apartment.  There are always more people looking to sublet than there are students looking for apartments.
  • Dining: if you desire a dining plan, you can add it on Hokie SPA through the “Housing and Dining” menu before the beginning of your semester at Tech


Subletting your apartment

If you are looking for ways to sublet your apartment while abroad, visit Virginia Tech Off Campus Housing.

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