Documentation & Paperwork

Ahhh yes…the boring stuff.  Unfortunately it’s some of the most important stuff as well.  Without the proper documentation you cant even get into most countries.  So here is a list of what you will (most likely) need.  And if you end up not needing some of these things, at least you came prepared.  Here it is:


Required for all people traveling across international boarders, without it you cant even leave home.  That’s right, you are part of the system!  But hey, at least you get the opportunity to see somewhere new.  For US citizens, if you don’t have a passport you can get one by contacting the US Department of the State.


It’s probably not required but its always a good idea to have an extra way to identify yourself if your passport gets lost or stolen.  So bring an ID or drivers license.


Visas outline how long you are allowed to stay in a country and under what circumstances you can be there (ie:  Student, Tourist, Business).  They are issued differently all over the world so there’s no set rule on how to get one, but you can bet that most countries have a process in place.  Depending on where you’re from, sometimes you need one and sometimes you don’t.  Depending on where your going, sometimes you have to apply in advance and sometimes you can just get it at the door.  Sometimes you can’t get it at all.  To summarize, you’ll need to check the embassy websites for all the countries you plan to visit to see how things are done.  If you’re an American citizen you’ll have an easier time than most.

Travel Insurance:

Like all insurance packages, choosing the right kind of travel insurance can be a daunting task.  A few go without it, but most agree that its a good idea to have some type of coverage if you’re taking an extended trip, especially to a developing country or to a place you’ve never been.  If you don’t know what to expect from a place, at least be prepared for the worst.

You will notice that when comparing different insurance packages, its like comparing apples to oranges as their packages and prices are never the same.  This makes it hard to know what you really need and what is frivolous.  So how do you choose one?

First, look at the different categories of insurance and decide what you can’t live without.  Then, compare prices on those areas.  The major categories of travel insurance include the following, although many times they will be subdivided or listed under slightly different names:

  • Trip Protection:  Trip Cancellation, Lost Baggage/Property, Bad Weather, and Terrorism
  • Medical:  Emergency Medical, Emergency Evacuation, and All Other Medical Bills received overseas
  • Life Insurance:  Accidental Death or Dismemberment, Flight Accidents
Tip:  Keep in mind that insurance companies usually require a police report when claiming stolen items.  In many developing countries it may be nearly impossible to acquire one (especially one in English), in which case you will have to eat the cost or your stolen item.

Passport-Sized Photos:

Sometimes when entering a country you will be required to have passport-sized headshots for your visa application.  Chances are, you could get them done abroad but its just easier to have them with you already.  In the US, these can be done at any Walgreens, Post Office, or Kinkos.

Statement of Funds:

It may seem strange but there are times when you will be required to provide proof of available funds.  Countries sometimes do this to make sure that you have the means to leave once you’ve overstayed your welcome.  It’s usually only required when your visa is being issued.  Typically all you actually need is a print out of your bank statement.  But don’t forget to hide your account number on the form!

Proof of Vaccination:

Some countries will require that you’ve had certain vaccinations before entering.  Many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa require that you have proof of the Yellow Fever vaccine before entering.  Although it is required, that doesn’t mean that they actually enforce anything.