International Health Precautions

Even for a short stay in another country, it is wise to make plans to safeguard your health. Check directly with your insurance carrier to understand how your policy will cover any emergency or routine medical problems you may have.

  • Make an appointment for a travel consultation, immunizations, and prescriptionsat Penn's Travel Services in Student Health Services (SHS), at least three months before your departure.  For certain clinical experiences* respirator clearance and/or a prescription for post-exposure prophylaxis drugs will be required.  You should download the SHS Pre-Travel Form and complete header information to bring to your appointment.  Please be prepared to present your full travel itinerary. Your itinerary and personal health data will be reviewed and student health will provide you with a personal computerized Travelcare Report.  You can usually begin your recommended vaccines at the time of this visit. You will also receive a yellow World Health Organization International Certificate of Vaccination.
  • Review the scope of your health insurance coverage and obtain additional coverage, as needed.
  • The University of Pennsylvania provides (at no cost to you) International SOS (ISOS) benefits. Through International SOS, Penn provides members of the Penn community who travel abroad on a Penn-affiliated activity, 24-hour worldwide assistance and emergency evacuation services. This includes pre-trip planning advice, access to country-specific travel/health/safety/security information, and in-country medical and personal assistance. This is not health insurance but does provide for medical evacuation and repatriation. Please visit ISOS right away, (find "visit the members' website") and use the Penn Membership Number: 11BSGC000012 to review benefits.   You will be directed to Penn's Global Activities Registry to enter all details on your trip but while on the ISOS site, before you follow the link to the Global Activities Registry, see "print card" below the card image to obtain a paper copy of the membership card to carry with you.
  • Go to the CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases' Traveler's Health website and click on "Tips for Travelers."  After reviewing the "Tips," on the same webpage, use the pull-down menu under "Destinations" to find specific information for the region where you will be traveling.
  • Advice from the US Department of Health & Human Services can be obtained on their website.


Emergency Contacts

Review this list of recommendations, phone numbers, and smartphone apps and consider keeping emergency contacts handy throughout your travels, and, when possible, downloading apps. To access the Emergency Contacts Word Document, click anywhere in this paragraph.

Top ↑

Travel Safety & Security (special concern:  road safety -- see below)

Access Consular Information Sheets:  Before you make a commitment to travel in any country, please carefully review the Consular Information Sheets provided by the US Department of State.  Pay particular attention to the Safety and Security, Crime, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions sections. 

Register with State Department: The US Department of State may be able to assist you in the event of an emergency.  Before you travel, visit their website and click on Register My Trip.

Study Safe Travel Information:  Review the Department of State information on how to have a Safe Trip Abroad.  You will find helpful information on a number of aspects of travel, including:

  • What to do before you travel
    • What to bring with you
    • What to leave behind
  • What to learn about before you travel
    • Security & Consular Information/Travel Warnings, & Public Announcements
    • Local Laws & Customs
  • Things to arrange before you go
  • Precautions to take while traveling
    • Safety on the Street
    • Safety in Hotels
    • Safety on Public Transportation
    • Safety when you Drive
    • How to Handle Money Safely
    • How to Avoid Legal Difficulties
  • Assistance Abroad

Cell Phone:  We recommend that you obtain a cell phone that will operate in the country/ies you are visiting as soon as possible.  In addition to facilitating contacts with your local colleagues, you can use the phone to reach the nearest US embassy, consulate or diplomatic mission and/or the ISOS (see above) in the event of an emergency.  Please note that your ISOS benefits, in addition to assistance in medical emergencies, can help you with emergency evacuation when unsafe conditions arise from political or natural disasters. 

  • US Embassy/Consulate/Mission: Make a note of the numbers before you leave the US by visiting the Directory of US Embassies/Consulates/Missions.  As soon as you get the phone you will use while traveling, program these numbers.
  • ISOS Phone Numbers:  As soon as you get the phone you will use while traveling, program these ISOS numbers: 
    • Philadelphia:  1-215-942-8226
    • London:  44-20-8762-8008
    • Singapore:  65-6338-7800

Road Safety:  Roadway accidents are the most frequent cause of fatalities among US citizens traveling abroad.  You should always look both ways when crossing any street as bicycles, and other unregulated vehicles could be coming from the unexpected side.  In countries where cars drive on the left side, it is particularly important to look both ways as cars will be coming from the "wrong" direction.

To mitigate accidents, keep in mind the following risks that are to be avoided if at all possible:

  • driving at night, particularly on bad, ill-lit roads
  • driving while under the influence -- YOURS OR OTHER PEOPLE'S
  • riding on bicycles, motor scooters, motor cycles, and other two- and three-wheeled vehicles
  • failing to use a safety belt in a four-wheeled vehicle
  • walking where there are no sidewalks
  • 10 Facts on Global Road Safety

Air Travel Arrangements

You should seek the most economical fare possible, without building in side trips.  Some travel sites to try include:

Visas & US Department of State

We highly recommend your visiting the US Department of State Website where you can sign up for notification, via email, when new travel warnings/alerts are placed.  You will find much useful information, including:

  • travel warnings (visit the site often for the latest updates)
  • country background information
  • visa & passport requirements for your travel plans

Last updated:  April 11, 2014

Top ↑