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Monday, October 9, 2023

Navigating Safe International Travel: The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, Prescription Medication Tips, and Travel Insurance

In today's dynamic world, international travel offers countless opportunities for exploration and adventure. However, it also comes with its share of challenges and uncertainties, from security concerns to health-related issues. To help travelers stay informed and prepared, the U.S. State Department has developed the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and accompanying Smart Traveler App. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the significance of these tools, provide tips on managing prescription medications while abroad, and emphasize the importance of travel insurance.


Part 1: The US Department of State STEP Program and Smart Traveler App

In an ever-changing global landscape, the safety of travelers is paramount. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) simplifies communication with the nearest U.S. Embassy in case of emergencies while abroad. Here's why it matters:

  1. Stay Informed About Your Destination: The world has seen security incidents and geopolitical changes that affect travel destinations. The Smart Traveler App provides crucial information about your destination, including travel advisories and real-time alerts.
  2. Prescription Medications Awareness: Consult with healthcare providers and be aware of local regulations regarding prescription medications to avoid legal issues abroad.
  3. Avoiding Protests and Demonstrations: The STEP app encourages travelers to steer clear of protests in foreign countries, as these events can escalate into violence.
  4. Understanding Travel Advisory Levels: The app categorizes advisories into four levels, from "Exercise Normal Precautions" to "Do Not Travel," providing clear guidance for travelers.
  5. Utilizing the App Without Data Plan: Even without international data plans, the app remains useful as Wi-Fi is available in most international locations.
  6. Usual Security Precautions: The blog also emphasizes common security precautions, such as guarding against pickpocketing.
A country officer of US consular services recently conducted an interview on Reddit, where he answered questions submitted to him.  His number one recommendation was to download the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program app. He also made some other points in this interview which are important for travelers to remember.

His first tip is something that LTD has already reviewed: know what to do with prescription medications.  Transporting medications that are illegal into another country can result in jail time.  This is avoidable!  AND as he pointed out, know what medications are available in other countries if  you run out of medications or forget them, especially those medications that are critical to your health. 

Another tip is don’t get involved in protests occurring in other countries for your safety.  Violence can escalate at them as the State Department has seen on many occasions.  LTD was recently in Athens where violence and fires broke out during protests.

The STEP app will give you information about the country you are traveling to, register that you are traveling to a country and alert you via texts of impending danger.  You can easily search travel advisories for the country or countries to which you are planning travel. 

Look Up Any Country on the Smart Traveler App

LTD searched the United Kingdom to find that it has a level two travel advisory due to terrorism:

LTD was Surprised at United Kingdom's Level 2 Warning

What do these levels mean?  Well the app tells you:

“On January 10, 2018, the Department of State launched improvements to how we share information with U.S. travelers. These improvements will provide U.S. citizens with clear, timely, and reliable safety and security information worldwide. Under the new system, every country will have a Travel Advisory, providing levels of advice ranging from 1 to 4:
  • Level 1 - Exercise Normal Precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States and may change at any time. 
  • Level 2 - Exercise Increased Caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time. 
  • Level 3 - Reconsider Travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time. 
  • Level 4 - Do Not Travel: This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time”
Each travel advisory will have the reason for the particular level, including items such as Terrorism, Crime or health issues.  It even links to what the CDC recommends for your health when traveling to particular countries within the app!

Even if you do not have an international calling and data plan, this app will be useful since most international hotels, cafes, airports, cruise ships and even city welcome centers have wifi available to you. 

Use the usual security precautions when you travel always!

The most common security risk is pickpocketing! Don't let yourself be pickpocketed when you travel!  Use a security crossbody always!  Click here below to learn about one of our favorites that works for men or women!

Part 2: Prescription Medication Recommendations in the STEP App

Within the "Health" section of the STEP app, travelers can access vital information regarding prescription medications. Here's how to make the most of this resource:

  1. Consultation with Healthcare Provider: Seek guidance from your healthcare provider before your trip, discussing your prescription medications and health conditions.
  2. Understanding Medication Regulations: The app helps you comprehend the medication regulations in your destination country, ensuring you're aware of any potential challenges.
  3. Carrying Essential Documentation: Keep copies of your prescriptions and a letter from your healthcare provider explaining your medical condition, which can be crucial when dealing with customs or local authorities. We always recommend that controlled substances be kept in their original bottles, but consult with your healthcare provider to be sure if you are prescribed controlled substances.
  4. Emergency Contacts and Resources: The app provides emergency contact information, including local healthcare facilities and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
  5. Storage and Translation Guidance: For medications requiring specific storage conditions or translation, the app may offer advice.
  6. Local Healthcare Services: Discover information about local healthcare services, including pharmacies and medical facilities at your destination.
  7. We recommend that you never bring substances, such as THC, that are considered illegal in many countries.
Health listing for Egypt (page 1)

Health listing for Egypt (page 2)

We discuss traveling with medications abroad in this video and highlight one of our favorite medication organizers. 

Part 3: Signing Up for STEP and the Importance of Travel Insurance

When embarking on international travel, your safety and well-being should always be top priorities. This section delves deeper into the process of signing up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and underscores the critical role that travel insurance plays in safeguarding your journey.

Signing Up for STEP:

The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is your direct link to the U.S. Department of State, specifically the Bureau of Consular Affairs. It's designed to keep American citizens informed and safe while abroad. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to enroll in STEP:

  1. Create an Account: Begin by visiting the STEP website or using the mobile app. Create an account by filling in your personal information and emergency contact details. This information is crucial for efficient communication in case of emergencies.

  2. Register Each Trip: After setting up your account, log in to the STEP platform and register each specific trip or residence abroad separately. It's essential to do this for each new trip to ensure you receive timely STEP alerts.

  3. Provide Trip Details: When registering a trip, select the nearest U.S. consulate to your destination country. Note that "destination" refers to the country as a whole, not a specific city, state, or territory. The available consulate options will auto-fill as you type. Additionally, input the dates of your trip, the purpose of your travel, and how you can be reached while abroad.

  4. Stay Informed: As part of the registration process, you will receive timely STEP notifications specific to your destination. These alerts can include information on local conditions, safety updates, and more. Staying informed is crucial, especially in rapidly changing situations.

    Registration page

    Enter destinations

The Importance of Travel Insurance:

While STEP is an invaluable resource for staying informed about security updates, travel insurance serves as an essential safety net during your international adventures. Here's why travel insurance is a must-have:

  • Medical Emergencies: Travel insurance provides coverage for unexpected medical issues abroad. It can cover medical treatment expenses, hospital stays, and even emergency medical evacuation if necessary.

  • Trip Cancellations: Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances can force you to cancel or interrupt your trip. Travel insurance can reimburse you for non-refundable trip expenses, providing financial protection.

  • Lost or Delayed Luggage: If your luggage is lost, stolen, or significantly delayed during your trip, travel insurance can help cover the cost of replacing essential items.

  • Emergency Assistance: Travel insurance often includes access to 24/7 emergency assistance services, such as medical advice and coordination, translation services, and help in locating local healthcare providers.

  • Peace of Mind: Knowing that you have travel insurance provides peace of mind, allowing you to enjoy your journey without worrying about unexpected expenses or emergencies.

While you hope that your travels will go smoothly, having travel insurance ensures you're prepared for the unexpected. It's a wise investment in your safety and financial well-being during international travel. For additional resources, be sure to follow the State Department on Twitter and bookmark its international travel page for the latest country alerts.


In conclusion, international travel opens up a world of opportunities, but it also brings challenges that require careful planning and preparation. By enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), you can stay informed about security updates and access vital resources from the U.S. Department of State. Additionally, travel insurance serves as a safety net, providing financial protection and peace of mind in case of emergencies or unexpected situations. With these tools at your disposal, you can explore the world with confidence, knowing that your safety and well-being are prioritized.

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